*Brian Wilcox. 'Celebrating our Differences'
We can't step outside Oneness
for we can't step outside ourselves
I like to feel that strange life beating up against me. I like to realize forms of life utterly unlike mine. When my own life feels small, and I am oppressed with it, I like to crush [it] together, and see it in a picture - a mediaeval monk with his string of beads pacing the quiet orchard, and looking up from the grass at his feet to the heavy fruit trees; little Malay boys playing naked on a shining sea-beach; a Hindu philosopher alone under his banyan tree, thinking, thinking, thinking, so that in the thought of God he may lose himself; a troop of Bacchanalians dressed in white, with crowns of vine-leaves, dancing among the Roman streets; a martyr on the night of his death looking through the narrow window to the sky and feeling that he already has the wings that shall bear him up; an epicurean discoursing at a Roman bath to a knot of his disciples on the nature of happiness; a Kaffir witch-doctor, seeking for herbs by moonlight, while from the huts on the hill-side come the sound of dogs barking, and the voices of women and children; a mother giving bread and milk to her children in little wooden basins and singing the evening song. I like to see it all: I feel it run through me - that life belongs to me; it makes my life a little larger; it breaks down the narrow walls that shut me in.
*Olive Schreiner. The Story of an African Farm, in Howard Thurman. The Luminous Darkness.
* * *
The first sentence struck me, when opening Thurman's book. I exclaimed to a friend of how marvelous the words: "I like to feel that strange life beating against me."
In rereading Schreiner's words and proceeding, then, through the whole paragraph, the appearance of a young girl arose to mind. I drove out of a parking lot, and she drove by me, into the parking lot. She was in her twenties. Part of her head was bald, and the other part was dyed bright orange. The hair looked like a mop. I thought, "I've never seen hair look like that." What I meant was not the color, but the mop-look. I recalled how a deceased family member, when seeing persons with such dyed hair, would complain of it.
I certainly did not favor this young woman's hair. Yet, the feeling was that it was okay, though strange to me. I could affirm the strangeness, without preferring it, without seeing it as a cause for objection.
We can celebrate in others what we do not choose ourselves. We might not favor a strangeness, but we can welcome it to brush up against us. Possibly, if we allow, we may come to feel no disfavor at all. Regardless, we can respect the choice of difference, even when we do not agree with the choice.
Anyway, we are all strange, hence exceptional ~ Are we not? We are the norm in being unusual, for unusual is the norm.