Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Recognizing Similarities and Celebrating Differences



“As the soil, however rich it may be, cannot be productive without cultivation, so the mind without culture can never produce good fruit” ~ Seneca

I love learning about other cultures. It's so exciting! A few months ago, I had a wonderful conversation with two students from Lebanon in one of my grad school classes. The three of us were paired up while working on a group project. The conversation about the project segued into a conversation about our countries.


We talked for 30 minutes about the differences and similarities between our cultures. You know what conclusion we came to? That there aren't that many differences at all!

Cultural differences are absolutely fascinating and should be celebrated. However, we all love, hurt, laugh, cry, dream, fear, and hope. Every single human being on the planet does each of these things.

I firmly believe that the world would be a much more harmonious place if we were to spend a little more time recognizing these commonalities and looking at our differences not with fear, but with wonderment and celebration. 
What are your thoughts? Would recognizing our similarities and celebrating our differences create a more harmonious world?

118 comments:

  1. Yes, in theory that would create positive changes in our world. If people could make small changes with others around them, the ripple effect could be astounding.

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  2. I believe that people concentrate on differences because differences cause fear, and fear propels us with excitement, however wrong that might be. I don't think that, in general, the thrill lies in celebrating commonalities. Entire cultures have been built and sustained upon the need to wage war, and unfortunately, war comes from not understanding differences.

    Bullies bully because their victim is unlike them, the bullying brings attention to the bully, and he then, is lifted up. Bullying is the most elemental example of fear of differences.

    As I read that, it sounds really negative and jaded, but I believe it's the honest truth.

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  3. Lebanon does seem like a cool place to visit -- I took a 1 credit course about Lebanese culture a few semesters ago. I want the food!!

    But anyway, yes, harmony and understanding could probably occur much more easily if we spent time on our similarities. However, I often see the idea of embracing similarity totally derail into a complete denial of individualism, and I have a huge problem with that. The thing is, we *are* all different. I think it would be more important for the world to develop wonder and appreciation of our differences rather than feign ignorance toward them in the name of unity.

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  4. In a perfect world we would all celebrate each others similarities and differences. Sadly, this is not a perfect world. In a perfect world there would be an equal distribution of life's requirements. Sadly, this is not a perfect world. There will always be those who work for the good of all and those who work strictly for their own good; those who love all life and those that fear any life different from their own. All we can hope and strive for is balance between the two.

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  5. it is really cool to meet people from other cultures and learn a bit about our world...there are differences, which make it exciting, but we are all very much similar...that i think allows us to come together when we realize it....

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  6. If we are open to share many things, we could find more similarities in difference ways.

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  7. This was funny in my first quick reading. I read it as a
    "conversation with two Lesbian students" and the strange part is that this mistake on my part didn't change the meaning of your blog at all. I have done lots of world traveling in my youth and I couldn't agree with you more. In a different world we could be sharing lunch with those with consider our enemies! If they drafted only people over 50 there would be no wars!

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  8. Yes, because people are people no matter where you go.
    I've also traveled to and lived in several foreign countries, for which I am grateful. A worldly view really makes a difference.

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  9. Is it strange how human nature makes us open to those who share a common trait. First is family, then stuff like hobbies, political views, sport teams, faith, etc. I think humanity for all it's imperfections is getting much better about ignoring the differences. Look how much America has evolved socially since the 1950's.

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  10. Our human functions and free will are all the same. I feel 0ur character and choices make us different.

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  11. I am with you Keith! We will find what we look for and I look for the similarities in our hopes and dreams. I believe we have gifts, talents and abilities that make us unique and love that bonds us.
    Thank you for opening the door to an interesting conversation.

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  12. If we focused on what made us the same things would be a lot better. If all we focused on was the fact that we're all human beings, then things would be better just from that.

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  13. I agree! However (and I have a feeling you're the same way) I like to celebrate our differences. I'm fascinated by them!!!

    PS- that photo is making me want a henna tattoo. :)

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  14. Yeah there will always be a little bit of difference, but for the most part we are all the same when it comes right down to it, if only the few who rule things would let others realize that, would be way better.

