If you came to Costa Rica and have chosen to live in a city, like San José, chances are most of your friends and intimates are people who are like you and think like you. If you moved to a small town, you probably have become acquainted and even friends with people who are quite different from you.
Writer Jonah Lehrer recently wrote an article about the research done by three psychologists on the subject of choosing friends and people to associate with. The research basically confirms what we subconsciously knew but didn´t know we knew it. Opposites don´t attract, except perhaps when batteries or electricity are involved. If we have a choice, we tend to be attracted to others who are similar to us, both in behavior and thinking, politically or culturally.
Psychologists Angela Bahms, Kate Pickett and Christian Crandall did their study comparing friendships at a large university and a small college, polling likes and dislikes and recording friend choices. They found that, given a large pool to choose from, students tended to find others similar to themselves. The students in the small college accepted as friends a wider variety of people.
I learned this at the International House where I worked. Students coming from another country to the United States first made friends with their own compatriots, then with other foreign students who were also strangers in a strange country and finally with local students. Because there were only 77 students in residence, they eventually branched out to include others. I remember well when a student from Israel and a Palestinian became fast friends after a wary month or two. They told me they had learned so much about the other´s culture and politics that it had changed their own attitudes. And therein lies the value of stretching beyond your comfort level. But that´s not easy.
Perhaps you have noticed how babies will take to other babies rather quickly, but will be afraid or even cry when a strange looking person picks them up. It is probably true that we have to learn to hate, but we also have to learn to accept others who are different. Hermits are the exception.
No matter who our friends are, or where we live, we all like to be alone occasionally, sometimes just to relax, often to engage in something best done alone, like reading.
If you love to read and like turning pages of a book that you don´t have to plug into an electrical outlet periodically, if you sometimes like to munch on something delicious while you are reading (not recommended by this management) or even if you just enjoy having interesting books in that piece of furniture called a bookcase to show off or decorate your walls, I know the place for you on Saturday, Jan. 28, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
The Women´s Club of Costa Rica is having its annual Book and Bake Sale at the Pan American School, which is just 300 meters south of El Rodeo Hotel and Restaurant in San Antonio de Belen. The books are gently used and the baked goods are good, probably delicious. You can contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
If you think this is a blatant plug for the Women´s Club (which does donate money it makes for scholarships to poor children), you would be wrong.
It is a shameless plug for recycling books and finding foster homes for some wonderful literature written before 1990 or even 1890.
And maybe while you are wandering from table after table perusing books on subjects you love, you may meet someone who has the same reading tastes as you and make a new friend with someone you have much in common who may live near you. Or you may even dare to break away from the romances or mysteries or histories and venture to a new table covered with science fiction or vampire heroes and find out why the person clutching that book likes it and find yourself able to relate to someone quite different from you.
And contrary to the general advice not to write in books, people who enjoy pre-read books often enjoy written comments by someone who was there first, even if they don`t agree with the comment. Familiarity is comforting, but it is always good to have new food for thought.