Universal Truths

A banana cuts like a banana no matter where you live. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in Boston or Sydney or Kathmandu: when you peel a banana with your hands and slice it with a knife, it responds in exactly the same way.

Does this seem obvious? It shouldn’t.

Think about it: you can travel across the entire planet to faraway places where language and culture become alien and where your previous understanding of the world no longer applies.

You can find places where cars drive in the opposite direction, where numbers suddenly change their meaning, and where light switches are on in the off position.

You can find places where a blanket is not just a blanket but a lifeline; where an empty bottle is a shower-head; a shaded sidewalk is a home; a large bucket of water is a source of life; and where cats and dogs are not just domesticated pets to be loved, but food.

Even how you define life and death can change depending on where you go. For some, death brings a sense of loss and represents a time for mourning. For others, death represents a time for celebration and funerals are a way of celebrating life.

But a banana still cuts like a banana. The water in your teacup still responds to your movements in exactly the same way. Birds fly through the air using the same principles of flight they used millions of years ago.

In my travels I can always find things that are different, things that don’t match up with what I already know. It’s not easy to accept those things, to lean into the discomfort of embracing the unknown. But the more I embrace the unknown, the more I find myself recognizing universal truths.

Laughter still feels like laughter no matter where I go. Kindness feels like kindness and authenticity feels like authenticity. It doesn’t matter who it comes from or how alien my surroundings.

The realness of those things doesn’t require thought or thinking; attempting to impose expectations of how they’re supposed to be only clouds the simplicity of their truth.

The truth is, when it’s real, you’ll feel it.

What universal truths have you felt?

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  1. Wonderful thought provoking post Raam… thank you. This resonates with me deeply especially now as I am on the other side of the planet experiencing the opposite of what you are… yet still trying to make sense of the differences… whilst acknowledging happily that at some intrinsic level we are all absolutely the same. It matters not which side we drive on or that the power point switches up… what matters as you say… are the fundamentals. What makes us human after all.

    • Thank you, Jean. The fundamentals matter because we are, in essence, the fundamentals. A rainbow isn’t green, or yellow, or red: it’s fundamentally a rainbow, comprised of various colors, yes, but still none of them. 🙂

  2. A smile communicates what sometimes words cannot, sunsets touch hearts worldwide, and gratitude grows everything. Any barrier is self-imposed and a smile, a sunset, or gratitude effortlessly cuts through it. And the depth of our experience is dependent upon our willingness to open our hearts to it.

    Beautiful essay, Raam, thank you 🙂

    • Thank you, Sandra. Impermanence is such an important universal truth and it has the power to remind us why universal truths are so important. 🙂

  3. No matter where you land, what currency you have to exchange, how you have to say hello or how a country does (or doesn’t!) wipe their bum;

    The children are always laughing, smiling & playing.

    I enjoyed this post Raam, hope Darwin is treating you well 🙂

    • Children are such a pure reminder of our essence.

      I remember traveling through India and seeing kids playing and laughing. I saw them for only a brief moment, through the slits in a rickety wall built with discarded wood scraps that surrounded a slum.

      The kids didn’t care where they lived, they were just happy. Granted, they were ignorant to the realities of their surroundings, but in their ignorance they were able to embrace the universal joy that is being alive.

      Kids playing on a manicured lawn in upstate New York don’t laugh or experience joy any different than those kids laughing and playing in the slum.

  4. It’s a wonderful post Raam. The things which are different are same;as you said,kindness is kindness,no matter where you go. Everything changes,life becomes more complicated,but joy is still found in simple things..

    • Absolutely, Shruthi. The fundamental things–the universal things–don’t change. And all of them are simple, because even the most complex things are made up of simple parts. 🙂

  5. The more universal, the more vital. I’ve always thought of cultures as deserving respect in so far is to operate within them successfully without offending people. But when it comes down to it, it’s just like language, something that should be invisible, out of the way, subservient to those things which don’t change.

    I’ve never thought of other cultures as alien, because culture is very close to the surface, just like physical differences between places.

    Same with religions and spiritual traditions.

    I’ve always felt uneasy with people who see the surface differences as reasons to stop at the gate, or draw lines in the sand.

    But I believe we are learning together what’s really important and unchanging.

    • We’re definitely learning together what’s really important. It’s just hard to see that clearly because the world is such a noisy mashup of cultures, languages, new technologies, changing economies, fears, worries, hopes, and all the rest of the ‘stuff’ that makes up the world today.

      But underneath all of that, if you take a step back and take in the bigger picture with an eye on the past and and eye on the likely future, you’ll see that today we are so much more understanding and accepting of people than we were just a few hundred years ago.

      The more I travel the world the more appreciation I seem to have for the diversity in the United States: we really are an incredible cereal bowl of cultures and peoples, all mixed together, working and living side-by-side, many retaining their original cultures and languages and traditions. Every day I ride the train or walk down the sidewalk in Boston and I hear multiple languages being spoken between peoples of different cultures, not occasionally but on a regular basis. It’s the new normal.

      The Internet (and technology revolution in general) is taking us a long, long way, really fast and we’re closer together now than ever before. But we have a long way to go.


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