How many people must we see every day, twenty? (If you include media, thousands?)
Since most of them have two eyes and two legs, I secretly hope they are, somehow, mostly like me and that I’m mostly like them. (I know how crazy this is, but I catch myself feeling something like it anyway.)
When I’m proven wrong (just about always), it’s usually — I don’t know why — unsettling.
Once I had a neighbor who owned not one, but two Great White Pyrenees. Each must have weighed over 100 pounds, and both could be a little unruly. Out for their daily walk, a passing car (or a passing squirrel) could put Larry in real jeopardy: the dogs could almost dislocate his shoulders.
For a while, I judged Larry as wacky; I couldn’t imagine myself enduring his situation. What was wrong with him for God’s sake? Why couldn’t he see the folly of his ways as clearly as I could?
But one good day, I (for some reason) accepted him the way he was. On that day I smiled when I saw him struggling with the big dogs, not with scorn but with simple delight in the different-ness of his life; I didn’t judge him or his dogs but appreciated the diversity of them all. I didn’t think that my way (no dogs, or just a little one) was the more sensible way, the better way, the best way, or the only way. He was he, and I was I, and that was all.
It felt kind and peaceful; it seemed a saner way to see.
The Tale Wagged
How we choose our pets isn’t very charged. But differences in how people parent their children, choose sexual partners, worship God ‑ these behaviors get closer and closer to My Rules, to areas where I expect uniformities. There ought to be one way, and any sensible person ought to see that the best way, clearly, is my way!
Releasing such expectations for uniformity is hard; it feels like you’re making a hole through which your soul may leak out.
Yeah, but how do we put it into practice?
Notice a moment when you’re agitated that someone else is acting . . . different. (You won’t have to look far.) Often, you may notice an accompanying thought that goes something like, “That’s crazy,” or “They should . . . .” Or, you may think something like, “I should . . . .”
You could also be alert for the inverse: when you worry that you ought to be like — or different from — someone else.
You’re comparing. Don’t shame yourself: just notice the thought, like a pencil on the kitchen counter.
Now, consider the possibility that you might thoroughly welcome Two different actions, Two different people. Notice how that feels.