This seems to be one of the Dalai Lama’s most pivotal teachings, and a lot of his other words of wisdom turn upon this principle. He says that on a basic level, we are all human beings, so there is always this one, underlying basis of similarity between everyone.
For example, say I met the Dalai Lama (which would be awesome, by the way). I could choose to define him as ‘a Tibetan man’, ‘an older man’, ‘a monk’, ‘a man wearing maroon robes’, and it would be quite easy and tempting to do this. But if I simply think of him as ‘a human being’, ‘a man’, ‘a student of philosophy’, ‘someone who wants to be happy’, then I suddenly find many more points of contact than I would never have thought existed.
This can be done with anyone, even if they seem to be the complete antithesis of everything you stand for. Jeremy Corbyn might think he has absolutely nothing in common with Donald Trump. But if you boil it down, they are both fathers, they both care deeply about politics, they will both have worries, they both have to handle the responsibilities of being public figures, and could probably empathise a lot with each other about having to face immense criticism throughout their careers. And if all else fails, they can always go back to the fact that they are both human beings.
Florida Georgia Line’s ‘People Are Different’ might seem to be conveying the complete opposite message to this, by seemingly pointing out the many differences between us, such as in the lines:
“White collar, blue collar, hillbilly, high dollar
Hot head, pot head, non-believer, holy water”
It seems like a pretty odd choice for a post that’s all about finding commonalities, right? But the overall message of the chorus is that despite these apparent and surface differences between people, why should that mean we can’t all get along and see beneath these disparities?
“No matter what shape, no matter what colour
Break bread instead of fighting each other”
As will become clear over the course of this project, our relationships with the people around us are fundamental to our happiness. It might seem that the Buddhist focus on self-improvement, training the mind and meditation, coupled with the traditional image of a monk being a forest-dwelling recluse, would mean there’s no real point in thinking about how they interact with other people.
But the opposite is true, because the Dalai Lama says that love is key to happiness. Of course, self-love is important, as will be shown later in the project. But the love between us and others is also crucial, and I think it’s clear from everyday life that this is the case. Our loved ones, whether this be family, friends, partners, are often our greatest source of happiness, so how we treat them is always going to be vital.
Additionally, though, we should try and extend this love to all people. Now that’s a major ask, especially given there’s bound to be people we’re not too fond of, and might even hate, in the world. But it’s early days in the project, so I’m not going to worry too much about achieving this universal sense of love just yet.
I’m going to press play on ‘People Are Different’, and then meditate on the meaning, and how I can become better at searching for similarities, rather than differences.
“This old world would be a whole lot better place
If we'd all just embrace the fact
That people are different”
In this era of ‘cancel culture’, where we rush to shoot down anyone with a slightly different view to our own, and where there are still horrendous conflicts raging on in the name of conflicting religious views and ideologies, I feel like this message is more poignant than ever.
Which song have you gone for?