We spent New Year’s Eve at our friends house eating authentic Chinese food. There are very few things which I find as luscious as immersing myself, one way or another, in someone else’s culture, and of course food is one of the greatest delights. Warm memories of these shared hours is what causes me to focus on challenges and pleasures inherent in interacting with diverse people and cultures as my topic today and is part of my commitment for 2013 to feel more joy in life through greater awareness of my moment to moment existence.
I think I first became aware of the concept of diversity, tinged with cultural awareness, as part of my work with low income or minority populations in the United States in the 1990s. Having been raised in the majority, it was shocking at first to think that people see and experience the world from such different points of view. Therefore, the context in which I learned about diversity, comes packaged a little with shame – the self adopted shame of the privilege when they realize that much of their worldview depends upon the hard work and labor of those with fewer options.
Of course travel often ignites a passion for the variety the world has to offer – and those of us who are fortunate enough to have seen many countries and levels of living will always have stories to tell of what it has meant to our lives. Coming from a large country like the United States, and being of an age where travel was originally only for the richer classes, I was in my 40s before I embraced the potential of seeing the larger world, let alone living in it. Our move to live outside of the United States was largely done to make up for some of those years of isolation.
Of course we are also a diverse couple, not being made up of one man and one woman as is the norm. This means Margie and I are aware at some small level of the differences between us and the more typical partnerships of our friends. It is through this difference that I came to my awareness of the subtleties involved in diversity. While we may know others deeply, we will never understand all of those subtleties. Much has to do with the differences in the context in which we were raised. Perhaps the biggest joy in diversity, although one that is harder to confront, is the awareness of ourselves as similar and yet different from those around us.
I feel blessed by the diversity of ideas, ages, cultures, and orientations of those around us. I enjoy working in talking to other entrepreneurs. We have a different mindset from people who choose instead to work for others, leaving much of the angst in wondering if the next business push will be successful to someone else. Margie and only enjoyed friendships across diverse age groups, interacting with groups within Kinsale where we are often a decade younger than others who attend. We also enjoy the company of many of our friends who are a decade or more younger than we are. They are similar to us in how they structure their lives, but different in worldview simply because of the difference in the time or context in which they grew up. Each of these differences and similarities reach out to us in ways subtle and yet more profound ways than can be expressed in a short writing such as this.
I hope my small musings have provoked ideas or thoughts in yourself about the pleasures you enjoy in the diversities of life. And so I close saying: Happy New Year and may 2013 bring you, and all of us, deeper understandings of the diversity around us – and more pleasure and joy in it as well.