Reflecting upon the difference

When there's a difference between this and that, we can simply accept the difference and leave it at that. It's better to go beyond that kind of acceptance and reflect upon the difference. We'll come to realizations that would not dawn on our minds by simply accepting the difference at face value.

Differences usually show up as dichotomies. We automatically think about the difference divisively or combatively. We see no common ground, overlap or shared characteristics. To our way of thinking, the two sides of the difference cannot both be right, acceptable or valuable. We see the difference as stark contrasts, complete opposites or irreconcilable traits. We think it's a big difference that should not be disregarded or downplayed without jeopardizing our safety, survival or continuity. We draw the distinction with a vengeance and make ourselves right about it immediately. For example:

Learning and forgetting are night and day opposites!

Upon reflection, differences take on many added dimensions. We might begin to see the effects of the difference on other things. If we wonder about what difference the difference makes, we'll see more than if we assume there's nothing to be curious about. Differences can have the effect of isolating or connecting, antagonizing or reconciling, and confining or liberating the opposing sides. For instance:

Forgetting is a stupid thing to do. People who forget are lacking in the ability to learn. People should learn and not forget unless they want to feel guilty!

We might also begin to notice how we are drawing the distinction and actively involved in using the concept of the difference. We may then discover why we care about it so much, what makes it important to us, and how we relate to the difference with our feelings. We could get a picture of that difference in our lives, relationships or current problem situations. For example:

I hate it when I forget something. I'm too young to keep having "senior moments". It's so embarrassing to forget what I'm trying to remember!

We can even discover how similar this difference is to some other difference. We might recognize a pattern or draw parallels to some other difference. It might seem like the same difference in a different context or a similar difference in some ways, but not others. We could get a sense of it being a small difference that only seems large when there's need for us to do more reflective practicing. For instance:

Learning is like clinging to something. Forgetting is like letting go. Sometimes it's better to forget and forgive. When we let go, we can move on, begin again or start fresh!

We might even realize how making the difference is only half the story. The whole truth may include how the difference is really two sides of the same thing, no real difference at all. We might conceive of a way to combine the apparent difference and the underlying commonalty into a whole understanding. Then we can embrace all of it with non-judgmental awareness and be clear of fear about it. For example:

We cannot learn something that changes what we know -- without unlearning what we were convinced of in the first place. Forgetting is an essential facet of transformational learning.

That's coming a very long way from accepting the difference with any reflective practicing about it.

(revised 10/3/2007)

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