Diversity on Ice

"Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice." That is the iconic opening sentence in Gabriel Garcia Marquez' One Hundred Years of Solitude .

I've never had much interest in ice. It doesn't fascinate me. I don't want to visit Antarctica. Kim Stanley Robinson's Antarctica: A Novel was as close as I need to come. I'm not even all that excited about Alaska. I visited Juneau once and saw the blue edge of a glacier, and it was lovely. I went to Churchill and saw polar bears, but now been there, done that, glad I did, on to warmer climes.

Saturday morning, driving to my Writers' Cramp meeting, I heard a woman on NPR talking about her fascination with ice. I don't remember if she's one of those people who take ice cores, or if she photographs them, or both. Because once I heard her talk about having always been fascinated with ice, my thoughts went off on another tangent.

I started thinking about diversity. When we hear people talking about diversity, pro or con, I think most of us (me, for instance) immediately assume it has something to do with race, with ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation. But I'm thinking that's small potatoes. That's all on the surface. Surface diversity is easy. We can love it or hate it, but we know it when we see it.

The real differences between people, the real hard stuff to understand, is the diversity that we can't see. It's what goes on in other people's heads. It's how they see the world.

I'm 68 years old, of English/Norwegian descent, and I grew up in a small midwestern city. And there are scads of older women, of northern European descent, who grew up next door or down the block from me. And some of them - not all - see the world in ways that I can't access. And vice versa.

It isn't our race or our ethnic heritage or our religion or sexual orientation that keeps us apart. It's the view from behind our eyes. It's how we interpret the world we see.

I loved hearing about the woman who loved ice. I will never understand her fascination with it. But I believe she is telling me the truth. I'm glad someone loves ice.

I wish it were as easy to accept the different view of the world held by so many people who look just like me. I don't understand them, either. I don't know where they're coming from.

But I want to believe it's from a valid place. I want to think they could tell me something I have forgotten. I want them to take me to discover ice.