Strange Traveling Companions; Learning to Live and Love with Diversity

Cracker enjoying a natural perch from which to oversee all of us.
Cracker enjoying a natural perch from which to oversee all of us.

Someone asked me if we had lost our minds yet, traveling in a small space with all of the animals. I do admit that traveling in an RV with animals calls us to a higher consciousness in many ways. We have to plan well for their needs and be sure that they are safe and comfortable along the journey. In the case of two of our pets, we have to account for other factors also.

Hana, the introvert,  has a fragile sense of herself and is easily startled and intimidated by strange situations. She has an inborn disdain for adventure and is markedly repulsed by her current living conditions; namely a camper. Our dear friend Judi gave us a beautiful blue comforter that has a luxurious silky feel to it. It fits our camper bed just right and matches the blue color scheme. (Doesn’t everyone need a color scheme in a camper?) Most importantly, Hana has determined that this is the one place in the space that is up to her standards. She can usually be found lying on her silky throne with her paws crossed demurely and her pug snout in the air. If you speak to her she looks away like a snotty teenager with a superior attitude. Her aversion to camping life has brought us a lot of laughs. She reminds us to slow down and move with grace within a small space so that we do not upset her apple cart and so that we truly enjoy and appreciate what we have.

Wicca enjoys her blankie on a cool Virginia morning.
Wicca enjoys her blankie on a cool Virginia morning.

Wicca, the extrovert,  on the other hand, is at home in her own skin in any situation. Wherever she goes, there she is. She makes friends of all people without prejudice, wagging a warm welcome to anyone who will meet her eye. She is hospitality personified and draws people to our campsite with her enthusiasm for meeting new souls. By the second day here, Wicca had made friends with the fellow who drives the park for security and he picks her up regularly to go on patrol with him. There is no doubt that Wicca knows more people here than we do!

Hana is not a nautre enthusiast, espcially when it lands on her head.
Hana is not a nautre enthusiast, espcially when it lands on her head.

These two exact opposites remind us that there is a place for both the introverts and the extroverts of our world and that both personalities are to be valued for what they contribute to the circle. And then we have, Cracker, our African Gray. Where would Cracker fall on the Meyers-Briggs scale? He is neither a true introvert or a clear extrovert. He is an amalgamation of idiosyncracies that make him just a unique personality. He, like Hana, prefers a set routine and does not like disruption. But, like Wicca, he enjoys interaction with everyone……..especially when he is in control. He bosses the dogs, calling them by name and asking the if they need to go out. He whistles at passers-by out the camper kitchen window. He beeps at incoming and outgoing cars. He is the ringmaster,  bossy nosy body who spends his days making sure that everyone stays with the program………his program. He reassured Hana that she is a “Good Girl” and reminds both dogs that barking is a “NO!”. He whistles sweetly back and forth with Arnie and begs me to let him out of his cage to play. Cracker does not fall into either category. We think he made up his own!

So our household is very diverse! And the question of how we are to live in a diverse world has perhaps never been more pressing than now. If humanity is to survive, it is imperative that we find a way to accommodate worldviews and value systems different from our own. Pets can teach us this if we let them.

On this day of Pope Francis’s historic visit and speech in New York, we might ask ourselves, how can we learn not to be so threatened by difference? How can we learn to communicate successfully with those whose vision and understanding of the world differ from ours? Certainly, Hana, Wicca and Cracker understand the world in different ways and we accommodate them. Surely we can welcome diversity in the folks we include in our lives, knowing that diversity can either spark conflict and violence or mutual creativity and progress. How can we assure that the latter is the case?

In the spiritual path that is important to us, Buddhism teaches that each individual is a unique manifestation of the ultimate truth. Because each of us manifests this truth in the form of our particular, individual character, each of us is a precious and indeed indispensable aspect of the living cosmos. Every sentient creature is valued for who they are.

Just as each individual has a unique character, a unique experience of life, each culture can be understood as a manifestation of cosmic creativity and wisdom. In the same way that Buddhism rejects any hierarchical ranking of individual humans, it adopts an attitude of fundamental respect toward all cultures and traditions.

The practitioners of Buddhism are encouraged to take a flexible, open approach to the cultural context in which they find themselves. Thus, as they uphold the Buddhist principles of respecting the inherent dignity and sanctity of human life, they follow local customs and practices except when they are directly contrary to those core principles. As we travel along with our animals, we try to keep this in the forefront of our mind.

The original purpose of Buddhism is to awaken people to the infinite value of their own lives and, by extension, the lives of others. Ultimately, our ability to respond creatively to diversity hinges on our ability to develop a palpable sense of the preciousness of life itself, and of each individual expression of life.

Travel well along the Open Road and in the Wild Wood with the precious companions of your own choosing and those that chose you too.


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