As we look at the world today, we see people becoming more divided, separate and isolated. People are often viewed as stereotypes or labels rather than as living, breathing individuals. While empathy and compassion are certainly alive in the human heart, they seem much less prized in our society. Fortunately, empathy can be learned, and it can be enhanced. This is our goal, to open hearts and build empathy and compassion for all people - no matter who they are, what they believe, or where they come from.
Imagine for just one moment, that you could meet someone who has a very different world view than you. This might be a person who doesn’t see you as equal due to your race, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, religion or citizenship. That someone is your “Other.” You might label your “Other” as ignorant, as bigoted, homophobic, fundamentalist, crippled, old or misogynist. Or you might identify “Others” as “coloreds,” aliens, bleeding hearts, FemiNazis, terrorists or perverts. In reality the “Other” is simply the way that people tend to view those who are dissimilar and separate from their group. Long ago, this type of classification provided protection from our enemies. It was an “us” versus “them” mentality. The “Other” quickly became a group of people who were treated as objects or animals. At its best, it becomes a way to limit opportunity, restrict personal expression or promote rape, assault or bulling. Yet history reports the worst of humanity uses this idea as an excuse for genocide, mutilation, harassment, imprisonment and oppression. The “Other,” therefore, can become anyone who is NOT part of society’s most powerful, influential and dominant group. Today this duality makes the world more fearful, more divisive and more “tribal.” As long as there is an "Other," we will continue to strive for unity, community and peace.
My guess is that you can probably identify a group or groups treated in this society as the “Other.” Perhaps you find yourself in one of these groups, and often feel vilified as the “Other.” Or perhaps you know who your “Other” is. What if you could have a conversation with your “Other”? Not a scream fest or a confrontation, but a true discussion in which you could share your life with someone who sees the world in a very different way and has no real understanding of your own life experience.
How might you share your life story in a way to build compassion and understanding? How might you share your story in a way that could potentially build a bridge to unity? What if you could have this conversation in a very civilized and safe environment where you don’t need to fear hostility, confrontation or reprisal – an afternoon tea perhaps? Such is the topic of Heart Symbol Publishing’s first ebook, Tea with the “Other.” This book will be a compilation of personal essays, poems and art; which while hopefully heartfelt and empowering, will also share the reality of being discriminated against, harassed, feared or bullied.
You can find all the specific requirements in the "about" section on this page. In the meantime, start collecting your life experiences so you can share your Truth with the world! Remember that in this project your audience will be your “Other.” But in doing so, you also must recognize that they also see you as the “Other” too! As we begin to accept submissions, you may find some appearing here on this blog. Perhaps some will even become testimonials shared as videos over social media. Together we can start to break down the wall of divisiveness that encircles us all!
"The Other," SoulCollage card, 2016