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  15. The US is large and many people never have the chance to meet someone from a different culture. When our government (and I mean the politicians who we the people elect and pay their salaries) creates false flags for the justification of bombing other countries and killing innocent people, it is time we find a voice.

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  16. I always find it interesting to learn about cultural differences, I think the key to us all living harmoniously is understanding each other :)

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  17. I think you have a very good solution!

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  18. Of course, concentrating on our similarities, would help.

    And trying to better understand our differences...

    And trying to find the reason behind, the things which make us *feel* different... Would help too.

    In other words, an Open Mind.

    But, an Open Mind, along with Common Sense, are not easy to come by... Me'thinks...

    "Auntie"

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  19. Lovely thoughts.. it's LOVE that would remove the barriers among individuals..

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  20. Most people only see the differences. If more people concentrated on the similarities...things would be much better.

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  21. Celebrating our differences makes life interesting and rich. Connecting through our similarities can make us friends. Learn, connect, enjoy! Great post!

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  22. I've had the privilege of living in several different countries and in fact marrying the love of my life who is the cousin of my interpreter abroad. My wife's culture mentions the spice of life (lamas sa kina buhi). Variety is certainly the spice of life and I'm eternally thankful for it!

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  23. If you know me at all, you know I'm not much of an optomist. I wonder, if everyone lived harmoniously and happily, would people really be happy. I think not. Happiness would become boring and harmony would disintegrate. Every attempt at a utopia has failed miserably. Human beings are not made to be continuously happy.

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  24. I agree--it is fascinating to learn about cultures different than our own. And I think recognizing our similarities can help us understand and embrace one another. Cool photo too :)

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  25. if only we could look at each other with respect instead of fear our differences.

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  26. I came to the same conclusion, it doesn't matter where you go, people are pretty much share the same experiences. I find that as I get older, our experiences with emotions, obstacles and dreams have more commonalities than differences. Learning about cultures is fascinating to me because it provides me with a frame of reference for my own culture. It's also a great way to get different perspectives on family, relationships, food, holidays, music and language. Great post!

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  27. I find other cultures fascinating, though I may not want to adopt some of their customs, I can still appreciate them as people.

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  28. Following blogs is a cultural adventure for me
    I love those ordinary blogs that chat away about home life.....they say more about a country, an area, a group
    Than anything else......
    Blogs are snippets into a life totally new
    That's why I love them

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  29. Different cultures, different faiths, different ways of life teach us things about ourselves. Personal harmony is possible by being curious, open, accepting and nonjudgmental.
    Sounds like a wonderful class and learning experience you are having in grad school.

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  30. Your conclusion is absolutely correct. After a careful excavation, when you get to the core of the matter, all of humankind is basically the same - no matter what country or culture we come from.

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  31. I've the thoughts you just wrote at least a million times or more.

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  32. I love your picture! It makes me want to do some henna.

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  33. Ironically I went to college in New Jersey, U.S. and in one of my physics classes ACTUALLY wound up being the only American born student. It was such an eye-opener to different cultures and how similar we are. Two guys who never spoke to each other one day dropped something and they both cursed in Ukranian and they looked at her each other like Huh?? They thought they were so different but there hometowns in Ukraine was actually only 1 town difference. One of my friends moved here I think it was from Iran and she was yelling about her parents not letting her get a car, and funnily I was having the same issue at the time. It's crazy how similar we are, even though our traditions can be different or our skin color or our language.

    Ergo - Blog

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  34. Photo, quote and article are spot on... Reminds me of that picture that was going around on Facebook with the words: We all smile in the same language.

    We are all human, and at the end of the day, so to speak, all we want is to be loved, accepted, and to experience our life in the fullest way possible, in whatever way means the most to us. And yes is the answer to your question... :)

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  35. Love the photo! I'm an ESL teacher at a nearby community college. I have students from sometimes up to 20 different countries in one class. This quarter I have students from Mexico, Senegal, Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, China, Astonia, Ukraine, Russia, Honduras, El Salvador, Cambodia, Vietnam, Belarus, Korea, and many others. I have over 90 students and I love my job. We always have a potluck on the last day of class with food from around the world. I've learned soooo much from my students!

