In case you didn’t know, an election happened this week. (Don’t abandon me – this is NOT an election post! )
Also, in case you weren’t aware, somehow that election resulted in classic old-time dirt-clods-being-thrown and tears-all-over-the-place warfare with a heavy showing by the “give peace a chance” and “can’t we all just get along” contingents in the middle of the battlefield, waving their flowers, and occasionally their own swords. And it happened all over the blogosphere, and all over Facebook.
And I don’t want to talk about it.
On election day, as well as before and after, I had my own opinions, and they were strong. Some of the things I’ve read posted online before and since have made me have to sit down and take a deep breath, and call people I know will commiserate with me, because they hold the same opinion I do. But if you read things online, you’ve surely read all that, and have your own thoughts on it all already. I didn’t want to be part of the big surge at the time; sometimes I’m like that. If everybody is talking about something, I can’t imagine I have something new to add to the plate, so I just tend to sit back and watch.
What I DO want to explore, is the phenomena behind all the warfare. There are several, obviously, but the one I’m referring to is the nature of people to possess ideas and beliefs to such a depth, that they believe those ideas actually ARE them. The inability to separate ourselves from our beliefs – the ego, as Eckhart Tolle brilliantly points out – can be rather problematic. And I’ve really been trying to figure out what parts of us really are US, and which are not.
It appears to me that this played out in the election, because the politics represented very particular ideas that people seemed to hold as correct, true, or vital to the proper governance of the country. The reaction to those ideas being challenged, however, looks to me like a lot of people have taken their position about things and made it so ingrained and enmeshed with their sense of their own self, that there was no way for them to not take things personal to some level.
In other words, it’s as though the election outcome actually felt like a personal attack to some people – like the country and the voting outcome was against them and their very core being. Of course, some things about government affect people on a practical basis – like with jobs or income, for example – that can be arguably noted aren’t what I’m talking about. I’m speaking of the phenomena where we take political positions and outcomes personally to our core. Like, I don’t just choose to believe what I believe about the political hot-button issues, those beliefs ARE me!
And with a position like that, how can there NOT be warfare and defensiveness??
So I’ve been thinking about it; because what can or should we really claim as inherent to our very being? In other words, are there things that aren’t just our ego – the idea of our selves – but really are just plain US?! And, of course, I have some personal thoughts and concerns about having this question answered.
As is evident, I came out this year to everyone I know (or at least made the information available) that I am gay. Without a whole diatribe about what that actually means (see other entries, or future ones, for that matter, to address that actual issue), let us suffice to say that despite my love for Heather being real and very complete, if I date and fall in love with someone again, it will be a man. Period.
Did you notice that little one word sentence there – “period”? That’s me declaring my self. And guess what… some people simply to not agree. Whole factions of society argue vehemently that I, in fact, am NOT gay. It’s a choice; some weird kind of mutated state of mind that I’ve either accepted or had planted within me through environmental occurrences. Members of my own immediate family refuse to acknowledge my declaration because they believe this way – that it is not an inherent state of being, but a choice. And a wicked, twisted, satanic, horrible one at that! But that’s not the point here; the issue, again, is trying to identify what really is ME, and what is just a thought or idea or choice that I am making?
It appears that some human beings feel so strongly about the beliefs they hold, that they feel very justified in calling those ideas their self. We’ve probably all known people (or we are them) who are so convinced that their view on life is the absolute truth – for whatever reasons they feel justified in this. Often these positions are related to spiritual matters. That makes sense, of course. It’s like saying this: Who I am, is a being that believes in, or knows for absolution about the existence of God. It’s who I am. It’s not a separate idea, or something outside of my self that I have chosen to hold or adopt, it IS me.
Can that be argued with? That’s my question. Is it really inherent to the self, if the belief is strong enough? Is it only part of a person to think what they think, and claim to know what they know, or is it the actual person?
From my position, I don’t just think or believe I’m gay. I am. I don’t think I’m a man, I am. I don’t just believe I’m a father, or a strong soul, or compassionate… I actually am. Not by choice, but by nature. Sure, environment has affected those parts of my nature very strongly, but they are what they are. Kind of like, you can trim an oak tree from birth/first growth to consistently look like a hedge bush, but it will still always be, at it’s DNA, an Oak Tree. So who gets to say what really is us, and what is just a belief we’ve chosen?
I’d say there are some things that rather easily fall on one side of the fence in this question. For example, the notion that aqua is the best color crayon in the box. That’s an opinion, not an inherent quality of a person that really is them. But also, I feel comfortable in stating that “fact”, because a majority of public opinion will back me up. There’s probably someone somewhere, though, that feels the importance of the crayola shade of aqua so deeply, that I potentially just attacked their person. Ack! That was not my intention!
My apologies to the blue-loving person whose soul is innately tied to the best-ness of the aqua shade.
OK – we can’t really go that far, can we? There’s a point at which, for the sake of preserving societal interactions and such, we determine where the bottom of our metaphorical never-ending rabbit holes are. But I’m hoping you get my point; maybe the things we hold as opinion and belief aren’t who we are, but nothing more than heavily held choices; sometimes VERY heavily held, but personal choices nonetheless.
