The "differential of life" is what allows all human beings to relate to one another even though we each exist in our own reality. It could be called a master or common reality. When looking at how someone who has lived and experienced reality on one extreme can ever find a common ground on which to identify with some one from the other extreme we see this "differential of life" in use.
As I seek to explore this concept of a "differential of life" I would like to break it down into a series of topics. Firstly, like to explore how this mechanism works between people from the same culture but different backgrounds. Secondly and in a later post I will explore how this mechanism works for people from totally different cultural and economic backgrounds. Thirdly, in a even in later post I hope to explore how the "differential of life" works within the context of a spiritual or religious environment.
So on to the first topic in trying to understand how this mechanism affects us when it comes to two people from the same culture but different backgrounds.
I woke this morning to the news that Basil Plumley a United States sergeant major who served in the Vietnam war had died. Plumley was a character in the movie made by Randall Wallace starring the actors Mel Gibson and Sam Elliot called "We Were Soldiers once....and Young."
This prompted me to seek out some more information on Plumley's life and career. In doing so I realised that there could be no greater example of this mechanism than that experienced between soldiers. The events that transpired in November 1965 during the battle of the Ia Drang Valley in Vietnam hold some of the most profound examples of people who are from different backgrounds but the same cultural environment denying self for others.
What is it about people such as Basil Plumley or other soldiers that enables them to surpass and go beyond their personal, ethnic and environmental biases so that they are willing to put their life on the line for their fellow soldiers. The story of the battle of Ia Drang holds many examples of people such as Plumley.
Helicopter pilots Maj. Bruce 'Snake' Crandall and Ed "To Tall" Freeman both won the Congressional medal of honour for their heroism during the battle.These two men through their heroic actions of facing certain death whilst conveying supplies and ammunition as well as conveying the wounded from the battle scene inspired not only those on the ground but also other pilots.
Their actions galvanised within the minds of the soldiers on the ground that no matter how hard things became or how bad they got that there were people who were willing to go into the face of danger in order to bring them supplies. In other words they were not alone. Rather than feeling deserted, isolated and left to die the concept of self-sacrifice for another was germinated in the mindset of those who had not experienced battle before.
No amount of training both physical or mental could prepare or can prepare someone to become confident in believing that others would be prepared to die so that they may live. It is not until we are placed in such situations and experience this generosity of others that we can truly comprehend this concept completely.
Yet we see throughout the world both today and in history where one person has put their life on the line for another. Social equality does not play any part here except in the case of the most bigoted individuals.
What we have here is the greatest example of the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth. I am often caused to wonder how people such as this are able to reconcile within themselves the denial of self for the betterment of others. Does it come from a deeper understanding of who they are or is it some inbuilt quirk within their personality. People such as this despite having come from both extremes from within a society show that it is possible for everybody to put aside personal bias, opinion and outlook.
This concept of being blood brothers or a band of brothers holds great significance for those of us alive today. This ability to deny self is very rare in our secular society and in a western world of the "I" generation. Here people are encouraged to satisfy self, meaning the concept of the differential of life has large ramifications.
We are faced today in western society with an ever increasing number of people who would go to any length to achieve their own personal goals. They are prepared to sacrifice the rights of others and the freedoms of others so that they can have what they want.
The philosophical implications here of the denial of self are of great import and are today often forgotten. If western society or any other societies are to grow more caring then this paradigm needs to be explored. It will not be until there is a greater focus in what we can do for others that we as a society in general will come to full maturity.