“Vive la Difference!”

Bold contrast can evoke great wonder. Sameness, on the other hand, can be boring.

Music is built around contrast. Holding one note hardly qualifies as music, let alone as beautiful. Music needs ups and downs, ins and outs and many orderly variations of timing and sound to be good. The Bible resonates with this. Speaking of music, Paul praised “distinction in the tones.” (1 Corinthians 14:7).

The awesome power of electricity is based in contrast. No polarity, no power. The splendor of nature is also seen in its contrasts. Yosemite Valley staggers the mind with its astounding vertical and horizontal contrasts.

Along with wonder and joy, human understanding itself grows more out of contrast than sameness. Communication would cease with the elimination of distinct contrasting shapes and sounds. No one would need hearing aids or glasses in a world where all sounds and sights were the same. A bit hyperbolic? Perhaps, but stay with me.

Not everyone sees this. I know an art professor who teaches that all artistic expression is equally valid. Thus, garbage hanging from a gallery ceiling is equally valid with the Statue of Liberty and Daniel Chester French’s Minuteman; an aborted fetus displayed in formaldehyde is on par with Handel’s Messiah and da Vinci’s Last Supper; and a picture of a crucifix dipped in urine is just as lovely as Henry O. Tanner’s Banjo Player and Vermeer’s Milkmaid. Andy Warhol’s definition of art as “anything you can get away with” wipes out all standards of truth and beauty. Yippee!

In 1971, John Lennon imagined a world with no countries or possessions. We would all live in the same big country owning all the same things with the same beloved leaders, rules and TV channels. Imagine having one story, one dialect, one flag, one anthem, one party, one uniform, one mindset, and “no religion too.” That might resolve a few frustrations but we might also need one drug to keep us all in line.

Imagine a year with no holidays, no one day more special than another. Envision a world where men and women all looked, thought and acted the same. Women would always show up at social events in the same outfit. Sesame Street could dispense with those childish skits that distinguish “up” from “down,” “on” from “off,” “hard” from “soft” and so on. We could get rid of discriminatory concepts like “wise” and “foolish” and “right” and “wrong.” How liberating!

One of the first things an infant learns is the difference between mommy and daddy. Just think if, instead of “mommy” or “daddy,” a child’s first coherent words were “parent one” or “parent two” (or three or four). We could pretend that gender is nothing but an oppressive social construction and use the same restrooms, locker rooms and redefine marriage and life itself to be genderless. The “Boy Scouts” and “Girl Scouts” could become the “Same Scouts.”

No! No! No! The wonders of life and love rise more out of contrast than sameness. Our Creator knew we needed the seasons, with all their glorious contrasts of color, climate and conditions. He knew we needed the distinctions of night and day, hot and cold, wet and dry, and yes, male and female. The sacredness of marriage is built on contrast. Sex loses its regenerative meaning when you replace sexual contrast with sameness. If you want to minimize the mystery, meaning, luster and ongoing thrill of sex, then replace the glorious contrast of gender with sameness. Turn the ol’ French maxim, “vive la difference” into “vive la sameness!”

No! Such thinkers should be sentenced to ten years of listening to Disney’s “It’s a Small World” over and over.

The ultimate contrast involves good and evil. Blending them into oblivion (as our current academic and popular cultures seek to do) kills moral clarity and replaces it with moral blindness. Living in a peaceful moral coma free of shame, we lose focus and slink toward a dense fog of boring sameness. No thank you!

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The Banjo Lesson

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