Sunday, September 30, 2012

Shadow Boxes

I seem to be a non-traditional human or maybe I am just more okay with possible rejection.  I do not like to be categorized.  Most of creation seems to like to form itself into homogenized groups and to have a list of what those groups are.   I have struggled against that for six decades.  What begins as a way to identify oneself becomes a separation, something to be reviled by some and something to be embraced by others.  Either way,  you end up overgeneralized by others.  You cut yourself off from learning when you put people in boxes.  You hear it in your day to day living, don't you?  I don't like gays.  I don't like Muslims.  I don't like Christians.  I don't like Catholics.  I don't like straight people.  Really?  How can you possibly know what you like if you have entire groups you won't sort through.  I awoke this morning thinking of a shadow box, which is,  a large box broken into a bunch of small boxes.  If you put yourself in one of those boxes, you may never get to experience life in its fullest.  The further you are away from a box the less you will know about what is in that other box.  What a waste!  What if the Dalai Lama is in the box so far away you never get to know anything about him?  If you know nothing about him, I highly recommend you learn about him.  That is all I will say about him, but he is one of my heroes.

Religion was once (in America) either Christian or non-Christian and the Catholic and Jewish religions were both in the non-Christian box.  That was because they were so different from the Methodists and Baptists, or that is how the story went.  That is a bit silly when you consider that without the Jewish religion and all it preserved, we would have no history beyond two thousand years ago.  Our knowledge of thousands of years of God (the Father) would be drastically reduced.  They kept history for us.  Without the Catholic religion  there could be no Methodists or Baptists.  Catholics are the ones who kept together all of the new testament texts from which the Christian bible was written.   As I sort through religious boxes, I find many similarities.  All of the great teachers taught about love, forgiveness, compassion, patience and mindfulness.  We, however, want to focus on the differences.  We are not comfortable being alone, so we form clubs around our sameness. It goes something like the following.   Ah, you are like me. "Lets start a club.  However, your brother cannot be in our club because he is "different".   If we do let your brother in our club, we have to change him to be like us."  I am not saying clubs are bad.  Exclusive clubs will limit you if you allow it. 

We reject people in certain shadow boxes with a sometimes fatal passion.  Straight people kill gay people.  Christians kill Muslims.  Christians kill Christians due to the brand of Christianity chosen.  Perhaps we don't actually kill people but just consider the box as off limits because all within it is believed to be evil.  Maybe the shadow boxes are not such a great idea?  It does bring a certain order to things, but it is an order based on myths. 

Think about how sexual identity has evolved.  What was once straight or gay has become, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, gender-queer, questioning and straight.  I could go on but I think you catch my drift.   Of course from there we can further divide it into many subcategories and thereby create more boxes in which to put people.   Unfortunately, some people seem to have fewer divisions, so they just lump all of one type together.  Their loss is even greater.  Don't you hear or have stereotypes for each of these categories and subcategories?  As I sort through boxes, I find many similarities.  What shocks me is that those groups most discriminated against sometimes become the most bigoted.  We have become such a melting pot that there are many more groups or subdivisions we have created.  The shadow box gets bigger and we become more estranged from the boxes we deem unacceptable or most unlike us.  Where does it end? My point is that we should let each person be a person and not try to define them.

You hear so many inflammatory remarks about marginalized groups.  We do all want to be on the winning team, right? To be the winner someone has to be identified as the loser.  Truthfully, winning stopped being important to me at some point.    I have always wanted to blend in but grow into all that I can be.  This means knowing more about what is in the other boxes.   My divisions are just myriad.  Each person has their own place and we are all part of each other.   You hear a lot more of those separating remarks when you blend.  People assume a great deal about me, and therefore say things to me that rejects parts of who I am.  Boxes make you not see all that there is to see in a person.   I have spent my life making friends with people who do not appear to be like me.  They are tall or they are Buddhist or they are a staunch political party member.  I have voted Republican, Democratic, Libertarian and Undeclared. I have worshipped in Buddhist Temples and many different  brands of churches.   The end result is that I learn and change as a result of having embraced the friendship of someone different who believed something unfamiliar to me. 

I don't talk about things about myself that I know would make you be more guarded with me.  After you realize I will accept you as you are, I may share more of who I am.   I rather love it when people have made assumptions about me due to how I look or the fact that I am a mother or a social worker or practice meditation.   When they discover something that does not "go with that" in their stereotyped way of thinking about me, they cannot hide their shock.  That is not because I like to trick people.  It is because, or at least I hope, it will cause them to reconsider their assumptions and stereotypes about me and others.  I vote for people not parties.  I embrace all loving philosophies.  I fall in love with people ruling out no options because of some trait or belief.  I accept you for who you are as a person.  I don't really like clubs that might keep me from learning more about this glorious world that I live in.  I read different kinds of books, explore different viewpoints and ask many questions.  I have my beliefs, but you will loose my essence if you try to put me into a limiting box.  I do not want to limit my capacity to learn.

On a really good day, people learn to accept more of their world as a result of accepting me with all my different views.  "She thinks that, and I really like her so maybe I should learn more about that."  On other days, people reject me because of something they learn about me.  "She is a _____ and all _____ are evil, I must change her or reject her."   I am who I am.  Because you know me today, do not assume you will know all there is to know about me tomorrow.  I am changing.   It is not easy to categorize me in a simple way.  You might learn something from me if you choose to get to know me.  I know I will learn something from you.   If you make assumptions that you know all there is to know about any person or thing,  you will be disappointed.   We are all organic.  We change to accommodate our environment or we become extinct.  We protect ourselves when we feel threatened by our own and each others judgment.  That is what creates shadow boxes.

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