Twice within the last week I’ve found myself in the same bizarre conversation: tourists from Europe disparaging the number of Chinese people present in Vancouver, and expressing their belief that “they” are a negative impact on “our” culture here.
“They are rude and pushy.”
“Their culture is so different, it must cause problems.”
I woke up very early this morning for no clear reason, and found these conversations rolling around in my mind, causing me dis-ease.
Are they truly blind to the irony of their complaint? The “Chinese” people they see are likely Canadian citizens, whereas they themselves are simply visitors from another country and culture.
And then, for some reason, my mind drifted to a tension I’ve long felt, that has poked its head a little higher above the radar lately: the uncomfortable kinship amongst skepticism, Christianity, other religions, and general “spiritualism”.
Different cultures, cohabiting the same physical space.
I’ve been a traveller through all these countries, as well as some lesser known ones. I grew up in a church classified as a cult. I entered adulthood as a mainstream Christian, comfortable in many denominations. I became a visitor to skepticism through several near and dear friends who live there. Currently I reside in general spiritualism, but since my passport has so many stamps in it already, I can’t deny I understand the language and feel at least partially at home (meaning: I know how to navigate it and where to feel safe) in all these regions.
Because I can speak these languages fluently, I am often taken as a fellow countryman by many of the natives. I am careful not to let conversations wander into territory I am not familiar with so that I don’t find myself out of my depth or having to pretend to be someone I’m not. However, I find it uncomfortable when these natives disparage one of my other familiar homes.
Just as I felt uncomfortable when my house guest from France disparaged how my neighbourhood in Vancouver doesn’t have a grocery store within every block, and that he was required to walk a fair distance to access green space. (I find my neighbourhood remarkably walkable compared to most places in Canada I’ve lived, thanks very much!)
We speak different languages. We have different cultures. And we are all seeking the same freaking thing, even if we define it differently: connection, security, growth, and to make sense of the world we live in.
The gift of “discernment” in one faith goes under the name “intuition” in another.
The relationship with Jesus and the Holy Spirit parallels what others seek and find in their connection with their higher selves or their spiritual “team”.
The dedication with which people of faith work to deepen their understanding of scripture and its relationship to their lives echoes the faithfulness to clear thinking and integrity present among skeptics.
The arrogance, cronyism, in-speak and mental-muscling of some skeptics mirrors the same in many religious individuals.
Folks, we’re all just trying to get by here. There’s a whole lot of life that doesn’t make a lot of sense. We do our best with finding patterns and reasons behind it so that we can navigate through it all. And everywhere you go, there are good-hearted people being helpful and compassionate; good-hearted people who are hurting others through ignorance or mis-applied cultural norms; questionably-hearted people who are actively stirring the pot; and black-hearted people who seek for nothing but their own gain. What if we were to look to THAT instead of trying to determine the heart based on one’s “country” of residence?
I have friends who see auras that I do not see. I have friends who hear things that I do not hear. I have a son whose colourblindness causes him to see the world in a way that I do not. I know an autistic gentleman who hears things that my ears cannot pick up.
THERE ARE THINGS BEYOND WHAT I SEE AND EXPERIENCE. If I am to find any peace in my little space of the world, I find it in accepting this as fact. My joy comes in the curiosity that emerges from that acceptance: if you see or experience something different than me, what is that like for you? Can you tell me more? My judgement has evolved to work most effectively when it is based on questions such as “is this helpful?” “is this compassionate?” “does this take into account that there might be information which I do not yet have?”
How many things do we take in stride today that would be viewed as magical, trickery, suspicious, even threatening to people even 50 years ago? How much more will be discovered, uncovered, and found-names-for within the next 50?
What if what should make us MOST uncomfortable is how we draw the lines between our “countries,” and refuse to acknowledge the kinship that exists in the base fact that we are human and are all seeking the same essential things.
Because dear friends, we are all neighbours. We live here together.
And I do not find you frightening or threatening because you are different. You intrigue me. Let’s get to know each other. Maybe… you’re pretty cool.
And by the way, Vancouver is f*^&ing awesome BECAUSE of its multiculturalism.
Enjoy your stay.