“There is only one difference between a madman and me. The madman thinks he is sane. I know I am mad.” Salvador Dali
“We inhabit a universe that is characterized by diversity.” Desmond Tutu
“We are all different, but we all one with the breath of life.” Steve Hyne
The beauty of life in the natural world is the magnitude of diversity within a group. In a species the potential of variations is amazing from the size, colour ,behaviour and smell becomes part of a tapestry of life. One example of diversity is the garden lawn or the green grass , what I call earths natural carpet. It is a common sight for most people who live in the U.K. to see this super multipurpose commodity. Each blade of grass is part of the grass plant and may have multiple blades. There are 100 different species in the UK but even more diversity worldwide because there 11,400 different known grasses.(Lawn UK com) This simple snapshot displays a natural wonder of diversity around all of us.
The diversity in humans is even more superfluous from wide array of external characteristics. Within a race there is more diversity of internal beliefs and concepts peculiar to each individual. Even in my own family, my four children are very different in personality , temperament and choices. I am grateful for this diversity as it enriches my life as a father, I can imagine how weird it would be with clones in appearance and behaviours.
Definition of Empathy : The action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner. (Merriam-webster com)
Definition of vicarious : Experienced or realized through imaginative or sympathetic participation in the experience of another. (Merriam-webster com)
Definition of diversity : The condition of having or being composed of differing elements : Variety : Especially the inclusion of people of different races, cultures, etc. in a group or organization. (Merriam-webster com)
Definition of cognitive : Relating to, being, or involving conscious intellectual activity (such as thinking, reasoning, or remembering) : based on or capable of being reduced to empirical factual knowledge. (Merriam-webster com)
Definition of robot : A person who resembles a machine in seeming to function automatically or in lacking normal feelings or emotions. (Merriam-webster com)
Emphatic understanding is important to make a connection with the other person. The problem with a lack of vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another would be mechanical like an automated robot. To be present with another person to allow an emotional connection is to be aware of their own visceral and bodily sensations first. For example, ignoring bodily cues shows an imbalance to what’s happening internally to a person ability to navigate their feelings. Experiencing your own emotional sensations is the first step towards cognitive empathy as reference for the brain recall stimuli for future events. Cognitive empathy is sometimes called perspective taking or commonly phrased putting yourselves in someone else’s shoes. This will call up the memory of your personal experience of emotional library so to put meaning to it. It is never the same as another person experience because we all think and feel differently. From my perspective cognitive empathy has its limitations of a connection that could go deeper. Our experience from personal bias and our emotional reality with different responses will always have gap especially if the person is not self-aware.
I know from personal experience of others cognitive empathy when my wife died of cancer and I was left to raise four children. I have not met another man personally who has had four children to raise and who had a wife that died at a young age locally. I have a friend whose wife died and was also young with just two children. It was a similar experience but not the same. Firstly, his feelings and his children feelings are similar reactions but exactly not the same. At this juncture I will say, I did appreciate all the cognitive empathy and the help during my wife illness and subsequent death.
Difference and diversity from personal experiences has been a truly meaningful blessing in my life. I have travelled extensively and love culture and people especially those individuals that are different who give colour , insight, vibrancy and new experiences to social engagements.
Definition of prejudice : injury or damage resulting from some judgment or action of another in disregard of one’s rights. Preconceived judgment or opinion ,an adverse opinion or leaning formed without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge. An irrational attitude of hostility directed against an individual, a group, a race, or their supposed characteristics. (Merriam-webster com)
Definition of fear : an unpleasant often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger. To be afraid of expect with alarm. (Merriam-webster com)
The Prejudices are learned behaviours often from childhood sources that are imprinted on to the child brain. Fears are associated memories either real or imagined stored in the brain for a survival mechanism. An example my children are afraid of spiders and bees because of seeing their mother being frantic when she came in contact with them. The social brain wants to fit in with the tribe, so it becomes aligned with different groups to fit in. This is often compounded when a child grows up in an environment where the parents are racist , at school their friends could be racist. Finally to seal the concept a bad experience impeached the individual as imprint on brain that such a group is dangerous.
Definition of culture : The customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group : The characteristic features of everyday existence (such as diversions or a way of life) shared by people in a place or time : The set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization. the integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behaviours that depends upon the capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations. (Merriam-webster com)
Definition of access : Permission, liberty, or ability to enter, approach, or pass to and from a place or to approach or communicate with a person or thing : Freedom or ability to obtain or make use of something : a way or means of entering or approaching : To be able to use, enter, or get near (something). (Merriam-webster com)
“There are some 4,300 religions of the world. This is according to Adherents, an independent, non-religiously affiliated organisation that monitors the number and size of the world’s religions.” (The register com) Within these religious groups are individuals that have their own concepts inline with what they perceive. The faith and culture can be the core identity of a person.
The person belief’s or perception could a personal healing. I have heard on several occasions “I don’t want to unlock all my demons; I would rather keep them locked up till I die” I agree that is one way of dealing with challenges, but a person perception stops them from even investigating possibilities because of fear or shame.
The BCAP had interesting article on How culture impacts on empathy. It mentions “Sikhs, like many other South Asian cultures, do not normally see talking therapies as a way of resolving issues and problems in their lives. There is still some stigma attached to mental illness, and counselling would be seen as a last resort, when all else fails.”(BCAP)
Further exploration of Sikhs beliefs helped me understand some of the issues that could impact integration in some cultures from a religious perspective. The 5 vices teachings within the body are very different from many western civilisation’s concepts of morality and relationships.(sikhnet) One central belief is “Previous and current bad deeds (karma or kirat) as well as desire and attachment cause suffering”. (Wahegurunet) Understanding how life is for them as an individual from their perspective help society relate to them. The intrinsic beliefs and cultural diversity are a rich subject for anyone to explore especially for individuals explore their own concepts.
The difficulty of access to be accepted is what a person has heard , experienced and believe that could prevent them to facilitate an integration process in the community. The many barriers could be genuine misunderstandings or a personal block internally. For them to start the process may be very difficult from external prejudices of family and culture influencing them about local society. Having emphatic understanding of a person resistance will bridge the gap between the two individuals . Ultimately in a professional and humane dealing with culture and diversity blocks rest on the person autonomy.
Having these qualities will help humanity embrace integration with emphatic understanding. Diversity and difference permeate through the universe as beautiful mosaic of life. We are all different, but we all one with the breath of life.