Thursday, April 4, 2013

D is for Doppelgängers and Humanization

Will the real Sarah Palin please stand up
The other day I saw a woman who reminded me of my friend's mom. I'm not sure what it was that reminded me of her--maybe it was just that she was a middle age, white woman with long brown-graying hair. Maybe it was the religious setting where I saw her. I'm almost certain if these two women stood side by side they would look nothing alike, and I wondered why my brain automatically made a connection between this stranger to my friend's kind, loving mother.

I've done this so many times I can't keep track of how many people reminded me of some other person that I already had a close, personal connection with. Some people have said that there are perhaps only a certain amount of "types" of people in the world. Like there are only 20 body types, 5 hair colors, 7 nose configurations, 10 eye shapes, etc, etc. and these features just turn up over and over no matter where we go in the world. While that could be true--I don't really know--I always come back to the interesting concept that every single person I've met, regardless of who they remind me of, is unique and one of a kind. No matter how similar two people seem, each of them is unique and loveable in their own ways.

Last night as I put away the dishes I wondered why it is I make connections between strangers and people I already know and love. I was rather impressed with myself when I realized that this semi-subconscious need for familiarity is actually a process of humanization.

I see a stranger whom I know nothing about and in an attempt to connect with them I dig into the cracks of my memory to categorize them into the familiar. While this could easily be construed as labeling someone or perhaps even judging them quickly or irrationally, I've found that most of the time the memories I uncover to match with strangers I encounter are positive and tend to add a sense of humanity to the unknown.

One of the things that disgusts me when it comes to politics or even religious rallying is how humanity is often removed. Instead of seeing the people around us as fellow human beings we place a line between "us" and "them". History shows us just how far humanity can be lost (or perhaps abandoned) when we look at the holocaust associated with WWII or any other genocide for that matter, or when we look at slavery and then segregation, and even now with issues like marriage equality.

I know that I have certainly drawn lines of "us" and "them" on many occasions--which I am embarrassed to admit. Even while I've been here in Mississippi I've recognized the tendency to view black history as well, black history, removing any sort of fellowship between me as a white person recovering from corrupt societal behaviors and cultures and black individuals also recovering from those same corrupt societal behaviors.

I was not a slave to cotton plantation owners, neither were any of my ancestors. But, as far as I know I also don't have any ancestors who were slave owners either (maybe I need to do some research on my genealogy), but sometimes I feel this odd tension (which I'm sure is of my own creation) between the concept of me being a white (and therefore, historically, oppressive) person and my neighbors who are black (and of course historically mistreated). Part of it is that I worry the history of slavery was so recent that maybe my neighbors see me as what white people historically were in this area.

And then, I realized, as I've noticed how people here remind me of people throughout my life, that what we all share--regardless of our skin color, gender, sexual orientation, age, or any other distinct characteristics--is humanity.

At times I think I have let the wrong doings of those in the past follow me through time and haunt my perceptions of how people potentially perceive me. Now, rather than seeing the differences, I want to see only our shared humanity. Maybe the purpose of the doppelgänger, rather than being an omen, as was, I believe, once tradition, is instead a reminder of humanity. That's at least how I'm choosing to see it. The beauty of having no restrictions or boundaries in my spiritual or "religious" beliefs is that I get to choose to see things however I want! And I'm delighted to see a piece of those I love in complete strangers, who no doubt, actually have the beautiful inherent qualities of simply being human.

Have you found humanness in a doppelgänger lately?

Write on!


  1. "No matter how similar two people seem, each of them is unique and loveable in their own ways."

    This is so true. I have two identical twin sisters who most people can not tell apart. But if you spend more than 5 minutes with the two of them together in the same room, it is obvious that they are two very separate, distinct individuals with two very different personalities.

  2. Interesting, I do that on occasion, happy A to Z.

  3. Dropping by from the A-Z Challenge.

    Wow this was a very inspirational blog post. The thought of having someone out there that is my Doppleganger is kind of frightening.

    You brought up something I never have thought about, the familiarizing strangers with someone you know in order to establish a connection. I look forward in reading more of your blog.

    Happy A to Z!