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The Beauty Of Being Open To The 'Other'

12/01/2016 3:47 PM IST | Updated 29/08/2016 9:41 PM IST
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Multi-colored paper people representing diversity.

We are sitting around a table.

A man is convinced he has found the philosophy which is the elixir to life.

He may be right, for the idea he speaks of is a beautiful one, but then he insists it isn't just an idea, it is the idea.

The only one.

There is only one right philosophy and he knows it.

A palpable tension begins to travel around the table. A few people shift uncomfortably in their seats.

He asks, "What do you do when you are thirsty?"

Someone answers, "You drink water."

"Yes there is only one thing to do when you are thirsty. This philosophy is that water," he says.

Silence.

I want to join the uneasy silence, but I can't help but disrupt it with a thought that is burning within me, "Yes, when you are thirsty, you must drink water, but water can be drunk in many ways, from a waterfall, a river, a crystal jar, an earthen pot, a glass cup, water harvested from the rain, water transformed from the sea, water from melted snow, water from a tap, a stream and a well. It seems there are many ways to drink the same water and quench one's thirst. Aren't there?"

Being open does not mean you don't have strong convictions about who you are and what you believe in.

He is someone who deems himself wiser than the rest and is visibly irked by my interruption or that I have an opinion. He ignores my remark and addresses the rest of the table with a lofty air, "If any of you wish to speak to me one on one, without any external influence, I will be happy to do so."

Luckily a friend who is seated, gets up and asks if I'd like to join her for a walk and we leave. Slowly one by one, everyone rises to leave and the tension is diffused.

But I believe our encounter wasn't a very unusual one.

It takes place in varying degrees of intensity around the world.

And humanity has always been tense, ached and suffered when human beings separate themselves from each other, when one human being so easily judges another human being as unworthy for living a life different from his own concrete idea of life.

Our openness then can be a gift we offer others, as a way to bridge the gap in a world that is often encouraging separation. Being open allows us to sit at the table of warmth with our neighbour, giving them room to be themselves, while still being rooted in our self.

Being open does not mean you don't have strong convictions about who you are and what you believe in. It means to have your identity and still respect the unique way of others. Ways that may be different and ways that we may not fully comprehend, so long as that way is peaceful, loving and harms no one.

When people sense our openness, they let us into the inner realms of their heart and mind, into the divine pleasure of knowing another human being. To know what they think, feel, love and treasure and to be able to share the same.

We always have the power to reject for ourselves what does not resonate as our truth, whilst still holding room for someone else to express theirs.

To be genuinely welcomed into the inner chambers of someone's soul enriches both people in the exchange. People only welcome us when we stop judging them (based on our limited perceptions) and when we're willing to listen to something unfamiliar.

We always have the power to reject for ourselves what does not resonate as our truth, whilst still holding room for someone else to express theirs.

Openness allows us to keep what is essential and discard the superfluous, to absorb beauty from an infinite pool of ideas and cultures, whilst still staying true to our story.

It has allowed me to make many friends across the world and inspired many colourful encounters.

I have conversed with a bar dancer on an airplane, exchanged a Happy Sabbath greeting with a religious man in Jerusalem, listened to a preacher speak about the different archangels, conversed with a chaiwalla by the Ganges about the sacred rivers of India, shared a laugh with a monk and climbed mountains with adventurers. Strangers have revealed their story and I've shared mine. I have been welcome joyously every time I put aside my limited understanding of the world and embraced the uniquely different.

How can we expect everyone to be exactly the same, when even the many flowers of the same forest are all so different and still add their meaning and beauty, to the whole forest? Our differences make the forest more colourful and alive. They add rather than subtract from the beauty of the whole.

There is no gift more beautiful to give someone than the gift of accepting them as they really are.

More than ever, now, we need to tear down the walls of bigotry, prejudice and ignorance that separate us from one another and simply by being open to each other's thoughts, ideas, feelings and unique ways of living as human beings, we can do so.

There is no gift more beautiful to give someone than the gift of accepting them as they really are. It's an offering born of love.

So long as one is peaceful and loving, can we respect each other's uniquely beautiful way of drinking water?

You can also find Shenaz Wahid on https://www.instagram.com/shenazwahid/

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