Originally Posted in Our Community of Humanity at Inner Child Magazine
Thriving on the Beauty in Diversity
There is value in enjoying our differences and similarities. When everyone is the same life is boring. Our brains are not excited if all we can see is one kind of tree or all we can buy is one kind of car, which is the same as everyone else's. Sameness also increases competition, which if you think about it — what is competition ... the differentiation of self as better than another in some way. In order to win you have to be different.
If we value differences then everyone can win in some way. Everyone can be better or best adapted to a particular task. What are you good at? What can you be the best at?
The biological value of diversity is survival. The more different kinds of birds, butterflies, or dinosaurs there are when the environment shifts or changes, the more likely one, two, or more will survive. If everyone is the same and the environment becomes too cold, too hot, too blue, the wrong mix of air, or too much water, none will survive. But if some people, animals, butterflies, or bacteria do better in the cold, hot, blue, or wet environment then they can survive and life continues.
An example of this kind of diversity is Charles Darwin's finches. He studied all the different types of beaks on the finches of the Galapagos Island. Each beak seems designed for a particular kind of food, whether for sucking nectar from a bright purple flower, chewing tiny protein filled seeds, catching mosquitoes on the fly, or picking grubs out from under layers of fractal shaped tree bark. We don't even have to agree on whether these differences evolved or were created in order to enjoy the beauty and practicality of being different. If all the birds are eating exactly the same kind of food, they will run out. There is enough for a greater number of birds in a diverse environment with a variety of birds skilled in finding and eating different things.
You could look at the extinction of dinosaurs and say, they were too similar in their needs for food, temperature, air, etc. Their environment changed and none survived, but some creatures, like horseshoe crabs did survive from a time before the era of dinosaurs. The horseshoe crabs were different from dinosaurs in the ways that mattered in the new environment and they survived. They thrive in coastal water today.
There are lots of ways in which we enjoy diversity. Many people like to see lots of different kinds of butterflies in a ripe summer field. True, some people try to kill the white cabbage butterflies, which eats vegetable crops, but it is the caterpillar that does the most damage. The adult butterfly feeds on nectar and pollinates flowers. Some people don't believe in the giant blue morpho butterfly of Latin America, it is so rare and elusive. Some people even hate butterflies and find them creepy. Other people study certain types of butterflies and ignore the rest. You may have a favorite kind of butterfly but none of this changes the benefit to butterfly survival of having lots of different kinds of butterflies.
In this world we have a diversity of religions and faith traditions. Perhaps there is a survival value in the variety of ways to appreciate life, community, and nature. Perhaps there is some other kind of value in having a diverse and pluralistic society. Different religions came out of a wide variety of different cultures and environments. It seems odd to think of one as better than another or more valuable than another. The religions of the world are just different from one another and each appeals to certain people and doesn't appeal to others.
There is a Japanese saying, "There are many ways to get to the top of Mount Fuji." Let us appreciate the beauty, even of what we don't understand or enjoy on other levels. It is simply enough that someone enjoys the beauty of what exists.
Kimberly Burnham, PhD (Integrative Medicine)
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