Individuals often connect through a unique mix of similarities and differences. We hold a mirror to each other, providing opportunities to better know ourselves, comforting us through common features generating a sense of familiarity. This in turn creates resonance among people and solid partnerships. Differences, on the other hand, may generate a feeling of uneasiness, but also help us decide who we want to be, confronting us on our path by pointing to other possibilities in life which feel less appealing to us. We may not resonate with people with whom we have differences, but we can be drawn to opposites and learn from those differences, ultimately accepting what we do not necessarily understand as enriching nonetheless. We learn about ourselves in contrast, and it is by connecting with others that we have a chance to reflect on where we differ and can add value. We can also be drawn to others, neither through similarities nor differences but rather through admiration, usually realizing—perhaps unconsciously—that the qualities we admire in other we often possess as well. Others act as a mirror, helping us define who we want to become. Through all these connections among people, it is as if we have many different people living inside, expressing themselves with different voices into a unique container. It is difficult to know which voices to pay attention to and which ones to ignore or dismiss to find our unique path. The point is to let them speak and hear them out.
It is not very different in international relations: many voices, one world. The point is to let them speak. Countries will often align themselves with those they feel are closest to their own values. I have worked for an organization of member countries which shared similar values to the point where they would trust their own defense to others. The resonance among these countries has led over time to a powerful partnership. However, the opportunities to learn from differences among nations seem far less prominent, and those partnerships, when they exist despite differences, are very precarious. Differences often breed a sense of insecurity and are rarely sought out or even understood. More often than not they are a cause for conflicts. We tend to criticize the behaviour of nations who dare to be different and reject our set of values. By observing the different behaviour of other countries such as Russia, western powers seem unlikely to be reflecting on their own behaviour by looking at it as in a mirror, thereby learning about their own shortcomings and their own path. In addition, when drawn to another country through admiration, as many have been attracted over the years by what the United States represented in their eyes, few have tried to emulate and define their own path accordingly. People emigrated but few tried to find within their own countries the same potential.
The mirroring images among individuals are yet similar to the effect of mirroring images among countries. Why is it that countries do not reflect on their own shortcomings when they face differences in other countries that make them feel insecure? Why are they prompted to judge and react rather than step back and reflect on their own records? Are differences in our world view from that of neighbouring countries a threat to our own perspectives, or a sign of weakness of our own creative power to inspire the rest of the world? It is, of course, so much easier to lay the blame on others tripping us, than to question our own standing and start by tying our own shoe laces.
Mirror images and self-reflection do not advocate introversion, forgetting about the rest of the world. On the contrary, they keep our gaze on the outside, engaging in international relations, in order to attend to our internal development. It is a different way to look at the world. In the end, we will not change the world if we do not change ourselves. In fact, the world hardly needs changing, but we do. Through all these connections among people, we have different voices in a unique container helping us find our own path. The world is showing us the way to self-development, if we are prepared to look into the mirror rather than at the mirror.
As we look into this mirror, let us give a voice to each and every aspect of our being, allowing them to come into awareness and giving them a chance to speak, to express their perspective, and let us listen without comment. As we listen we may be amazed at the wisdom and energy inhabiting each parcel of ourselves. By bringing each one of them into a closer relationship, we may be propelled into a new way forward, a balancing and unifying whole, fully centred, and yet connected to each and every parcel of our world.