Is being different than everyone else the end game of life?
A stranger to our culture might conclude that, looking at the way we write, talk, protest and treat each other.
As a child, I thought different thoughts than most of my peers did – at least I thought so.
I’ve never been one to follow the crowd. I’ll do something because I believe it’s the right thing to do, not because anyone tells me it’s the right thing to do.
This develops my discerning spirit, helps me determine right from wrong.
Have we taken that too far?
Or not far enough?
“I’m always right”
How do we determine right from wrong? Do we consider outside sources and discern for ourselves, or do we look only inside of ourselves and say, “I’m always right”?
I see evidence of “I’m always right” every day, in little things and big things.
We recently bought a house on a corner lot with a four-way stop. It’s in a neighborhood, but there’s enough traffic to warrant the stop signs. The other day, I saw a car pass my driveway and stop at the intersection. A fast-moving pickup also traveled by my driveway – then roared past the law-abiding sedan and blew through the intersection and the stop sign.
Seriously? Who does that driver think he is? There’s children in our neighborhood. People walk their dogs all the time. People like me pull out of driveways. Those stop signs have a purpose.
The pickup driver didn’t care. Following reasonable, well-established laws meant nothing to him.
Carry that thought to its ultimate conclusion, and we get killers who shoot people at country music concerts and during Sunday morning church services.
Children and society
We live in a culture where right and wrong don’t exist. Or, they exist only as I see them.
We talk all the time about being different, about celebrating our differences.
To what end? Do we use that as an excuse to justify ourselves?
A local columnist worries about this as she and her husband are raising their children:
Born into a world where they may not be accepted for who they are, but yet as parents, we tell them over and over again to be themselves. That it’s OK to be different, as long as they believe in themselves.
But how do we really know they will be OK?
Essentially, our children are born into a society far different from what we know …
So, it’s OK for children to be different, but we worry for them because society is different.
Is allowing our children to believe in themselves enough?
I think there’s a bigger picture.
Society has changed because we as individuals have changed.
Some change is necessary, of course. Respect for all people which, I regret to say, is a relatively new phenomenon – and still isn’t acted upon the way it should be.
What makes us similar?
But are we so different that we can’t get along with each other?
What if, instead, we began celebrating what connects us? What makes us similar?
I’m not as different from you as we both think we are.
I’m not a huge Shakespeare fan, but this quote from Shylock in The Merchant of Venice came to mind here:
I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison us, do we not die?
We aren’t as different as we think we are.
If we want to change society, we need to change the way we think about ourselves.
If I focus only on my differences with you, why should I want to be your friend? What is there that draws us together? I’m going to push you away.
But if I look for things in common with you, now I can relate to you. We have things to talk about, to do together.
Same two people, but opposite mindsets.
There’s a song playing on Christian radio these days that I wonder about:
I don’t wanna hear anymore, teach me to listen
I don’t wanna see anymore, give me a vision
That you could move this heart, to be set apart
I don’t need to recognize, the man in the mirror
And I don’t wanna trade Your plan, for something familiar
I can’t waste a day, I can’t stay the same
I wanna be different
I wanna be changed
‘Til all of me is gone
And all that remains
Is a fire so bright
The whole world can see
That there’s something different
So come and be different
Different by Micah Tyler
I get it. I’m not unique when I said as a child that I want to be different. Writers and musicians want this too.
Where do we draw the line?
Where is “different” a good thing, and when should we celebrate our oneness?
Our society is divided now, severely so. No one is happy about this. Far too many people have drawn a line in the sand. In anger. In judgment. With fire in our eyes.
Just as I’m not a huge Shakespeare fan, I’m not a poet, either. But still, here’s a poem that speaks the solution far better than I can:
Most of what I really need
To know about how to live
And what to do and how to be
I learned in kindergarten.
Wisdom was not at the top
Of the graduate school mountain,
But there in the sand pile at Sunday school.
These are the things I learned:
Don’t hit people.
Put things back where you found them.
Clean up your own mess.
Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.
Wash your hands before you eat.
Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
Live a balanced life –
Learn some and think some
And draw and paint and sing and dance
And play and work every day some.
Take a nap every afternoon.
When you go out into the world,
Watch out for traffic,
Hold hands and stick together.
Be aware of wonder.
All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum
Fulghum nailed it. We need to return to kindergarten.
Every single one of us.
America would be a much better place if we truly did that.