September 8, 2006

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

Viva la differences which make us human

Pundits often say that economic divisions between classes are growing wider: the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer, while the middle class is shrinking.

Although I’m not sure why or if it is happening, I find this kind of dichotomy to be just one of many in human life. We seem to love occupying or taking sides on everything, including those over which we have little control. It’s only human.

Generational differences come to mind. Of course, there are the physical ones: people on both ends of life, babies and the elderly, are usually weaker than the others. Young people have the most energy and stamina, and all our parts work better at the peak of mid-life than they do before or after.

Then there’s the generational taste for music, entertainment or other forms of popular culture. Some scientist I heard about found that people tend to form their attachments to current cultural entities between the ages of about 15 to 30. Before that, they’re open to anything, and afterward they generally reject new things. Elvis irritated the Big Band generation, just as hip hop turns off the Elvis lovers.

Males differ from females, and not just in reproductive ways. Some idealists may want to believe that the sexes are the same. Generalizations are never entirely accurate, and there are always exceptions, but in my experience men and women differ in some major ways, including strength, physical prowess in certain areas and self-expression.

Many books have been written on such differences, and one I found particularly interesting described how the sexes understand and respond to words. For example, if I tell my girlfriend that I have a problem, she’ll respond by citing similar problems she’s had, and then sympathize with me. But if I tell my problem to a man, he’ll immediately give me three or four ways to solve it and expect me to take care of it. Most women want to heal, and most men want to fix.

Ethnic cultural differences still exist, although the modern global economy seems to be homogenizing people as we speak.

For example, the Spain we visited in the 1970s featured mule-drawn carts and ladies in black widow weeds, but today short shorts, tattoos and McDonalds are as prevalent there as they are in the U.S.

Country people, or those who live close to the rhythms of nature, are different from urbanites. By necessity, they’re generally practical and skilled in making and doing, with intellectual pursuits as a leisure activity. City dwellers, on the other hand, often make a living with their intellectual skills and relax by doing hands-on activities.

Even religious attitudes differ. People of all faiths like to attach God’s authority to their own endeavors, and they’re not always correct. Sometimes, they’re not even close. Politicians do the same, often striving for the same noble goals, but in diametrically opposed ways.

Of course, the point of all these differences is their reflection of the God in whose image we are all uniquely made.

We’re different, but if we work together and keep heading in the direction of God’s will, one day we’ll see the glory of the entire divine pattern.

What a joy. Viva la difference!

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)


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