DearIjeawele by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
To be different is to be vulnerable. Vulnerability is a common experience these days, and in one respect vulnerability elides difference in our common humanity, our equal susceptibility to suffering. And at the same time, we experience vulnerability differently, and we recognize that our current suffering is unequally distributed. In her advice to a friend on how to raise her daughter, Adichie reflects on the practicality and morality of attaching value to difference. But the recognition of difference is not merely the acceptance of a fact, it is the consequence of our ignorance, an affirmation of the many things we do not know. The experience of absence between suffering and rebirth is a space of unknowing and emptiness. It is enough, as Adichie says, “to make peace” with what we do not know, to appreciate difference, and to emerge from vulnerability more informed, humane, and broad-minded.
What are the ways in which vulnerability affirms both our differences and our common humanity? Can we “make peace” with the differences in the ways we suffer? How can our ignorance emptiness transport us from fear to a more humane and broad-minded place?
Todd Breyfogle, Denver, Colorado