But then, what is a choice and what isn’t? Is it a choice to be gay? Is it a choice to be heterosexual? Is gender a choice? Is the belief in the God you ascribe to inherent or always a choice?
I ask, because I think the warfare in our country, and the warfare in my personal life is dependent on the answers here. Some people around me think I’ve chosen to be gay (and/or have been taught), and therefore are upset or distressed because they see me as choosing the wrong. I disagree. On a public scale, some people’s personal views have been so internalized, that they consider those views innate, and take it very personally that someone was elected who is against THEM. Not just their beliefs, but THEM. Hence, we see Facebook posts about stocking up on ammo, and leaving the country, and the like.
It really seems, though, that we all have a tendency (including me) to defend our own sense of who we are as real and inherent, and push back against others’. With that, we all seem to be asking others who disagree with us to see their position as a purposeful choice, and OUR position as absolute and unchangeable. Sadly (I think) we see God used as the reason that particular views are held as unchangeable, all the time, i.e. “It’s not MY belief, it’s God’s word, and therefore I cannot change my position”.
It doesn’t take knocking on the doors of many of your close neighbors to find out that using the God-says-so argument is common to hundreds of completely conflicting positions.
So, how can we calm waters or settle the warfare? Hmmmm…
This became very particularly personal for me in the month before the election. Following the death of Heather, that experience – combined with new religious and interpersonal information and a brand new view of the whole universe – created a series of shifted and evolved worldviews for members of my family. I have seven siblings, and we all used to be on the same page about everything that we thought really mattered. (That’s probably a naïve statement, but that’s what we all thought, whether it was accurate or not, and we reveled in the sameness and hung our close relationships on it.)
Now we don’t all believe the same thing. I came out to each one of them individually. And, our relationship with each other as a whole feels different. We’re all intelligent, opinionated adults who long for the time when we all just felt super close because we loved each other and had no real REAL challenges to our life that brought really big differences of worldview. So, we started trying to talk about it, and repair some closeness between us all that felt a little strained.
But this question of inherent-ness hung like a stink bomb in the conversation, and eventually drove everybody out of talking. Well, that, and the fact that talking about hard stuff is wearying and my siblings seemed to get tired of it, and didn’t so much like sharing their personal feelings that may be in opposition to others’. Still, I particularly felt the presence of this big “who am I, what am I” question. Several of my siblings wanted to agree to disagree, essentially. To learn to love and be respectful to each other by not mentioning things we disagree about; to acknowledge the elephant of difference in the room, and then let it out the front door.
The problem I walked away with, as the attempt to repair through conversation quietly died, is that because I believe my homosexuality is inherent, that actually means that in many ways I AM the elephant. And my siblings were asking me to leave the room so we didn’t have to think about Eldon-the-elephant anymore. I don’t think they saw it that way, but I sure did.
As tough as it is, and as isolating as it has been, I don’t choose to allow that kind of relationship in my life any more. You can love all of me, and you can believe it IS me, or we can simply just disagree and decide how much interaction we’d like to have, if any. We cannot agree to disagree, because I will not agree that my nature is simply a long and deep case of improper nurture, and I will not concede to have a close relationship with people who see me that way.
I WILL concede to interact with people who feel that way right now, but are willing to consider my position and adjust theirs as time progresses. But, essentially, my insistence that these things are actually me, and not just a belief or choice, means I have put my foot down and refuse to move to accommodate others anymore.
Not really a position to eliminate warfare from, right? And, sadly, my siblings and I have spoken no more of it, and I fear our respective canoes are drifting apart in inches at a time, now.
But that sad picture is also a result of my unwillingness to try again. You know…yet.
Peace is not purchased without a heavy price, and back breaking work. I do think, more and more, that reaching across the space between us (any of us who are separated in any way from each other for any reason) takes humility, patience, and a good hard look at our own selves. I need to own with even more awareness the things that I DO see as my chosen beliefs that I might be making a little too much ego out of, and I need to be willing to look consistently at things I also believe are inherent and really re-question their innateness, and whether my position on those things being my nature is worth the cost of holding my position.
So that’s what I’m trying to do.
Damn it hurts. It’s uncomfortable. Blarg.
I kind of want to go back to throwing mud at everyone else because they won’t just let me be the one who doesn’t have to examine himself, and they won’t all bend to my views. I mean, a good mud fight – that’s kinda super satisfying. Plus, I’m totally completely right, and they’re all wrong, and pummeling them with crap is going to convince them of that.
But seriously – at the end of the day, I find that showering off as much mud as I can, and standing naked in front of the mirror of life gets me a lot further on my journey of evolution.
And also I ultimately feel better about myself and my life. And oh, how I need need need that.
If you read this far, I feel quite the appreciation right now that you’ve seen me, today. Thank you. Or, is it that you’ve seen what I thinkis me? Honestly, either way I feel honored and considered. So thank you.