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  36. Yes! I think we should stop trying to tip-toe around the fact that we all have as many differences as commonalities. Let's celebrate our diversities and not be afraid if we seem 'different' great post!

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  37. I can see how this well applies even within our own families and communities also. No one is "just like me" and that's a good thing, differences and variety are a part of our wonderful humanity .

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  38. Oh I definitely agree! What it all boils down to is everyone wants to be happy and loved. Simple as that. Doesn't matter what language you speak or where you come from, we all want the same things in life.

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  39. The world would be a better place if we'd all realize how many basic things we have in common.

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  40. "recognizing our similarities and celebrating our differences" - I loved this concept ... great thought !!!

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  41. Well said! I'm all for celebration. :)

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  42. Excellent! As a retired elementary educator, the years I had several different cultures represented in my classroom were the ones I remember most fondly!

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  43. I love meeting and getting to know people from other countries and cultures. I agree with you--we would have more harmony if we celebrated and honored our differences and remembered our similarities.

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  44. I don't think we are advanced enough of as a society to as a whole embrace our similarities. We focus too much on what we can physically see. You can't see hurt, or love, or joy.

    When Mine Became Ours

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  45. I think it's a great ideal to work toward. It's hard to get everyone on the same page and that's not to say you don't try to encourage people to change. Exactly the opposite. Persuade people with action. Living like it already exists is the only way to make that thought form die off. I think talking about it even helps it stay alive. There's a fine line there between ignoring it and actively changing it.

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  46. Hi Keith,

    Indeed, my friend, indeed. We should truly rejoice in the diversity and we might actually discover the similarities. You might have noticed, through the blogging community, we learn about each other and the knowledge removes the misconceptions we might have. All different and all equal in a sharing, caring world.

    Peace and goodwill,

    Gary

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  47. An excellent post. I have discovered what I feel like is the rest of the world with my writing. I meet other poets from other countries and of course obtain followers to my work from all corners of the earth. I noted quickly that people from different cultures and countries responded differently to ideas and poetry, etc. I have to keep in mind that we are all different and yet the same. Thank you so much for your wisdom.

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  48. Yes to celebrating our differences instead of trying to force everyone to be the same! My sister has been working and living in South Korea for the last two years, so we often have long discussions about the differences in culture. Even though some things are hard for non-natives to understand, i try to remind myself that the US looks pretty odd to outsiders, too. The differences are a reflection of our history, and should be celebrated. And we should examine other people's cultures with open minds and hearts.

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  49. Yes, a little. Thing is most people stick with like people, even though many swear they do not. The self-similarity principle is very strong. I happen not to fall into that mindset, which is all the more why I recongnize it in others so much. Esp when I was managing large groups of employees. Generally, we like people to think & act like us. It's damn safe, & we like safe, though we claim~in theory ~to love adventure & diversity. ~Mary

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  50. I'm in agreement with you, I think we should recognise similarities and celebrate the differences, and even more than that I think we should learn from the differences.

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  51. I love learning about other cultures to! Where I grew up it was mostly the same. Then when I went to Savannah, GA I met all kinds of people. They recruit all over the world. We had pot lucks and a whole lot of fun.

    I dated someone from Korea. He was super fun to be around. We're still friends.

    I did have a bad experience in my first job. I worked with mostly people from Pakistan. It was difficult. I felt excluded.

    Then my second job, many were from Iran. I loved them. I even tried to teach someone on the bus to and from work how to speak English. They were super kind.

    Somehow I got connected to a lot of people from India through blogging. So many are so sweet. One pushed the line though. He thought that because I'm from the US I'm free to talk about sex. After countless times telling him, "No! I'm married! I don't want to talk about that with you!" He still didn't get the point. I had to block him from Facebook.

    Just like anywhere there are super cool people in other cultures, and creepy people.

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  52. Definitely a great post and I agree wholeheartedly that recognizing our similarities and celebrating our differences would create a harmonious world!

    Hope you are thinking about joining the A-Z challenge this year. If you haven't already just click the badge on my post to go to the main challenge site.

