We Are Not All Created Equal

Despite what the U.S. Declaration of Independence states, all men are not created equal. Nor are all women. Ideally, people are equal under the law, but even that is a specious claim since so often rich folk who can hire high-priced attorneys with dozens of partners and associates are more equal than those who have to make do with overworked public defenders.

But this bloggery isn’t about such grand matters. It’s more about the little things that makes us so very different from one another.

People who love Mexican food are often perplexed by my dislike of cilantro. “How can you not like cilantro?” a friend asked me in accusatory tones, as if she thought I were being contrary by choosing to dislike something most people loved. I retaliated by asking her what cilantro tasted like to her. She said it tasted citrusy, slightly bitter and very refreshing. But that is not how it tastes to me. To me, it tastes like soap. Cilantro contains chemical compounds called aldehydes, which are also present in soaps and other cleaning agents, and apparently I don’t have the enzyme that breaks down the soap-like compounds of the herb into a tasty seasoning, so I get the full soap taste.

Regardless of what she seemed to think, I was not being contrary. Just unequal.

A similar situation happened when I drove a friend to her mountain home this weekend. In a couple of instances, I had to drive down very steep roads that made me feel as if I were free falling down an elevator shaft. She made a few comments about my nervousness, and she didn’t seem to believe me when I told her I wasn’t nervous, that it was a physical reaction. I explained it using the example of a level. Some people are born with something similar to the bubble in their center, so they always know where they are in relation to the earth. These people can turn cartwheels, ride roller coasters, descend steep slopes, and never lose their equilibrium. I on the other hand, have no bubble, so I never know where I am in relation to the earth. (It’s an inner ear thing, or so I have heard.) I remember once as a very small child, maybe 5 or 6, I took tumbling lessons, and I couldn’t do what the other kids did. I got too disoriented, and feared I would break my neck. (They always say kids that young don’t know there is such a thing as necks breaking, but I bet others who lack an inborn plumb bubble also were aware of the possibility.)

Again, I wasn’t being contrary by repudiating her calling me nervous, I was simply explaining our inequalities. Some things I can do, others can’t, and some things others can do, I can’t. It’s that simple.

I’m not sure that being equal is an important matter, anyway. We all wish to be treated the same as others in similar circumstances, and we should be. But other than that, it’s the ways we are unequal that make us who we are, and that is something to celebrate.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

9 Responses to “We Are Not All Created Equal”

  1. rami ungar the writer Says:

    I wouldn’t have used “unequal” in that last sentence. Probably “different.” But I get your point. Our differences should be celebrated rather than criticized or ashamed of.

  2. leesis Says:

    I so know what you mean Pat. I don’t like chocolate and I swear people react like it’s some personal insult to them. Weird stuff!

  3. Carol Louise Wilde (Carol Wuenschell) Says:

    Me, I don’t do roller-coasters, and I assume that other people who enjoy them must experience them differently than I do – although I don’t know the basis for it. I’ve always assumed it’s in the way my brain responds to the sensory data – mostly visual, because my natural response is to shut my eyes and that helps.

    I don’t know what a person might experience if they had no semi-circular canals (the “balance organ”) in the inner ear. I’m a biologist, and this is what I remember from my studies: The semi-circular canals sense rotation by means of hair cells that are bent over by movement of the fluid in the canals.There are 3 semi-circular canals in each ear, oriented in 3 different planes that are approximately at right angles to each other. When you turn your head – say right to left – the semi-circular canals move with it, but the fluid inside the canal that’s oriented in the horizontal plane is “left behind” due to inertia, which makes it “move” relative to the hair cells in the canal. The bending of the hair cells generates a signal in nerve fibers that go to the brain, and the brain must interpret the signals correctly to give you the perception that your head is moving. (Probably more than you wanted to know.)

    Of course, you also get visual cues about your movement. If you had no balance organ, your brain would have to rely on those. Conflicts between visual and balance organ data are generally bad news – at least until the brain decides which data to ignore. False signals from the balance organ result in vertigo – the sensation that you’re moving when in fact you’re not. My husband can get vertigo from exposure of his ears to cold air because ear surgery has left his balance organ on one side partially exposed and the cold actually makes convection currents in the fluid in his semi-circular canals. Not fun. So, although I don’t know what’s causing your motion-related issues, I certainly believe you when you say you have them.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I love your biology lesson! I only have a problem when I’m tilted beyond a certain angle, or if I’m about to be tilted. And I am way beyond the age where tumbling or any sort of acrobatics is an option.

  4. Cicy Rosado Says:

    Hey I don’t like celantro, roller coaster’s some of the rides at disney land because I hate that feeling in my stomach when decending down and I don’t think you are nervous!!

  5. Paula Kaye Says:

    I don’t GET all the raves about Cilantro either. I never add it to my recipes. And the recipe tastes great. It is our ‘unequals’ that make this an interesting world to live in. My pet peeve along this line is when other feel the need to try to change my religious beliefs by telling me how scientifically they can prove it all wrong. We need to respect each others beliefs. No matter how little or how big!

  6. Coco Ihle Says:

    Interesting post, Pat. It’s so easy to assume that just because we are human, other people have the same tastes, outlooks, preferences, etc. as we do. It’s only with a bit of experience with others that we realize we really are unique, too. Sometimes those differences can be explained physically (as explained above) or because of environment or through some negative or positive experience, and sometimes they can’t, but the truth is, we humans are the same and different from one another. What we often fail to realize is that we need to try to understand that no one person is right or wrong. We should respect the fact that we do have differences and that’s okay. Carry on, carefree.

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