The Great Divide

Floating on the Ocean of Separateness

The more digitally connected the world has become, the more isolated and filtered our attitudes and behaviours. Photo by Manki Kim on Unsplash

Mostly in life, human beings are determined to categorize, label and divide — boxing up material with prescriptive duct tape and placing it on the shelves of the human mind. Ready for retrieval at any time.

Our overwhelming desire to understand how people operate and how things work has meant that we have developed an automatic behaviour to divide up and slap labels on to people and things.

As logical as this is (the desire to understand is for the most part a valuable attribute), the problem is that this constant labelling with the goal to be more at ease with the world around us, is also causing chasms of divide. The more we label and categorise, the more we have separated ourselves. The more we endorse our personalised life algorithm.

We like to believe that difference is good. Difference is what teaches us flexibility, REAL understanding and tolerance. Surely, this enables us to be more complete entities, with a vast range of interpretations on the spectrum.

But the truth is that difference is also some thing we are scared of. We get comfortable in the norms or echo chambers we have created (or been handed down) and it’s more work to step out of these comfort zones.

Questioning how we have arrived at the point we are at is unsettling. It allows difference to test us. To test everything we’ve learnt up to that point. And this challenges us to re-learn what we thought we’d already mastered or what has already been imprinted onto us from genes and culture.

It easy to feel like embracing difference is just an open gate to dismantle everything we have nurtured within us. Force us to let go of something we have held dear. Force us to look around with new eyes at the safety groups we have surrounded ourselves with. Like a child gripping a favourite toy, with such ferocity — nurture negating nourishment. What we hold so tightly is only being strangled.

And perhaps that’s the crux of it. These characteristics we hold securely do not permit us to grow in new ways or allow us an unfiltered freedom of expression. Even though we feel like they do. Anything held too tightly, is being suffocated or restrained.

If we are to go forward with assurance and acceptance we need first to dismantle everything we have been taught or given. And then we rebuild. Rebuilding might mean we let go of people near and dear to us. Behaviours we have inherited without asking who they serve. To do this, we basically unpick our lives.

You see how difference can be so freaking scary.

I’m not talking about personal preference, like those who love to dance, while others prefer to foot tap; the folk who are always early and those who are consistently late; or the people who take risks while others are more cautious.

I’m talking about the overwhelming difference within people’s belief and value system and how if we all feel so strongly about our beliefs, how can we hear another’s thoughts without wanting to correct and adjust more in line with our pathways.

This is one of the paradoxes of life; do we embrace ourselves as we are? Or are we constantly striving for change. Where is the happy medium?

Sam Harris in his book, Wake Up, summarises it: ‘The paradox is that we can become wiser and more compassionate and live more fulfilling lives by refusing to be who we have tended to be in the past. But we must also relax, accepting things as they are in the present as we strive to change ourselves.’

It’s not easy, but the first step is being aware of echo chambers we find ourselves in. The next step — always a good one — is to seek balance in your attitudes and outlooks. And look at difference as if you’re trying on new shoes. You don’t have to buy the shoes, and they might not even fit perfectly, but it’s a moment in time to explore.