    Thanks for stopping by to visit me today :)

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  53. Absolutely. I think that the fact that we are different from each other is what makes the world go round :)
    If we celebrate our differences, we can learn from other people. We also learn to be kind, sympathetic and we can hopefully stop being so narrow-minded and ignorant.
    Celebrating our differences would certainly bring the peace we need in the world.

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  54. What a great subject title! :)

    I totally agree, we are all the same when it comes to wanting happiness and being free of suffering. On that level, we can relate to everyone and anyone.

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  55. Absolutely, Keith, absolutely. We all want the same things, love, acceptance, equality, compassion. We need to recognize that in others. Every culture, every religion, every family is based on these common desires. Wonderful thoughts, today. xx

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  56. I've often thought the same. By and large, we are all the same. Sure, there are some whack jobs out there, but they are in every country. No one nation can lay claim to them all. I personally celebrate diversity. Frankly, how boring (and utterly horrifying) would the world be if everyone looked like ME?

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  57. I really think that people are people. We spend so much time focusing on differences and wanting to be unique, but then getting upset when we're treated differently from those we try to set ourselves apart from. It's so confusing to me, but I really just think people are people.

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  58. I live in a city known as 'The Melting Pot.' So diverse. I wouldn't want to live anywhere else...
    Great post, Keith.

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  59. I'm often struck by how people argue about such small details while forgetting that they have many of the big things in common. Great post!

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  60. Nicely said. I love learning about other countries and cultures. And yes, we are all more similar than we think. :)

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  61. I think you hit the nail on the head. If it were left to the people, and we could somehow not let our governments be the "voice of the people" and the gatekeepers, we could have some actual dialog and discover that for the most part, we want the same things.

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  62. It's a wonderful idea . . . in theory . . .such a shame that in reality there are those who choose to use differences as a weapon to divide humanity. :(

    I am a dreamer, much like John Lennon, and the words of his song "Imagine" rings in my mind and in my soul. Perhaps some day the world can be as one. Some day. :)

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  63. It can be such an eye opener to really have heart-to-heart conversations with people from other cultures, because human beings are so remarkably similar in so many ways. :) It's always good to keep that in mind!

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  64. so true. people hold so many things against each other...and they realize they really aren't that different at all. thanks for the little moment of reflection! :)

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  65. My girlfriend is Lebanese! I love learning more about the culture, but you are so right...Essentially, we are all human beings, and in spite of language barriers we can truly connect because of our similarities!

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  66. sometimes its the dialect or the language we used to come across our thoughts that makes it very difficult or hesitant to approach, but I affirm on your thoughts above, we are all the same. We love, laugh, get hurt, dream, etc...:) Thanks for sharing...:)


    xx!

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  67. It's true: the differences are as nothing compared to the similarities.

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  68. thank you~ And i like this entry! Very cool

    -liv
    http://chocolivlovelaugh.blogspot.kr

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  69. Yes, as I've heard it said...'We are all brothers under the skin!'
    All we need is a little more understanding...:)

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  70. Absolutely ~ Differences make us more appreciate of our strengths and uniqueness ~ This is a beautiful message ~

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  71. it's so true! we're all so different, and yet we're all the same. i think this all the time! love it --

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  72. totally agree. we are human, so many more similarities than differences! great post!

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  73. lovely post, i do agree with you on this! x

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  74. I agree. This is a great message—something we need to teach our kids.

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  75. I was just wondering last week if you were a grad student. Are we all contributing to your dissertation with our insights into your questions?

    I don't care but I am curious. I actually find all of your questions very interesting. I was a Psyche and Art major with a love for Sociology too...so loving your blog is a given for me.

    In relation to this week's post. I think if everyone could just learn to respect each other we would have world peace! It's so simple yet so difficult for so many!

    Happy week dreamer!

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  76. At the very least we should live and let live :) Great blog!

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  77. It is so true that we are all more similar to others than we imagine ourselves to be. I think back on friends I have now that I wasn't friends with in high school and my ideas about who they were were usually quite off haha. I believe you can find something that you connect with in everyone because we all share at least one similar event or emotion. Living in Brazil this year (I'm from California) has been so eye opening. Wherever you go, there you are, and there everyone else is. It's not as big of a change as one might think :).

