diversity makes me happy

I am idealist. I’ve known this for a very long time — since I was a teenager and got into arguments with my mother about reality versus the ideal. I’m very glad my mum is a pragmatist because I think she gave my idealistic nature a very healthy balance in terms of how it — I — can survive in the real world.

But still, I am an idealist.

My ideal world involves people from all cultures, creeds, races, backgrounds, ages, orientations, class, and more. My ideal world involves all of these people getting along happily and thriving in shared communities. I know this sounds like some rainbow-laced fairy-tale-land, and I don’t care. This is my ideal. My ideal includes abundant diversity.

It’s rare that I’ve felt like I’ve been in a place or experience that fits this description. Honestly, most of my experience in NYC fits into this, in some way. I was a member of pretty diverse communities there. Most of the city itself is diverse, and this is a big part of its beauty for sure. I’ve had similar feelings about time spent in Vancouver and London; both these cities had diverse communities, though in London I felt more on the periphery than in Vancouver or NYC. (I could say more about why; it boils down to class and socio-economic status, but these reasons are beyond the scope of tonight’s post.)

I do think my desire for an ideal of abundant diversity is one of the reasons I’m drawn to a lifestyle of existential migration: I feel a deep, visceral need to connect with people who are totally different than me. I value diversity more than many, many other things — money, fame, security, safety, and sometimes even health. Connecting with people different — on the exterior —  than myself provides me with many opportunities that I cannot imagine having experienced otherwise to discover how similar we all are — on the interior. Through our differences, we become more similar. And, the repeated discovery for me in all of this is that the human experience is universal.

Tonight I went to an edgy, pushing-the-limits art show. It was unlike anything I’ve ever been to here in Singapore. It was a show-slash-exhibit-slash-live performance space-slash-community art venue-slash-flea market. I told my friend Alaine — the dance educator who had invited me, also a former New Yorker — that I felt like I was in Brooklyn. When the power cut out for 20 minutes, she turned to me and said, “Yep, Bushwick.”

The theme, displacement, was one that Singaporeans and foreigners alike can relate to, and it was treated in ways I would never have dreamed, in media I’d never have considered: video, sculpture (with seeds!), textiles, music, screen printing, and the more traditional oil paints and photography. It challenged my mind.

And the crowd was diverse. Young, old, baby, mother, child, father, singles, couples, ah lian, ah beng, hipster, executive, black, white, yellow, red, male, female, in between, French, Malay, Indonesian, English, Indian, Dutch, Chinese… I lost track. And I love that I did. I felt so comfortable. 

I love it when communities come together like this. Diversity is good. It makes me happy. I thrive in it.

And I truly, in the deepest part of my heart, believe we are all wired to thrive in diversity. I see it as one of the biggest challenges facing our modern world, daring us to evolve.

I hope we take it on with grace and openness and empathy.

from a trip to Pakistan in April 2006

Another welcome song, different school


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