The Risk of Difference

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The Risk of Difference

To decide to meet with others, another culture or people is a risk. There is a risk in the difference between peoples. But to decide not to meet other cultures is very limiting, both to the individual and to society as a whole. To not expand one’s view by contact with another culture only serves to prevent personal growth and greater understanding in society both local and even national. By the prevention of contact we limit our knowledge of others and this only continues the isolation and lessens our understanding of which non-contact creates. This in turn can lead to misinterpretation of ideas and actions between various peoples in a cultural milieu. We have seen this repeatedly in history.

To meet others means to go to them or even they to us. It might be travel in the real sense or it can be virtual. In either case we learn from others and can open our own understanding to these new places and people. It means pre-conceived ideas of others have to fall. The eradication of false perceptions creates a living space for the infilling of new perceptions, the reality and therefore perhaps the truth.

We can continue to live in what may be a false security in our limited knowledge and thereby justify our beliefs of another, but this is not the means to the truth. Our choice is to simply open our eyes and minds. The risk to us however, is that we cannot go back. There is no return. Yes, physically we appear at our residence with the same appearance. But interiorly we have moved on. We are never who we were before. But then, what living intellect would we want to be?

If we see the daily poverty and daily grind and struggles of so many people in this world how could we wish to continue in the same way. We are free to change. Free to take up a simpler life. We seem to over complicate our lives. What may appear an enrichment might in reality be an encumbrance to our lives. Many things do. In fact many things which should make our lives easier instead pull us away from people we should spend time with, works of literature worth reading, conversations we should have.

Put in the scales, the risks are worth it. To open up to another culture and people can only enrich us. And to see and understand other religions and cultures means the internal evaluation and reflection on what we hold as truth. We then have to decide if indeed it remains truth or should or can we adapt, change, to include this confrontation of ideas and beliefs. Is there then a priority, newly found, to attempt to change, beginning with ourselves and then the greater society? “The moral law commands us to make the highest possible good in a world the final object of all our conduct” (Paul Ricoeur)

If this isn’t addressed then again we have failed in our common humanity. Moving on from our simple acknowledgement is then the active will to address the issue and then potential solutions. If we lift our thinking to this level we see the failures around us as a global society, but also the possible corrections to it and thereby recover the possible, the probable when put in a larger context. We can shape something of the future through change in ourselves. We make the choice to be open or closed; understanding or rejecting. We don’t have to reject what we hold dear, but simple allow for the comprehension of “other”.


The Next Time Through

I discovered two deaths this year. That may surprise you knowing I am a priest and have frequent funerals for parishioners and others who I am asked to commemorate. But this year I was looking on line for a friend and found her obituary. I was stunned and cried. She was so beautiful, had two little girls, husband, served in The Salvation Army with me where we met. We studied at university together and had part-time jobs together.

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Language has been both a unifying and a dividing point in many counties and societies. People identify profoundly with a language which comes from the nature of cultural identity united to language and at times faith.

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Think of all those plans we make day to day. All the people we meet either in person or in social media. How did we come to make those plans? How did we meet those people. Did everything go according to plan? Was someone rude to us? Did we get slandered in social media? How did we react? It is not only our actions but our reactions that decide if we remain in God’s presence.

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