    Great discussion question!
    xo,
    Mariamma

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  78. Great post! My husband and I are different denominations of the same religion and it AMAZES me the way it is so easy for some people to dwell on the differences instead of the 99.9% of things we both believe. Perhaps it's easier when you can focus on the person, not the barriers.

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  79. I wanted to add that I find your comments interesting.
    The number of them intrigues me
    Hummmmmmmmmmm

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  80. I love this post, Keith. Focusing on commonalities would foster understanding and tolerance. Even within cultures, it would help to break the barriers of gender discrimination...

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  81. And I should add: while celebrating our differences and respecting them.

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  82. I love and am fascinated by the wonderful cultural diversity in our lives. We are so much the same - yet different.

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  83. interestingly that's one of the themes I'm exploring in the novel I'm currently trying to write...

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  84. Lovely! I think I do this in my stories without even thinking about it - I've got so many characters from so many different cultures in each book!

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  85. Hello, thanks for visiting me...and what a wonderful subject to think about. If only we could all respect each other more and be a little kinder to each other; taking this as our starting point.

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  86. Keith, thank you so much for leaving a comment on my blog site. My thoughts are exactly the same as what you've written and what a better place this world would be if we could.

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  87. My husband and I were talking along similar lines recently. People are people - no matter where they live. I do think things from big to small, would go a lot better if more people recognized the similarities.

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  88. Abso-doggone-lutely. No matter where or how we live, our shared humanity far surpasses the things that separate us.

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  89. This reminds me so much of that Maya Angelou quote, goes something like "we are more alike, my friend, than un-alike."
    I agree with you, and one of the few reasons I like working in the city is all the diversity in my co-workers. We have some good times!

    (And thanks for stopping over to visit me at Lighten Up!). :)

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  90. So much wisdom in this simple post...yes there may be cultural differences but I'm reminded more and more often that we're all one...

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  91. I love this. Deep down, we are all pretty much the same, no matter where we come from. Even if our experiences are different, it doesn't change the similarities between us.

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  92. What a fascinating photo! And what a great thought in the wake of MLK Day. I say "yes" to taking down barriers of division. And I think we're well on our way toward world community. My typing this comment is an illustration. On Flickr and Facebook, I have conversations with people all over the world. I also like your comment that we're not very different. When my son was dating a girl who is African American, her father said that to me before I could even approach the topic. The same principle holds true for gender, sexual orientation, income level, and any other barriers that our fears exaggerate. I guess it's clear that his is a subject I'm passionate about.

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  93. Yes I agree with you! We all have the same hopes, wants, and dreams for ourselves and our families. Great post.

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  94. This is awesome. I wish more people tried to cross cultural barriers.
    Also, thanks for your comments on my blog(s).
    Following,
    ~ Echo

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  95. That's a great photo. I love the hands in pattern.

    My daughters belonged to a program called bridges that helped kids to bond with those from other socio-economic or racial groups. It was a great program!

    http://joycelansky.blogspot.com/2013/01/wordless-wednesday-dancing-hot-dog.html

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  96. All those emotions and feeling us humans have. It's wonderful! I agree, if we celebrated our similarities more and focused on the differences less, the world would surely be a more peaceful place!

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  97. Hi Kieth. I have been thinking about my comment and the way I signed off. I hope I didn't offend you when I casually called you a dreamer.

    To be a dreamer and idealist is a very good thing in my eyes. I hope I remain both until my final day.

    I too find your number of comments interesting and I wonder how many are fellow students or perhaps students of you own if you are teaching. Our daughter taught all the way through Grad. school.

    I also realize that I have never thanked you for stopping by my blog. I enjoy your insight an comments on my post very much!

    I am going out on a shoot again tomorrow and will do my best to find more scenic views worth the shoot. It's winter here and we have been in a terrible drought for three years. Scenic is getting more and more difficult to find around here!

    Happy day and peace!

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  98. I have a friend who loves studying different cultures. She talks about them quite a bit and I agree. There really aren't that many differences.

