With all the recent emphasis on the many ways in which we humans are different from each other, it seems like an appropriate time to remind ourselves of all the traits we share. For example, we all have the capacity for joy and pain. Few among us enjoy being miserable. Most of us want to be happy, comfortable and safe. In general, we all want to survive and thrive. We may have different ideas about what will make that happen, but the goal is still the same. Survival is an instinct we share with every other living thing on the planet.
Yet each of us is also unique. We come in different shapes and sizes. No two humans are exactly alike, even identical twins. Our ages might be similar, yet we can still be at different stages of our lives. We come from different backgrounds experiencing varied ways of viewing the world. We might even come from the same family and still have dissimilar viewpoints. How often have you recalled an incident from the past with a sibling or other family member and found that your memory of what happened is totally different from theirs? Both of you might have been present at the same time and place yet your perceptions of the event were different. There’s a clue: it’s all about perception. As the saying goes, one person’s trash is another person’s treasure.
Of course, there are ways in which perceptions can cross a dangerous line, especially when a focus or belief becomes so narrow and fixed that other ideas, no matter how rational, simply can’t penetrate. But my point here is not to preach or point out all of the ways in which humans treat each other badly. I don’t think any of us needs any reminders of those things. Instead I’d rather see us all at least try to focus on ways in which we are all similar.
Again, it’s all about perception. Rather than viewing our differences with fear, envy, self-righteousness or self-deprecation, maybe we can try celebrating our individual uniqueness while still recognizing that we are all fallible human beings. Of course, it would be ideal if everyone treated each other that way. None of us has any real control over how anyone else views the world. In fact, we often have little control over the circumstances in which find ourselves. But no matter where we’re at or what we’re facing, we can always change our perception. It might not be easy, but it’s always possible.
The problems of the world may be overwhelming, but if we each make our own contribution to perception improvement there’s no telling what effect it might have. My own small attempt at this is to provide a judgment-free zone in all of my classes. No matter who you are, where you come from, what you look like, your choice in partners, your beliefs, your physical abilities or dis-abilities, you will always be welcome in any of my classes. We’re all seeking the same thing – to be healthy and to feel good about ourselves – even if we look differently while we’re doing it. No judging allowed. We can each move in whatever way works for us as individuals while still enjoying the fact that we are all moving together. Everyone does whatever they can do to the best of their ability. And if you’re reading this but can’t come to one of my classes, seek out a judgment-free zone near you. It might take a little effort, but I’ll bet there is one somewhere near you. There’s nothing like moving your body to help remind you that good feelings are still possible in our troubled world.