Shahriar Shahriari

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Message of the Month

July, 2001

Spot the Difference

Not too long ago, I was watching a television program on the Human Genome Project (the mapping of the entire human DNA and Gene structure) The scientist said something interesting. He said, "The difference between human beings of different genders, races, and emotional make-up is so little that in the genetic scale of things, it can be considered as margin of error. What's more, human beings and chimpanzees are genetically 99.9...% similar".

But then came the eye-opener. He went on to say, "in fact, 50% of our genes are the same as a banana's or any other fruit or vegetable for that matter." In other words, genetically, we are just as similar to a banana as we are different from it. Hmmm...

And of course, this got me thinking. If we are just as similar to a banana, or a watermelon for that matter, as we are different from it, then what is the game of life?

Why is it that the slightest variation creates such tremendous differences? Surely I am not half the same as a monkey, let alone a banana.

And then it hit me. The game of life is to spot the difference and magnify it. That is exactly what goes on in the evolutionary process. The minuscule genetic mutations have created the vast array of species we can find in our world. The monkey evolves into a chimpanzee, and then a human being.

And then we have the variation in the human species. We find the obvious ones like color and race and gender. But we also find the less obvious ones, like the intellectual or emotional make-up of the individuals.

Yet, as human beings, we have taken this one step further. In our socio-economic structures too, we are playing the same game of life. We have specialization emerging as the way to success. We find creativity as a necessary component of unprecedented success. We find leaders emerge with new and different ideas in business, politics, education, even sexuality. Everything is constantly being differentiated.

Frankly, on the genetic scale, there is very little difference between a third world terrorist and the President of the United States. Or the racial supremacist and his targeted race, or for that matter, between the children who work in sweat-shops of south-east Asia and the CEO's of the companies who employ them, or the customers of these companies, for that matter.

So why do we make such a big thing out of the difference? Or perhaps a better question would be, is there an alternative game in life to this game of "spot the difference"? Is it at all possible to come up with a different game, something along the lines of "build on the difference" or "complement each other with the difference"? Because if we can think of a new game of life, it will affect our very being at every level - physical, socio-economic, cultural, political, emotional, intellectual, and who knows, maybe even spiritual.

Shahriar Shahriari
Los Angeles, CA
July 2001

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