"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Thursday, April 14, 2011

How Much "Otherness" Can You Handle?

I finished reading the book on the Greeks the other day and last night was looking through the 60+ pieces of art included in the picture section.  Three times the author makes mention of the Greeks' disgust with physical deformity and how the statues wouldn't show, say, an Amazon who cut off her right breast in order to wield her sword with more proficiency because they didn't really want to picture an abnormality.  Even a man playing the pipes would be of the servant class since "well-born Greeks avoided any physical distortion, and pipe playing, because it distorted the cheeks, could not be taken up by citizens."

For what it's worth: "the lyre was their instrument."

I was kind of surprised to read this.

Not sure it's exactly related, but that coupled with the niqab talk going around - thanks to France - and a video I saw earlier today,  got me to thinking about "otherness" and how much of it we will allow to touch and maybe even influence our lives.

I think some people are much more tolerant than others, but maybe even those who have seemingly high degrees of tolerance have their limits. 

It might be someone with a different culture or religion.  Someone of a different race.  I remember a friend married to a Greek man told me some of her inlaws believed blue-eyed people were evil.  Maybe you dislike people of other genders. Or those of different sexual orientations. Maybe you don't like those who speak another language than you? Those who can't speak your language without a thick accent?   It could be any number of things.  Perhaps you are Catholic and greatly dislike Protestants. Or a Sunni who despises Alawaites or Druze. Or a Republican who has no time for someone on the opposite side of the aisle. 

In reality we could divide ourselves all day, couldn't we?

In my own case, I think it's funny to think about my past. I grew up in an almost all-white, all-Protestant school and church.  Even then I found people from other parts of the country so interesting. Since they were still white Protestants, I'd detect their different accents and culture.  So fun. I've always been fascinated by foreigners, but my area is not that diverse so my mingling with them wasn't an everyday occurrence.  I still recall my time at the community college. I had black classmates for almost the first time ... and found many of them quite fun. In fact my best friend for a time was a young black man who grew up completely differently than I although we lived in the same small county! We'd sit together at breaks and talk about our backgrounds.  I remember asking him why black people named their children such funny names.  Yes, I'm brazen like that sometimes, but we had that kind of friendship.  And I've always been curious about names so why not ask?  :)

Then most of you know my interest in Syria and by default other Arabs and Muslims and Middle Easterners and that all started with God bringing Samer into my life.  He and I were talking about this just recently because we are still often amazed at how two people of such vastly different backgrounds became dear friends.  On paper you never think of folks like us having enough in common to form a lasting friendship. A passing acquaintance...no problem.  I have those all the time with a wide variety of people.  But a true friendship? 

It's something for which I thank God.

So how much otherness can you handle?  Are you like the Greeks?  Do you draw the line at physical deformities

(and do those include such things as puffy cheeks from someone playing pipes?) Have you had experiences with "other" people that you found surprising in good or bad ways?  Learned any valuable lessons? Made any dear friends? Share your experiences if you'd like.


Wafa said...

Even before the internet i used to like and accept "others" in a limited way of course but in general i was acceptance of people much more than those around me and i have no problem believing that i am not different than "others" or they are not different than me. And then came the internet and things started to change a bit by bit. I accepted others ok but not "different actions" because i used to apply it to what my religion would accept or not. Until i decided to change my behavior completely and think of "others" as just plain people like me, i am not better than them and they are not better than me, and let it be. From then on i am more acceptance of everyone. After all, who am i to judge people or think of them in a different way.
Yes, there are lots of times when i think of this person is bad or good, but i am still in the process of accepting and as i say it right now it's a long and continuous process especially growing up in a society where you supposed to be the best nation with the best religion and all that stuff you are brainwashed with.

one question i wanted to answer frankly is :Do you draw the line at physical deformities? . Honestly yes. I was growing up believing that i am such a normal girl with no beautiful features or beautiful body so you know u hate yourself and hate anyone people think of as having a deformed body.My niece and nephew are kids with special needs so they have a typical look which is not perfect at all and despite all i love them dearly so i should be more considering and that's what i am doing. i am ashamed to feel this way but things are changing for me and i am more acceptance :)

Thanks you so much for such a wonderful post and for the help to have a deep look inside of me :)

Suroor said...

Very interesting post!

I am an equal opportunist racist - I hate everyone :D Haha.

I try to be tolerant but I'm not always tolerant. However, I REALLY dislike people who point out or dislike physical problems with other people. It really makes me very angry.

Sarah said...

I feel the same way. I would love to live abroad.

Sophia said...

I like to tell myself I'm accepting, but I do have one big hang-up: I'm scared of mental disorders and disabilities, and sometimes that means I'm scared of people affected by them too. I had a bad experience in high school with a close friend who was manic-depressive, and couple that with my own families history of schizophrenia - you start to see the picture. I try not to be, but it scares me because I'm scared one day I'll be like that too.

