The old guru told the gathering, “There is such a multiplicity of things in the world that we sometimes become enraptured in wonderment.” His Dharma talk expounded upon the importance of diversity in the world and in human society.
He went on to mention that there is usually more than one way to approach life. We seek out various ways to solve different problems and we look for new ways to make our lives more fulfilling and happy. We are fortunate to live in a pluralistic society wherein we are exposed to many different ideas and varieties of people.
People in different parts of the world understand themselves in unique ways. They adapt themselves according to climate and geography. Each culture has its own historical figures they use as benchmarks they identify with. In today’s society we are more easily exposed to these various fascinating people and their ideas.
The downside is that some people feel overwhelmed or threatened by exposure to people and points of view that differ from their own. Many people have difficulty integrating differences into their mindsets. This difficulty is easy to understand, because sometimes the most open-minded people still encounter personal roadblocks to understanding other people, lifestyles, and cultures.
A useful way of approaching this problem is to question our own minds. This inside-out type of thinking is akin to empathy because it requires us to understand life events according to context. We examine our own reflexive responses to various situations. We question our minds and remember our reactions and actions when we confront various scenarios. When we honestly examine our own lives we become more appreciative of the complexity of everyone else’s lives. This is a step beyond walking a mile in another’s shoes. It is traveling other people’s entire journeys.
In the historical past, insular cultures were common. Various cultures remained more or less isolated. Although there was economic trade in ancient times, the vast majority of people had no direct contact with other cultures, religions, and peoples.
As transportation methods and technology progressed, more mixing of peoples and cultures occurred. Waves of immigration happened several times in the past because of different reasons. Such immigration continues today across various parts of the world. Our technology enables us to access much more information than ever possible before now. Increasingly, humanity is becoming more unified as a multi-cultural entity. We are free to learn from each other and enrich each others’ lives.
The presence of so much diversity provides us with opportunities to discover and investigate ideas and techniques that may enhance our lives. We get to know and gain understanding of people from various backgrounds. We go beyond an academic understanding of people to sympathy and solidarity with them. At the same time they gain understanding and unity with us.
It’s not all rainbows, unicorns, and kumbaya. There is much discord and conflict among us due to misinformation and disinformation present in all sectors of society. It will take plenty of thought and empathy as we travel our individual and shared paths. Although we can pass laws to integrate society, we cannot legislate attitudes. True integration happens when people encounter other people on a level playing field. We discover we have more in common with each other than we previously realized.
When I ponder diversity, inclusion also comes to mind. Whether it’s geographic, ethnic, gender, wisdom tradition, whatever, it’s a path of learning and growing. It’s also a matter of what people choose to contribute. Diversity is an exciting topic to think about.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes the explorer and frontiersman, Daniel Boone. “In such a diversity it was impossible I should be disposed to melancholy.”