We’re Different, We’re the Same

“People need to make up their damn mind.” My Cousin Alice spoke in a loud voice. “People always say that we are the same and that there is no difference between people. On the other hand, they also say that we are different and that no one is the same. Make up your mind, geez!”

Her face flushed with a tint of red. “I don’t know what to celebrate and believe anymore. Am I supposed to believe in our similarities or differences? Should I celebrate diversity, or neglect it? I don’t get people at all.”

I chuckled as I listened to my little cousin’s dilemma. She has a very interesting perspective on this topic. Are we similar or are we different? This question isn’t hard. In fact, a preschooler who had read the Sesame Street book called We’re Different, We’re the Same knows the answer. As the title suggest, we are different and we are the same. We are both.

You can ask, “How can we be different and the same, aren’t they opposites?”

I would answer. “Well not necessary. For example, everyone have eyes. Some people’s eyes are blue. Some are brown. And so on and so forth. The eye colors may be different, but they all serve the same function. We use our eyes to see.”

Just because we are different, doesn’t mean that we cannot be the same. The converse statement holds true too. Just because we are the same, doesn’t mean that we cannot be different.

If you ask me what the world sees, I would say that people see differences more than similarities or at least that is what I interpreted from all the news I’ve read. Truthfully, I believe that, in the grand scheme of things, people are all the same.

We share nearly the same DNA structure; our bodies consist of a pair of eyes, arms, ears, and legs. We share the same dreams and goals of being successful and happy despite the different route we take to achieve them. We all feel the same pain whether physical, psychological, or emotional. Even our physical body parts are interchangeable.

In truth we are only the same. Being different is a trait that all of us have. We share this common trait.  Sometimes it is very hard to be different because most of our differences are illusions. They are illusions that came from being identified with things.

The Illusion of Identity

Do you know who you really are? Are you your name? Are you your body? Are you your ethnicity, race, and sex? Are you the accumulation of molecules and interactions between them? Are you the countless nerve impulses flowing up and down your spinal cord? Are you your brain? Are you your memories, thoughts, and emotions? Can any of these be you?

No they cannot. They are all accumulations of things that you think is you, but they are not. In truth, you cannot say who you are. Even I don’t know who I am. At the very least, I know what I am not. If you put aside all that the things that you are not, then the only thing remains is who you really are.

What does this have to do with differences? If you noticed anything, you could see that everyone is identified with something. When people are identified with something, it is natural for them to create differences.

“I am an American. I am a Democrat. I am a Buddhist. I am a father. I am black. I am handicapped. I believe in God…” These are all things that people identify with. There are endless things that people can identify with. You can identify with your nationality, your political views, your religion, your role in society, your race, your misfortune, your beliefs and so much more.

You can say that what you identify with is who you are. It is your identity. It gives you a sense of individuality. It makes you unique among other people. You tell yourself, “I am this. He is that. We are not the same”.

But can the things you identify with be you? No they cannot be you. They are things you have accumulated through life. You believe that they add to you. They make you more you, but that is far from the truth.

Those who are identified with something, they separate themselves from those who don’t identified with the same thing. To give an example, people who call themselves capitalists will surely separate from socialists. You can say that there is a clash of interest between the people, but to me, their desires are the same. Both of them believe that their beliefs are the best for the world and themselves.

Identification focuses on separation. It enlarges our differences. When you believe that someone is different from you, you are indifferent to them. You don’t see other people as your brothers and sisters. You see life solely through your eyes. You believe that life revolves around you.

When we say someone or something is different, we can create excuses to justify horrible actions to others. On a battlefield we are not fighting enemies; we are fighting our own species: killing brothers, making widows, and destroying families. This is what being identified with something can lead to.

To me, this is a big problem in the world. So many people are so self-conceited that they can’t see the damage they’ve done to this planet, other living creatures, and even themselves.

You can say, “But Luigi, what about being identified with good values. What about being identified with virtue, love, compassion, security, and positivity? You said that being identified with anything can create differences, but would being identified with love create differences?”

If you ask me this, then my answer remains the same. Yes, being indentified with good values also generates differences. But differences are not a problem. They only become a problem when they lead to separation. When you no longer see the interconnectedness of humanity, and can only see the differences.

Being identified with good values can still create differences. What happens here is that you are totally absorbed with good values that any deviation from them would cause a reaction in you.

I am totally identified with love. I wrote about this. It has become my own burden. Heck, I am a mess when it comes to relationship. I am alone as I have always been. In fact, it scares me to even go into a relationship to love someone.

Being identified with good values doesn’t mean you have them. It means that you lack them even more. You want them more than ever. And as a result, you make them more than what they are. There is no need to be identified with good values. If you truly have them, they will naturally come out of you. Do you think that a dog worries about happiness? He does not. Neither should you.

When we are celebrating our diversity, in truth we are only celebrating our similarities. We celebrate similar differences. We tolerate differences that align with our principles. We celebrate cultures that explore the human individuality, characteristics and knowledge that we can accept. Do you think we would celebrate a culture where killing someone is the norm? Of course not.

Part of a Whole

You and everyone else on this planet is a part of a whole. A good analogy I can give is the ecosystem of the human body. If you imagine yourself as an individual cell, you realized that there are trillion others just like you. An individual cell must work in harmony with its surrounding, carrying oxygen to the different parts of the body. It plays a vital role in the wellness of the entire human structure.

If a cell goes crazy, it is no different than becoming a cancer cell. As we all know, cancers are just cells gone awry. If this happens then the whole ecosystem would collapse. The human body would die.

We are all a part of an ecosystem just like cells to a body. If you don’t believe me then let me show you the truth.

Before I am Chinese, Buddhist, male, heterosexual; I am a human being. Before I am a human being, I am a living creature. Before I am a living creature, I am an accumulation of atoms, molecules, and the reaction between them. Isn’t everything in the world just that?

Before I live in the United States, I live on this planet Earth. Before I live on this planet Earth, I live in the solar system. Before I live in the solar system, I live in the Milky Way Galaxy, amongst hundreds of billions of other galaxies. Before I live in the Milky Way Galaxy, I live in this universe. Doesn’t all existence live here?

We are all a part of a whole. Have you realized the miracle of being self aware? We are all an intrinsic part of the universe, no matter how small. We are life.

Doesn’t it amaze you that when you look up into the night sky, you realize that you are the focal point where the universe is becoming aware of itself?

If everyone is a part of the universe, then we are all the same. What differences could there be?