More the Same
There are no unique sensations for human beings. Unique circumstances culminate in emotion and experience, and shades of rarity involving complexity exist, but unique emotion in and of itself does not. Every emotion, every sensation, physical or otherwise, has already been experienced by another human or will be experienced by another human soon.
We easily forget this idea in our partisan conflicts and tribal obsessions with imaginary concepts like borders and budgets and boundaries: but it’s an absolute. Human beings, of all ethnicities, all philosophies, are more the same than different, more alike than not.
My work has taught me this to my bones. Even when we look different, or have different opinions, there’s just so much more about all of us that is the same. Everyone’s neck gets tired. Everyone’s hips ache sometimes. I think we tend to focus on the differences, but lately I’m trying to focus on the similarities.
Doing so tells me a lot about us, about me, about you: I know you have a heart and two lungs, and you have feelings which change with the day or the season. You probably enjoy laughing, and you’ve seen at least one picture or video recently that makes you smile or chuckle every time you think about it. Your skin cells regenerate every 27 or so days, which means 27 days from now you’ll be an entirely new person on the outside. So change as often as you’d like.
I know you’ve fallen in love, with someone or somewhere or some idea, and that having the experience of loving made you grow. You have fears and doubts and worries, and sometimes they’re overwhelming. Other times life is perfect, even if it’s just for a few minutes when your favorite song is playing and the sun is setting.
In my steps I can hear yours echo: the feel of the Earth beneath your feet.I know the feeling you get in your stomach before an important moment, and the other feeling you get after you’ve eaten too much of a good thing. I feel what your spine feels as it sits in your back, how it feels strong some days and how tired it feels other days.
I know the strangeness you feel at aging: the removed wonder as you stare in the mirror trying to trace the history of your experience. You have 46 chromosomes, give or take a superpower, and the number of nerves in your nervous system outnumber the known stars in the Milky Way.
I know you see America changing, the world changing, and you’ve lived through a great technological revolution in your lifetime. You try to do your best with what you have to offer, with what life’s given you. You’d like things to be a little easier, and you’d like to be heard.
In touch, being in touch, I’ve found the similarities overwhelm the differences. Disagreements and accusations of assumption fade away when the problem of language - connotation, personal etymology - and the intensities of cultural and social conditioning are stripped away. We get down to basics: how are we the same? When have I felt what you feel? When have you known my pain?
In approaching everyone I meet as an individual, cultural attitudes, social affectations, and personal histories (and herstories) become adornments on an altar of human ingenuity. I see myself in you, but a more beautiful self, because you are an Other kind of me. You show me possibility, you show me awe. Your differences make me curious instead of fearful, and I find I want to learn from you. I find the universal in you expressed as an individual. It’s inexplicably amazing. It makes me hopeful, for us, for me, and for you:
I hope you try to love yourself, and forgive yourself for things you wish you’d done differently.
I hope you have a community you appreciate, and you’re able to tell the people you care about how you feel.
I hope you have a safe place to be alone, and I hope you’re learning to be alone sometimes.
I hope you’re learning to be honest, not because it’s a moral “right” thing to do, but because it’s so freeing.
I hope you have something you love to do that you don’t do for money.
I hope you remember to take time to rest and recover. We can’t be going all the time.
I hope you’re drinking enough water.
I hope this note helps you know even if you can’t always see it, there are people out there on your side, people who are rooting for your success.
It’s only the context of emotions that make our experiences different. It’s only our beliefs about believing that set us apart. The stories we pile on to the emotions, to the experiences, make us feel nobody can understand our experience and our perspective. And we’re right, in part, nobody can understand if we are in fear of being authentic, fear of being judged. If we stand in judgement, if we shut people down for showing up. We can’t share ourselves if we feel we have something to prove. But being human is a problem with seven billion good solutions. When we can tell, explain, show, share our unique contexts from a place of curiosity and love, the moment we’re in becomes a quiet celebration, a moment of peace.
“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.” - Martin Luther King Jr.