As we walk through this particular life we are living right now, we come across those beings who strike a particular chord that is in tune with our own. Usually these are the ones who delight us. We are attracted and drawn to them not because of their unique otherness but because of the sameness. A kindred sense of humour. A sympathetic kindness. Even a shared sense of sorrow.
Then there are those whose energy draws us. Sometimes it is their likeness that acts a magnet. There is nothing more attractive than the reflection of oneself in another. But sometimes it is their absolute difference that draws us. It is like a puzzle that we are continually trying to make sense of. A challenge to see the commonalities between our own worldviews and theirs.
But to truly embrace the other, we need to let go of ourselves. We need to expand and, if not seek out otherness, at least allow it to seep in.
To truly write, one must move beyond affinity to accept our antipathies as well as sympathies.
At times teaching is a reflection of this, especially when one teaches writing. It is much easier to “help” students come to my worldview in their writing. It moves my marking into that zone of comfort. That student is “right” because what they write resonates with my own writing and thinking.
When one works with beginning writers this is dangerous. My goal is not appropriation but truly helping the students to develop their own voices. It is easy to see the roles society and the Academy play in steering students toward appropriating an acceptable voice. It is much less comfortable to admit the role I play when faced with the dis/comfort of Otherness in student writing.