the same

Posted: February 16, 2011 in people
Tags: , , ,

I once sat in a small group in San Diego and listened to Henri Nouwen speak about how we are  different and the same. He said that too often we define ourselves by how we are different from each other. Nouwen noted that we modern Americans  are into being unique, but that this is not actually where the joy of life is  found.  Then he had one of his friends, who was disabled, speak to us. They were the same, he and Nouwen; both deeply needed to be loved and accepted.

Nouwen writes, “True joy is hidden where we are the same as other people: fragile and mortal. It is the joy of belonging to the human race. It is the joy of being with others as a friend, a companion, a fellow traveler.”

The famous professor, writer, priest — a fellow traveler with us all. I like it, but I struggle to live it. Many of us do.  There are so many angles by which we are tempted to declare our differences: republican or democrat, conservative or liberal, orthodox or free thinking, gay or straight, poor or rich, educated or blue collar, white, black, brown or red — the points of view encamp around us and invite us to join them for supper and an after dinner yak about —  the enemy. We live, we speak, we react, we differentiate as easily as we breathe.

What is the cure? It is silence, sometimes. Yes we need to dialogue, to say what we think, to put up our boundaries, to air things out,  to be honest, to negotiate and compromise and to work the differences out, and then sometimes we just need to do some serious shutting up. To see how we are alike, sometimes we need to quit talking about how we are different, and then we might begin to put effort into the seeing how we are the same. 

Silence is a quiet opportunity to observe, similarity.

We woo each other gently, by quietness.

My cat Megan sat on my lap this morning. We said nothing. We luxuriated in a blanket and closeness and touch. We couldn’t be more different. She is wise and fuzzy and minds her own business. We couldn’t be more the same. We both needed a moment for a quiet purr, together.

A friend and I recently strung an internet cable through an attic. He pushed the cable through a hole; I retrieved it. We are different; we are so very much the same, especially when we share a common task, like stringing cable. We are the same in that we need each other to be successful.

The solution to different is to get busy doing the same.

I like it better than the different.

  1. Lucianna Valdez says:

    I’m glad that I have the benefit of reading todays inspiration, even if I wasn’t able to go to church this morning. 🙂

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