A World of Difference

Springtime makes us even more aware that the world around us is brimming with billions of things. Birds and insects, flowers and trees all spring back to life and bombard us with colors, textures and sounds. Especially at this time of year our five senses continually transmit a dizzying amount of information to our brain.

The only way to make sense of that flood of data is to sort it into categories. For instance, we are surrounded by a sea of sounds. Although our ears can hear them all, we can’t possibly listen to all of them at once. So our minds automatically sort out a few sounds that might convey meaningful information. We pay more attention to sounds in the category of “nearby voices” than we do to those in the category of “mechanical noise.”

Unfortunately, the task of assigning all the myriads of things in the universe into categories isn’t always easy to do.

It may seem useful, for instance, to catalogue the objects in our solar system into three categories by size. The sun would be in a category by itself, being immensely larger than anything else. Next, we would put all the planets in the medium size category. Finally, the group of smallest objects would contain the moons, asteroids, and comets.

That way of categorizing our celestial neighborhood seems useful, but it doesn’t mesh with the facts. Both Pluto and Mercury are actually smaller than two of the moons orbiting the planetary giants, Jupiter and Saturn.

That information suggests two things. First, it reminds us that the solar system is much more varied and complex than we think. Second, it shows that our attempts to put things into categories are always imperfect.

That’s especially true when we’re dealing with people. We want to lump people under labels: Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative, upper class or lower class. Such groupings are always artificial and imperfect because each person is a unique individual who doesn’t fit neatly into our categories.

The endless variety in our world can be frustrating when we try to categorize things. But the incredible extent of diversity points to creation by an infinitely creative intelligence. And that awareness of a divine creator provides a basis for us to extend honor and respect to the uniqueness of each person.

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