There is a great cry nowadays for the equality of people, a needed focus on the ways in which many are exploited and marginalized. It is a needed step in the growth away from greed and violence and judgmental attitudes which purportedly justify the greed and violence. Yet, in spite of the (at least theoretical) embrace of human Equality, we have failed to recognize a simple yet obvious fact. Even though we may all be equal in value, and proceeding to making that goal a reality, we are decidedly not all the same. Women are not the same as men, black is not the same as white or brown, European is not the same as Native American or Japanese, homosexual is not the same as heterosexual, bricklayer is not the same as accountant, even identical twins are not the same. They have differing personalities and sometimes small differences in body, too. In our rush to be equal, we risk losing precious differences in the hurry to be same. Equality is not sameness; it is the equality of value of each of the billions of different people on the Earth. Extended, it is also the equality of value of each life form Earth contains. It is this equality, this non-judgmental stance, which we have veered from, and which needs to be re-established.
Differences are the stuff of which Creation is made. They define each creation, distinguishing it from the undifferentiated eternal energy from which it is created. Without differences we would all be an amorphous mass indistinguishable from that from which we sprang. All would be simply one great conglomeration. There would be no creation. Yes, we are all linked to each other in an underlying oneness. We all spring from the same Source. Yes, within this Creation, we are all joined in categories: all humans, all mammals, all fish, and the like. Yet each of us, within our categories, within our oneness, is distinct. It is the miracle of Creation. We do wrong, in the efforts at justice, to deny our differences. We are each a spark of the Divine (or of Original Energy, if one prefers that wording), and our happiness, growth and well being depend upon our embracing who we are and the differences which describe us. And it depends on allowing others to embrace their differences as well.
It is sad to see the categories we humans seem impelled to set up, categories which value some people over other people, which deny even basic needs to some, which cause groups to demand the same recognition given to others instead of demanding celebration of their own differences. For example, forbidding all public expression of recognized religion (atheism is also a kind of religion, a deny-the-existence- of-a-God kind of religion), ending in public recognition for only those groups which deny formal religion. Such action results in a generic sameness. Instead, why not be inclusive, allowing non-violent public expression of whichever religion desires to make such expression, including perhaps an atheistic display declaring that there is no God? It is possible to embrace the truth of our own beliefs without attacking the beliefs of others. In this way, we celebrate and respect our differences.
There is a kindergarten lesson that many of us learn. In order to be “good”, it is not necessary to make someone else “bad”. That does not mean that we all eat the same lunch, wear the same clothes, speak the same words, color the same way, or are all equally good at math. It does not mean that we want to be the way someone else is. It is recognizing that we all can be “good” just the way we are. In this new year, let us all recognize that we are not in fact same, that we can all be good. Let us release any envy to be what someone else is, or do what someone else does, and instead celebrate our differences.