By Dr. Ken Larsen
Dr. Glasser has pointed out the disparity between our technological progress as a society and our ability to establish and maintain healthy relationships with one another. Our technological prowess has soared over the past couple of centuries, yet, Rodney King’s simple plea, “Can we all get along?” stands with Dr. Glasser’s comment from his book “Choice Theory” that “…we are no more able to get along well with each other than we ever were.”
There is more than one reason for this inability to get along with one another. I’m going to talk about just one that came to me in a fresh flood of insight recently.
It started with discovering a video clip on YouTube. The clip was of a Swiss family who play and sing Swiss folk music. Dad plays accordion, Mom does vocal, the two brothers play bass and guitar and daughter Yodels! I was completely charmed by their performance and puzzled over why I found them so appealing. I mean how many folks do you know that just DIG yodeling??? [Oesch die Dritten is the name of the group. Check em out.]
After a couple of days enjoying their music and driving everyone else nuts with my new found enthusiasm for yodeling, I suddenly sat up in surprise. I asked myself, “What is the most obvious characteristic of this group? They are European! Specifically Northern European, that part of the world where my ancestors lived. I was connecting in a funny way with some of the traditions of my distant ancestry! Then I sat back and reflected on this insight. I found that I really valued what I see and know about my European heritage, especially, in this case, with the music. My appreciation for my own racial history has nothing to do with thinking less of other traditions. As a matter of fact, I find that learning about other cultures and ethnic groups is fascinating. We are all interconnected and have a contribution to make to this organism we call humanity.
Then, in my eagerness to share this with my friends, I found that I wanted to simply share my enthusiasm but I also wanted to be sensitive to the fact that a lot of people I know, including my friends, are less than enthusiastic about yodeling. So with some hesitation I simply told of the joy I felt with this music, leaving them free to listen or not to listen.
Have you ever had what some call an epiphany? Where fresh insights just seem to pour out in your thoughts? That was what I was experiencing. The next clear idea that emerged was that while I wanted to respect the interests and tastes of others, I also wanted and even expected a certain respect from my friends for what I had experienced through this music. They didn’t have to jump in and become fans of Swiss Folk Music, but I didn’t expect them to look at my interest disdainfully.
I think this experience gave me a fresh desire to be more reflective in my efforts to touch and appreciate our diverse differences in our American culture. We have rich treasures from other continents and other peoples. Most of us have ancestors that came here from someplace else. As I appreciate my own roots, I want to support and respect all my fellow Americans as we embrace our heritage and as we find ways to continue to build our common culture in this land of opportunity.
We live in an age where diversity is a reality. I would like to see us all approach one another, as diverse as we are, with respect, interest and healthy curiosity. Hopefully, through this we will grow in understanding and perhaps even bond in friendship across our differences.
“Our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.”
John F. Kennedy