When in 1997 I left Spain to do a postdoc in USA, I thought this country wouldn’t be different from what I had seen in the movies, and that there wouldn’t be any other place in the world where I could live better than in Spain. Three years later I still had some doubts; twelve years later, I had no doubt of the opposite.
From the very first moment I set my foot on Berkeley, I was very impressed by the “melting pot” of races and cultures. Walking around the campus or nearby streets, or visiting San Francisco just at the other side of the bay, one is constantly surrounded by all races, temples, foods, calligraphies and garments one can possibly find in the world.
My first friends were Italians and Spaniards, but the circle began to expand to include Germans, Indians, Chinese, Mexicans and, when the language ceased to be an obstacle, even Americans.
In that environment, it was impossible not to notice that we all share the same vital concerns regardless of our place of origin and experiences.
Gradually, my romantic idea about Spain was getting more realistic. The country I was born became a place I was proud of but without any fanatic view attached to the feeling.
The same happened with my prejudices about food, politics, religion or sexuality. I tasted all kind of foods: Japanese, Ethiopian, Indian, Chinese, Mexican…. I talked with Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Mormons, Wiccans, agnostics, atheists… I met gays, lesbians, bisexuals, even heteros… and everything and everyone had everything: good, bad and regular.
My mind opened gradually to other ideas different from those I had brought along. Now, I cannot discriminate anyone based on preferences (provided there is not harm involved) because we all have something important to say and share, as individuals and as representatives of our way of understanding life.
When we open our minds to the opinions and beliefs of others, without fear of being contaminated, our genuine convictions get always revitalized not by opposition but by identification.
Ideas that seemed disrespectful -if not dangerous- at worst become harmless, and, at best, they can be like a breeze of fresh air into our stuffed inner life. Those different ideas can help us to recognize the same true principles operating under very different appearances and in larger circles than ever imagined. Eventually, we may discover that there is no physical, cultural, religious or any kind of limit to the manifestation of what is genuine.