Today’s post, as part of ‘The Beauty Of Difference’ series, comes to you courtesy of fellow blogger, friend and an all-round amazing person Thom Brown.  To quote the directly from the profile on Thom’s blog ‘To Gyre and Gambol: Reflections of Life, Limpidity, and Perches for Happiness‘, Thom Brown is ‘originally from Virginia Beach and has been a Professor of Psychology since 1975. JT told him the secret of life is enjoying the passage of time, and it made sense. That and a good book. And good friends. Music. Family. Oh … wine, cheese, olives, bread’. 

My journey with disability has probably not been typical, but at the same time, it’s probably just like everyone else’s. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, … it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, … .” It’s whatever you want it to be.

I’m musing again, of course, about my Neglected Left. Twenty-five years ago I could still hold a nail with my left hand as I hit it with the hammer in my right. That is how most of the home in which I am presently sitting came to be. Even then, though, there was motor and sensory weakness, but the atrophy was not yet significant. It wasn’t really noticeable to those who were not already aware of it.

The vicious circle was whirling though. Because my left was weaker, I used it less and less, and because I used it less and less, it further weakened. As the atrophy advanced, it became increasingly obvious to others, and I was becoming increasingly different. Special. A close colleague who is legally blind knows me from afar by the way my left arm is different.

My disability developed so gradually that I don’t think I was ever really aware that I was losing something. That’s not to say I wasn’t disappointed that there were things I could no longer do that I once enjoyed, but I was already successful in life. If this were to become a stigma of some kind, it wasn’t going to be an obstacle in my life. I was unlikely to experience the discrimination or challenges that so many others have confronted.

Then a couple of weeks ago, a colleague told a joke that had a one arm aspect to it. It didn’t bother me a bit, but he was worried that he had insulted me. In fact, the one arm aspect of the joke had not even registered with me. Subsequent to that, I began to wonder how I would, in fact, feel if I learned that someone, students for example, were making fun of me and my Neglected Left.

Although I hope individuals with disabilities are always treated with respect, I have concluded that this wouldn’t bother me. I know who I am. I know what I have achieved. I know what I else I shall have accomplished before I retire in a few years. What these ignoramuses think or say or do is irrelevant to my quality of life. All that will result is that they will have embarrassed themselves, and I shall think less of them.

Yet … there is something in me wanting to know that I am still all that I once was. A close friend wondered if the more important question is why I might think that I am not, and I have no answer for that. I suppose I am not even certain that I do think that way, but if I do, I’m not sure I want to know. It would suggest that I have somehow let “them” get to me.

Most of those with whom I interact did not know me before I became different – a period to which I sometimes refer as the BeforeTime. They know me only as I am today. Whatever the case may be, if those who are close tell me I am whole (and they do), I shall know it is so, and other than my own, theirs is the only opinion that really matters to me.

Although still a work-in-progress, I’m almost there. I like me. I’m quite content with being different. It’s certainly much more interesting than not being different, and I feel for those folks who aren’t.

In fact, it seems to me that individuals without difference are the ones who are missing something. They’re difference challenged. They’re so … well … undifferent. Nevertheless, I’ll try not to patronize them, nor do I want to be indifferent to their undifference. Count on me to do all that I can to be supportive. – TGB

You can find more though-provoking and inspiring posts from Thom Brown at his blog ‘To Gyre and Gambol: Reflections of Life, Limpidity, and Perches for Happiness’.

Just because it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, doesn’t mean it’s a duck – Amanda Joseph

Amanda Joseph

Today’s post in ‘The Beauty Of Difference’ series comes to you courtesy of Amanda Joseph, the inspirational creator and writer of the blog Confessions of a Green Queen.

Amanda describes herself as ‘a writer (for film), a philosopher at heart, an environmentalist and a globe-trotter’ and is currently undertaking a Master of Science in Sustainability Management, juggling full-time work as an Environment Officer, as well as branching out into the film industry.


My heritage is a mixed bag. My Great-Grand Mother on my Father’s Father’s side is from Scotland, and my Great-Grand Mother on my Father’s Mother’s side has Yugoslavian and Portuguese – and of course we have Indian. My Step Mom is French-Canadian, and I lived there for a while. So I actually identify myself as Australian-Canadian in culture, whilst my accent decides to do a jig between Canadian, English and Australian!

Cultural Beauty

The most beautiful thing about my culture is the mixture. I’ve picked my favorite parts of each and amalgamated them into one! We love food. All social gatherings are around food, wine and laughter. Canadians are quite progressive and egalitarian by nature and very friendly and accommodating. Australians are very laid-back and are happy to lend a helping hand when needed. And boy can they throw a great party! French Canadians, or Québécois as they prefer to be called, identify with their French heritage, which means we adopted a lot of the French heritage into our own traditions.


Canadian Christmases would be one of my favorite events of the year. I love, love, love going to midnight mass on Christmas Eve and walking out to find snow floating down to cover everything. It was so magical, it made sitting through the mass at an ungodly hour worth it. And then the family would throw a massive party that lasted all hours of the morning, and the first person to go home, usually around 4.30am would have to serve the family breakfast on Christmas morning, around 8am when we would rock up. It was brilliant. Halloween is another favorite. We always went all out on Halloween in Canada, and I miss the traditions around that festival. I’d still be trick or treating if I were there!

