Is it possible that meeting others who are different than you can be both liberating and imprisoning? This was the question posed to a group of us by one of our classmates. Some of the group said no; it was one or other but not both. Some of the group said yes, it can be both liberating and imprisoning at the same time.
How can the experience of meeting people who are not like you be both liberating and imprisoning?
Let's say you meet someone who comes from a different culture or a different
religious background than yours. This can be very liberating. When you get to
know someone who is different and you learn about their culture and their
traditions it can be very freeing. You might find yourself eating food you have
never eaten or joining in celebrations that you never knew existed. You can
learn about their history. You can listen to their music. Even if you simply pick up a new word from them and add it to your vocabulary you have experienced some growth.
All of these possibilities represent a type of liberation because you free yourself from your own constraints. When you join in a celebration that is new to you, you are freeing yourself from only recognizing the celebrations that come from your culture. When you open yourself up to new experiences and perspectives you can liberate yourself from any limiting or preconceived notions that you had about another culture.
Now when you meet someone who comes from a different culture or religion, it
can be imprisoning. If you look at them and decide that their ways are weird and wrong and you want nothing to do with them, you are placing yourself behind bars. You are denying yourself growth and you are literally imprisoning yourself right where you stand.
That shows how meeting new people can be either liberating or imprisoning; how can it be both? Each of us walks around with some degree of bias. You are
influenced by your background and your own belief system. This is neither good
nor bad, it just is. When you are confronted with a new belief system your way
of encountering it is through the lens of your belief system. For most of us
something is normal if it is close to our way of doing things, something is odd
if it not close to our way of doing things. In this way we evaluate new
information. In this way meeting new people is both liberating and imprisoning.
You can be liberated by the new experiences and perspectives you gain, as long
as you do not allow your bias to hold you captive.
When you have new encounters, take note of your reactions. Pay attention to why
you find something to be odd or different. Pay attention to why you consider
something to be good or normal. In this way you can experience more liberation
and less imprisonment.