Amber said...

I started to write a comment saying that I couldn't think of any people that I had issues with their otherness, but then I kept having to type, 'well, except for'. So, basically, I do have issues with some people. Addicts, for a main one. It doesn't matter *what* they're addicted to, I have a major problem with them. If I find out people are dealing, involved in, using, drugs of any kind, I don't want a thing to do with them, and my perception of them as a person goes way down. I don't think that they're good people. And I know, in part of my brain, that that's not entirely true. That good people suffer tragedies and fall and wind up in bad places. But...*shakes head*. They ruin too many lives, not the least of which is their own. I have no sympathy for them because a part of me looks back at their lives, at mine, and says 'well, I didn't fall, so they're weaker than I am' and therefore worthy of derision. *shrug* I've never claimed to be a nice person, remember.

Sophia mentioned mental illness. I find it a good example of how different people react to similar situations in different ways. Schizophrenia runs in my family as well, but I find people with mental illness fascinating, to the point where I once considered a career as a psychologist. I don't fear that I may one day wind up schizophrenic, mostly because if I do, there's nothing I can do to prevent it. Genetics are a bitch.

I'd like to live in different countries, in different cultures. But then I have this thing about not wanting to give up my life here, even for a little bit. So it'd have to be a really good opportunity, I guess. Oddly, the country I most want to visit is Saudi Arabia. *shrug*

Susanne said...

Wafa', I really enjoyed your comment and how you are evolving as a person becoming more accepting of others' difference. I think I am more that way as well.I like what you said about people being "just plain people like me, i am not better than them and they are not better than me," -- great point.

Thanks for what you added! Good stuff!

Suroor, ha! Your comment made me laugh - the first part anyway! :D Yes, I don't like people making fun of people with physical deformities.

Sarah, I know you would. I enjoy hearing your stories from your days of traveling outside your country.

Sophia, that's very understandable since you've seen people with mental disorders who have frightened you. My dad works with people like that and they also frighten me sometimes. I just don't think I have what it takes - the patience? - to deal with them like my dad does. Nice reading your input.

Amber, hehehe...I'm giggling at your "except fors." :) Yes, I can understand why you have problems with addicts. That makes a lot of sense. Hmm, mental illness fascinates you? Honestly that does not seem surprising and I think you would have been good in that field.

Oh, I want to live in another culture/country, but I feel torn because my family is all here. So I can relate.

I didn't realize you most wanted to visit Saudi Arabia. I guess it's the mystery of the place seeing how it's closed to most of us,huh? I'd love to visit there and maybe run into dear Wafa' while I'm at it! :)

Thank you all for your replies! I enjoyed them all!

Rebekka @ Becky's Kaleidoscope said...

Well, I have to say that I tend to be pre-judiced against far-right fundamentalist... Christian Americans... There, I said it. Maybe it's growing up in Europe, but those people really freak me out, maybe because I think, we both grew up in the West, how can you be so CLOSE-MINDED? (Actually, goes for far-right people in general). Although I'll still be polite, and listen and try to discuss, I often find that these people aren't really interested in an open discussion, they just want to force everyone to live like they do. It really irritates me, makes me very angry and honestly I cannot handle that kind of otherness.

(Also, I grew up in a very Christian family.... by Danish standards, but we've got nothing on the American "very Christian families", I grew up in the Pentecostal church... but since spending time in the US, I hesitate to say that, because (although I've never visited a Pentecostal church in the US), my impression is that it is waaaaaay more right-wing and fundamentalist than the one I grew up in in DK).

Okay that was a long rant. So, I am unaccepting of those who are unaccepting of others.... if that makes any sense. Which I guess technically means I'm no better than them.

Susanne said...

Becky, thanks for sharing about the ones you don't like...which is probably most of the ones I know. :) It's always interesting reading others' perspectives. Honestly when I first met Samer we were surprised how much alike our values were. I didn't realize I would have more in common with Syrian Muslims than Europeans, but then Europeans are much more liberal in their morals than I was raised to be. I guess it's part of that taking the Bible literally stuff that has influenced my culture and upbringing.

Thanks for sharing your point of view and background. A few of my online friends are Pentecostals or similar to them (Assembly of God, Foursquare Gospel...at least they seem similar to me in some aspects though not all.) :)

Rebekka @ Becky's Kaleidoscope said...

Ah yes, I can see your point, being raised in a very Christian family (by Danish/European standards) I think I'm much less liberal when it comes to morals, but on pretty much everything else I am very liberal. And even when it comes to morals, I don't believe I have the right to judge or make people abide by my beliefs.