Saturday, April 25, 2015

Same same

There is a [word-] sign used by the local deaf community that means "Same" - it looks like the ASL sign for the letter Y - as shown - but the hand is not raised up but facing the floor (in other words, palm side down). The hand goes back and forth horizontally a couple of times between the two items or people being compared, as if sliding back and forth on an unseen table. If the deaf person talks when he or she signs, the words that come out are "Same-same." 
The idea usually is that the thumb and pinky point toward what or who is involved in that comparison. 

That doesn't mean that differences don't exist. It just means that at some level, there is something essentially the same about those two things or people. 

Illustration "Sign Language And The
Alphabet,the Letter Y"
taesmileland at
And that sign can be a complete sentence when the second component is added - facial expression. Take for example the comparison between two people. I've seen my deaf friends sign "same-same" over the years with amazement, sympathy, sarcasm, boredom, delight, disgust, and a whole host of other reactions that convey tone of voice - something that (as yet) the printed word cannot do very well. 

I was thinking about this sign a couple of days ago and it came to me that no matter how same-same people think they are, there is always something that is different. And not just different, VASTLY different - just like the pinky and the thumb point in nearly opposite directions. 

And no matter how different people are, there is always something that is the same between them, just as the pinky and the thumb are part of the same hand and signifying (in their differences) that they are same-same. Basic feelings are the same regardless of gender, gender identity or socioeconomic class; the colour of the blood is identical regardless of the colour of the skin. 

I might feel uncomfortable around someone because of our differences, but looking for common ground helps me to accept that person and acknowledge his or her right to take up space. And ... (this is a more subtle but just as important a distinction) just because I might share an identity label (same workplace, same church, same family relationships for example) with someone else, it doesn't give me the right to assume that this person thinks or believes or has the same values as I do. 

Or that the person can automatically be trusted because of that one similarity. 

Or that someone of another group is automatically untrustworthy because of the differences between us. 

"Peoples is peoples," a wise man once said. (Pete from Pete's Diner in Jim Henson's "The Muppets Take Manhattan", haha). More and more, I'm coming to live my life on that simple principle. Each person is capable of both good and evil. 

My quest in recovery from the chains of my own limitations is to find the people in my life that I can trust, the ones who help me be truly me (without trying to make me exactly the same as they are in every respect), and then surround myself with them. And to discover those - while I might care about them - who are toxic to me, who try to manipulate or control me ... and to distance myself from them. To make sure that the "sameness" between my circle of friends and myself is concentrated in the things that matter most to me, and to let go of the differences that would tear me down and hinder my growth.

It's a tall order, but no other human being has the right to do it for me.

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