 Cultural Misconceptions

I don’t think there are too many misconceptions about Canadians. Or at least none that I have come across. French Canadians are usually considered quaint by our French counterparts, but I say we kept the language French whilst they anglicised it. Weekend is an English word, the French one is fin-de-semaine!

 Knowledge Sharing

The one thing I think people need to understand is just because it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, doesn’t mean it is a duck!

My background is fairly unique, and my constant travelling means I have adopted the traditions of a few cultures into one that is very individual. I commonly get mistaken for Indian until I open my mouth, because of my skin colour. I think in an increasingly globalised world, the safest bet is not to assume where someone is from. So do not start speaking to me in Hindi when you’ve just met me that’s just plain offensive.

The Beauty In Difference

Difference is what makes the world such an interesting place to be. I couldn’t imagine a world where we were all the same. I’d be bored out of my mind!

A respectful approach to cultural differences is imperative. Never assume someone is willing to share that part of themselves. It can be tricky because we’ve all experienced racial prejudice at some point or another and that’s given us a tendency to keep things close.

Words of Wisdom

I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stifled. I want all the cultures of all lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any.

– Mohandas K Ghandi

This is one of my favorite quotes. It celebrates diversity, whilst encouraging each individual to maintain their own unique culture. Just because you are open to other cultures, does not mean you lose your own.

Be kind, for whenever kindness becomes part of something, it beautifies it.

It is my pleasure to introduce you to Ambreen, a dear friend of mine.  

I got to know Ambreen through work, and during a 6 month-long Young Women‘s Leadership Program in 2010 (with 23 other women from cultural and linguistically diverse backgrounds). It was an amazing experience, of which I am thankful that along with learning a lot, the program resulted in the development of many beautiful friendships, as well as the strengthening of the friendship I have with Ambreen. It has also paved the way for the start of this series titled ‘The Beauty Of Difference’. 


I have a fairly multicultural background. I am about 3rd or 4th generation born Kenyan, and my ancestry can be traced to the Middle East, Asia and even all the way back to East Europe.

Coming from a mixed background, and also not entirely ‘belonging’ in one particular place, I have chosen to take the principles of my religion as my culture (although background / culture and religion are two different things). I choose to be known as a Muslim first, because this allows me to be a human being first, and then sub divided into different races, backgrounds, etc.

Coming to Australia

I was born and raised in Kenya, and moved to Australia in 2004 when I was 19, with my Mum, Dad and elder Brother. Before coming to Australia, I had never been to another country – not even for a visit. So Australia was the first overseas country I ever traveled to. I came in peak summer and it was really warm and everything was brand new. I struggled with this for a while.

Perth, Australia

What I liked about Australia was how laid-back things were. Things are so fast passé even in Africa, but coming to the city of Perth, well – there was a certain peace.

The most challenging part about the move was trying to learn everything from scratch. From getting used to the currency, the roads (I can’t tell you how many times we have gotten lost), to some heavy Australian accents.

Cultural Beauty

The most beautiful thing about my culture is the importance the family unit plays. Our family members are always at the forefront of every decision, every occasion and every difficult moment in our lives. Children grow up knowing each other, and always have support they can rely on. Nowadays, where peer pressure, bullying, etc. are a challenge in society, I do believe that having a solid family support system allows children to grow up to become stronger adults.


One of my favourite traditional events is a religious event, and that is the month of fasting. In Arabic, it is called Ramadan. It is a month where we give up food and drink during the day (day light hours only). This teaches us self-control, humility, empathy towards the less fortunate, along side being in the worship of God.

The reason it is my favourite event is not only because of the cleansing of the body (physically and spiritually – and subsequent fat loss), but because of the thought that every Muslim around the world is taking part in the global event at the same time, an event that brings us all together regardless of language, location, financial status, etc.

Cultural Misconceptions

As mentioned before, having taken my religion (Islam) as my culture, it is no surprise that the one thing that is a misconception is the idea that Islam is radical and that Islam preaches ideas of terror.

Fortunately, it is just that – a misconception. Islam actually teaches peace, and promotes intellect and reasoning. It also teaches the value of human beings, as is stated in the following verse in the holy book – the Quran:

“Whoever kills a person [unjustly]…it is as though he has killed all mankind. And whoever saves a life, it is as though he had saved all mankind.” (Qur’an, 5:32)

The Beauty In Difference

I share with you quote from the Holy Quran to show why it is important to embrace difference:

“O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of God is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And God has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things)”.

Knowledge Sharing

The one thing I believe people should know is of the respect that Muslim men and women have for the opposite gender. It is because of this respect that we avoid physical contact with people outside the family. It is the case of being aware of ones personal space and it is for that reason that many do not shake hands with the opposite sex. It is not out of disrespect, but on the contrary – out of respect and humility

A Picture Says A Thousand Words

The picture I am sharing is one of the grand mosque in Mecca. The reason I choose this picture is that this shows the celebration of multiculturalism.

the grand mosque, mecca

I visited this mosque several years ago, and stood shoulder to shoulder with people from different races and backgrounds, some who I could communicate with in English, while others spoke a different language.  However there was still peace and understanding. The picture tries to capture the unity celebrated in this vicinity; the white and black specs are in fact people. At one time, there can be about 3 million people gathered.

Words of Wisdom

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:

“Be kind, for whenever kindness becomes part of something, it beautifies it. Whenever it is taken from something, it leaves it tarnished.“

— Imam Bukhari’s Book of Muslim Manners

This quote for me is just a reminder of the importance of being kind to one another, and is a reminder of kindness.