Celebrating Similarities

by Suzanne Mahadeo

There is peace in sitting in a church in Mexico. It’s similar to the peace of kneeling in a Buddhist temple in Myanmar or Thailand; bowing in an elaborate Cao Dai temple in Vietnam; listening to the morning, afternoon, evening and in-between chants slip through the air from the mosques in Malaysia or Indonesia; or walking past the Hindu procession of devotees carrying immaculate representations of their beloved Gods high above their heads as classically trained musicians follow behind and create the soundtrack to their spirits in Singapore.

The feeling is wanting to believe in something bigger. Wanting to connect to the hundreds, thousands, or millions of people who have come before, during, or after our time spent in these places feeling the same feelings: pain, worry, anxiety, listlessness, confusion, love, yearning… and peace. One usually leaves these places feeling refreshed, if not for a few minutes before being tossed back into the world where we’re taught that almost everyone else is a stranger to be feared.

Celebrating Similarities, by Suzanne Mahadeo

The Human Mirror. All photos by Suzanne Mahadeo.

 

But all friends first start out as strangers. And it seems like strangers are more similar than we give them credit for. The next time you feel suspicious of someone, look them in the eyes, give them a smile, and offer sympathy instead of suspicion. This has made my days a lot less fearful. In all of the places I’ve visited or lived in—as a silly monoglot who only speaks English and can barely dabble in other languages enough to get me to the bathroom, order no chicken/beef/pig, or count to six—I’ve found that the language of being kind is universally understood and spoken.

People are a lot more similar than different and seeing them this way reminds us of the higher levels of our humanity. Beyond survival, there is little need to compete; little need to hoard resources; little need to be scared of others. And even in circumstances of survival, the people with the least amount to offer in their lives universally tend to give the most.

Choose love, not fear. It is the more daring of the two, but it is a choice that better leads you along the path to peace. And isn’t that what we’re all looking for?