I was listening to a podcast the other day in which a prominent New Jersey politician, Cory Booker, was talking about his day-to-day life and the various collaborative activities and meetings required in representation of his constituents. Now…before you jump to conclusions about the direction of this article, let me say that this post is not about politics. It is about something that occurred to me while in the process of listening to someone that just happens to be a politician. Now then, back to my thought. As Mr. Booker continued to talk, it became clear just how diverse his exposures were to different cultures, races, ideas, religions, classes, etc. by virtue of the fact that his representation required such. And it got me thinking about how limited my diversity of exposure is right now…how limited it is for most of us probably.
“Diversity: The Art of Thinking Independently Together”
I don’t have any current friends that are Black, Latino, Indian, Asian, Islamic, Buddhist, poor, rich, LGBT, blue-collar, etc. In fact, most of the people that I really interact with on a daily basis, outside of the people that I exchange surface pleasantries with, look and think similar to me. I don’t have anything against friendship and interaction with people of differing backgrounds, races, thoughts, socio-economic strata, etc. Quite the opposite actually…I believe it is really positive and enriching. I can remember when I was in the Marine Corps just how integrated and diverse life was with my fellow Marines and Servicemen. There were people from all walks of life thrown together in very tight living quarters unified by a common goal. I can distinctly remember looking back on my time in the military several years after leaving and realizing that I no longer had that element in my life (diversity of friendships and interactions)…and it made me a little sad actually. I really enjoyed learning about cultures, beliefs, and practices that were foreign to me while at the same time connecting on those elements that were similar. I just don’t find myself in situations that facilitate such friendships in my current life. Sometimes it seems as though people self-segregate along such lines unconsciously. Would it be weird to seek out daily diversity of exposure deliberately?
As a crutch, I like to read, listen, and learn from books, podcasts, scholarly articles, documentaries, etc., which helps to partially offset my lack of diversity exposure by way of deliberate knowledge diversification. My fear is that other folks may not be doing the same (bad)…and may also be experiencing a lack of relationship diversity in their own lives (doubly bad!)…now or possibly ever!
It’s important that we push outside of our comfort zones and explore the depth and breadth of experiences and relationships available to us as humans on this planet. The quality of each of our lives improves exponentially when we can better understand and empathize with the mindsets, hopes, and dreams of all our fellow human beings…without judgment. Rather, we should explore and listen with curiosity and open-mindedness. You don’t, after all, have to agree with someone to acknowledge and hear them. You don’t have to befriend someone to empathize with their struggles. And you don’t have to like their political affiliations to connect with them on a human emotional level. You just have to be open…the very best of human nature will take care of the rest.
“Diversity may be the hardest thing for a society to live with, and perhaps the most dangerous thing for a society to be without”
– William Sloan Coffin, Jr.
I really enjoyed listening to Tim Ferris’ podcast interview with Cory Booker…I would definitely recommend listening to it. He seems like a really grounded politician based on what I heard.