Bhakti Larry Hough -- The Road Less Traveled
We are fortunate to live in a nation and world where many people of different backgrounds live together in respect, peace and harmony. However, “Othering” -- devaluing people we consider unlike us -- is still a scourge that threatens to destroy the measure of relative peaceful human existence that we enjoy in America and in the world.
That’s why I am thankful for having been raised to love and respect all people and having lived, worked and loved in close proximity with people of many racial, ethnic, cultural, religious, and political backgrounds throughout my life. These blessings have given me a cosmopolitan worldview that I believe is more enriching, rewarding, enlightening and peaceful than a limited provincial one. This worldview means for me that diversity of being, thought and action is natural and a beautiful thing from which humanity benefits.
Public discourse and terrorist acts in this nation and around the world reflect that some people don’t feel this way; it’s their way or the highway. If you don’t think as they do, live as they do, worship as they do, look like them, or love like them, they have no use for you, view you as “The Other,” and may even feel you don’t deserve to live. Such people invoke anger in me because of the varying degrees and kinds of harm they cause other people, but also sadness and pity. I thank God for those of us who don’t think and feel that way.
I have my beliefs and convictions. There are things I think are right and wrong. But I appreciate and can get along with anybody whose beliefs don’t reflect mine, as long they don’t involve hurting people or withholding good from them for no good reason. I have this sense that the universe is one of infinite diversity and that there must be some purpose for the Creator of the universe creating all this diversity. So, far be it from me to judge it, especially when it comes to my fellow human beings.
That’s why I can’t comprehend racism, bigotry, xenophobia, homophobia, and other forms of extreme prejudice. I may not agree with you on an issue, but I will at least try to understand your point of view, even if that point of view is you choose to have nothing to do with me, people like me or people of any other group. That is your prerogative. I believe, though, that we should still be able to respect each other as human beings and coexist in peace.
As a result, I have chosen not to live my life insulated from and suspicious of people “unlike” me. During the six decades of my life, my close circles of friends and associates have included -- bear with, this is a long list -- black, white, bi-racial, and multi-racial people; Native Americans, Hispanics, Indians, Pakistanis, Britons, native Africans, Mexicans, and Canadians; religious people, agnostics, atheists, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Rastafarians, Baha’is, Buddhists, Yogis, and Hindus; liberals, conservatives, and the politically disaffected; gay, bi-sexual, and transgender people; introverts and extroverts; affluent, economically disadvantaged, middle class, disabled, highly-educated, uneducated, urban, and rural people.
While we are all different in various ways, those differences usually pale in comparison to our similarities in our common humanity when we are willing to admit, embrace, and celebrate them. What I’ve learned is that there really is no such thing as a “right” or “normal” way to be; that aside from how we treat people, there is no truly objective measure by which to judge anybody. I don’t believe that any group of people is chosen by God to be better than any other. What’s important is to live and let live, to do our best to understand, value and at least tolerate all members of our human family if we want to be understood, valued, tolerated and left alone to freely pursue life, liberty and happiness. I can’t imagine life being anything other than the beautiful tapestry of interwoven diverse ways of being that it is.
That’s why I find it difficult that we so often label people as “different” and unworthy of love, honor, and respect when everybody is “different” in some way and need not be feared. To practice, condone or promote thought, rhetoric and action that adversely affects an individual or group just because of who they are is to open up ourselves to the same biased and negative thought, words, and action. Living that way will only perpetuate division, distrust, hostility and physical and spiritual warfare for eternity when it doesn’t have to be that way. There are no winners in a world where such negative energy persists, energy that has the potential to lead ultimately to the annihilation of the human race.
Therefore, it’s up to us, those I consider the light bearers who want to live together in peace, harmony, love, and mutual understanding, to stand and be counted in condemning, resisting and dispelling the darkness of division, violent hate, misunderstanding, and fear whenever and wherever it raises its ugly head.