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  99. I think that in theory it would, but I don't think people will ever do that enough for it to make an impact.

    But I totally agree that there are so many similarities between people of different cultures. Most of my friends are from different cultures and I love learning about things about their culture that are different from mine, but I also love that in a lot of ways we're the same.

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  100. So so so beautiful, all in harmony, the differences disappear, deep down we are all one

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  101. Being able to celebrate difference would make a difference - but only if it was a celebration that said "what I do (or am) is different to you" not "what I do (or am) is better than you" - too many people what to be themselves, and want everybody else to be like them too!

    Cheers - Stewart M

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  102. Hi Keith - my gosh 'millions' of comments - but so there should be ... if only we can celebrate others' lives - we'd all be happier and at peace ...

    Such a great post - loved it .. I saw a film last night - that I'll be posting about soon (how soon is another matter .. but it'll be there) it would be very appropriate for your thoughts here ..

    Cheers Hilary

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  103. Very much so. So easy to point out the differences without noticing the similarities. Love the U2 song "One" on this theme.

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  104. The photo is so stunning. We have so much more in common than differences... if only we looked at things this way.

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  105. If that was only the case! I loved your post and I agree with you that focusing on our commonality is better than concentrating on our differences. If only people heeded your words. Many thanks.

    Greetings from London.

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  106. I like the starting quote. It's so true, without culture we would not grow. I love mixing up with people from different cultures. Because of exactly what you wrote. We THINK they're different, when in reality we all have so much in common! It's fascinating to do it every time.

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  107. I agree... we all look up at the same sky, see the same sun and moon. We need to focus more on the similarities. Thanks for visiting my blog!

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  108. I love your thoughts. I love discussing cultural differences too; but so true that often one realizes the differences are minor ones and that we are more alike than different! Truly that is one reason I really like the poetry blogosphere.....I've 'met' so many people from other countries / cultures just through sharing our mutual love of poetry!!

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  109. I've always found the same thing with religion. When you take the time to really learn and listen, there are far more similarities than differences.

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  110. Hey, thanks for the comment at my blog! I love the way you write, I believe it's always good to know about other people and learn from them, because we are all different and we are supposed to create a harmonious world...

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  111. I agree. Exploration of culture is so valuable, not only for the individual in society but for the balancing of the soul. I've done an extensive amount of traveling in my life and I've mad a point of exploring regional cultures as well as national and international cultural groups and I've come to a similar conclusion, that while there are certain differences, the majority of things are fairly similar, yet defined or termed differently. But at the heart of the matter, a cohesion between cultures is apparent to those wishing to see it. It's there. Great post. Thanks

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  112. Hi Kieth. I hope you have had a good weekend. You are my choice for Blog of the Week at my blog. I designed the best badge I could from your profile picture.

    I hope that is okay and I hope you some of my followers ake the time to visit and get to know you.

    I have it scheduled to post at midnight. I am tired and am going to do the unmentionable....I am going to watch t.v.!

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  113. I agree that if we could meet others on the same plane and first recognize our similarities, we could start to move past the fear of our differences and the void that it puts between people. However, the key to making this work is the being able to meet others with an open mind who are willing to look at ourselves honestly and without any notion of discrimination. Discrimination comes from our fear of differences and our lack of understanding our similarities. Celebrating differences is one of the hardest things that we as humans can do. It means moving beyond ourselves, becoming un-selfish, and that is incredibly hard for many people to do. Our selfishness I find is often born of our insecurites about ourselves and our fear that the differences bewteen ourselves and others will somehow impact us in a negative way. Unfortunately, many people are taught from an early age to fear differences instead of celebrate them. I was luckily not brought up that way and have had many conversations with people from different cultures as you have. Every single one has brought me to a more "universal" understanding of humanity and the realization that we are really not that different at all. We may seem different, live different lives, have different mores and values, but in the end, we all struggle, we all laugh, we all cry, and we all (most importantly) have families.

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  114. Lovely post. Please keep saying things like this. If we forget to say them, we will forget that we have a humanity.

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  115. I became friends with an orthodox jew woman who is a runner. I found out that we are more similar than different and our differences are wonderful discoveries to one another

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