I started reading through the Bible for the third consecutive year and I am still finding surprises. My thoughts this week keep going back to the tower of Babel. I’ve read the story, but this time everyone speaking the same language made me stop and think. Just think about our world today if we all spoke the same language. What would happen to international relations if we all understood each other? So much of the uniqueness of culture is found in the idioms we speak, the books we write, the many and varied ways in which we communicate. When I had to learn Mandarin, I found amazing richness is in characters. Learning Mandarin by using characters instead of the roman alphabet was so helpful in understanding Chinese culture. Each part or picture that makes up a character has meaning and communicates so much more than letters.
I know this will upset some, but the truth is that we don’t all think alike, we don’t all share the same values. That became evident when we moved into a multinational community for several years, and then set up housekeeping in Taiwan. There are some very distinct and unique cultural norms that become evident when you live with people from several different countries; our Taiwan team represented 10 nationalities. The secret to survival is to let go of those things that are merely cultural preferences while graciously holding to Biblical standards. It was a wonderful, rich and precious time in our lives.
What was it like when everyone spoke the same language? Did they share cultural norms too, or were they as diverse as a San Franciscan and a Mississippi native, or as a man from South Africa and a woman from Japan?
I think it all come down to getting over myself and embracing the wonder of difference.