Most of the history written, philosophies, and social sciences come from the western world (Euro-American). Recently there has been a counter force challenging the exclusive western perception. For example, IQ tests and even personality tests used to diagnose abnormal behavior are based upon western ideals of normal and average. One particular western ideal is individualism. You hear it everyday. “Be independent.” “Make your own decisions.” “Stand on your own two feet.” “Pay your own way.” “Follow your heart.” Think of the pride Americans take in our history of forging out across the unknown lands to settle, populate and tame the wild west. We are rugged individualists. That is not the same concept or value held in much of the eastern world. In the eastern culture, collectivism, or the group is the most important value. It does not mean that you demean or diminish yourself as an individual but simply that the health of the group (family, community, society, etc.) takes precedence. The collectivist point of view would not brag about individual accomplishments, would not promote one over the many.
A very inadequate summary, my apologies. But can you see how the two perspectives would write different histories, develop different philosophies and define normal differently? Even spiritually, can you see how their world view would differ from the western view? If the east –west concept is too vague, consider the rural farming communities of old built on cooperation of neighbors and embraced within an extended family of support. Their individual survival, what was important, was the survival of all, together, a community. Compare that view to a large metropolitian city like New York where most feel like a stranger to the other million or so people. No nuclear families. If you have more I must have less. Competitive and individualistic.
Is one view right or wrong? Is one healthy and one sick? Maybe we should just say they both are right and melt them into a stew of indicollectivism. And where the hell am I going with such a pondering? The scientific Human Genome Project set out to map all the human genomes to map our evolutionary, biological and comparative history. So far, they have identified only 25,000 or so unique genomes – they were expecting much more. Of those 25,000 do you know we only have 300 that are unique from those of a mouse? We are all so similar to all of life and yet we are so different. Differences can be modified but the differences remain, perhaps even sacred to all of life.
When I say I love you or when I say you are my other me – who are you? You have been shaped by your family. You have been shaped by your community, religion, school and experiences or even the color of your skin. You are a repository of collective images, labels, definitions and perceptions of right and wrong, normal and not, good and evil, cans and cannots. But you are also the individual I see, the individual I love, the person standing in front of me. And within that repository you have made choices that in many ways reshaped the collective influence, making you, you. The you standing before me, holding my hand or my heart, may be the mouse in you, the collective and shared you. Tomorrow, you may be the 300 genomes, shaped by your choices that make you uniquely human and an individual. Both are you. It’s not that you bring your “baggage” or wounds, you simply bring who you are. It is not a “take it or leave it” attitude, we all have rough edges we would like to soften and habits we know we need to change. But it begins with acceptance. It begins with the wonder and amazement as the “you” unfolds before me. So many layers. So much to discover. Your vulnerability to let me see, so humbling.
My point? I chuckle, yes, sometimes I do think too much. To say I love you or to embrace you are my other me means my heart reaches out to all of you, today, this moment, the face that you gift to me. And in that embrace, that joining as one, we create a symphony not a solo, dialogue not a soliloquy, two yet one, and we expand, together, beyond what we were before the embrace. In learning how to love myself I expand the love I can give to you. You are my other me. You are not me. Like holding hands, it is more comfortable and warm when right holds left, awkward when left holds left or right holds right. But when the two hands slip and fold together, a link is created that makes them one. You are my other me. You are my teacher. You are the telescope that opens up the universe or the submarine beneath the oceans opening up such a vast diverse universe. You are the one hand slipped warmly into mine.