Never in the history of humanity have we been exposed to such an infinite variety of opinions, beliefs, forms of behavior, customs and so on. Humanity has become a melting pot of world dimensions! Be it in the areas of religious beliefs, forms of politeness, dress, physical appearance, attitudes towards work and play, financial behavior and integrity, business practices, eating (ways of eating and what we eat,) … I have barely started the list of differences facing most of us, sometimes daily!
“My life has been an amazing apprenticeship in tolerance.”
In such a situation, there are basically two forms of response: refusal and rejection or accepting and embracing. In a professional career encompassing almost 60 years and traveling or living, studying or working in 40 countries of the five continents, I have witnessed so many forms of behavior, from the village chief who welcomed me starting with excuses that he only had 32 wives (who crawled on the ground with their heads bowed till they reached his feet which they would kiss before he allowed them to lift their heads) – whereas his father had 94, to one of the first African feminists with whom I worked many years, an utterly amazing powerhouse of a woman; from the village of Semari in Mali (Dogon country) whose women walked DAILY 40 kms to fetch water (by temperatures in the sun reaching 50 centigrade) to ultra clean Sweden (not to mention my home country, Switzerland, often maniacal for its cleanliness) where the cleanest water runs from all taps.
My life has been an amazing apprenticeship in tolerance, a quality which will by necessity become one of the main qualities expressed by the citizens of this planet if we wish to survive. From an ultra-strict Calvinist protestant upbringing which caused me to look askew at my catholic neighbors to my 12 years in polygamous Muslim countries, where the deeply convinced feminist world citizen I was truly learned the meaning of tolerance…- a road we are all going to have to travel to survive as a race.
For me, the indispensable tool of this tolerance has been finding a strong spiritual grounding where “Loving one’s neighbor” is not simply a nice quotation from the Sunday church liturgy (I personally am not the member of any particular spiritual teaching), but the evident basis of all human relations in this incredibly diverse world (see my earlier blog on « Loving Putin »).
A Blessing for Tolerance in a World of Constant Contrasts
We bless nations and individuals in their understanding that this variety is a new form of wealth and especially a new pedagogical tool for each one of us.
I bless myself in my total and sincere acceptance of all these differences – in physical appearance, in dress, in eating habits and attitudes in public, in forms of behavior and speaking… these endless differences that form our polychrome humanity.
I bless myself in learning to love my African/Latin American neighbors and the loud music they so enjoy late into the night rather than calling the police or knocking angrily on their door.
I bless myself in learning to really stretch beyond the rather narrow limits of my upbringing and embracing all rather than judging them, however strange some customs may seem to me.
And may I learn to grow spiritually everyday a little more in tolerance and acceptance until I am able to say of all men and women “This is my beloved child (brother, sister) in whom I am well pleased.”*
*King James Bible