A Real Threat to Humanity
The world is changing rapidly. People are afraid, and understandably so. In our lifetime we have never experienced so many phenomena we have no control over. Rising seas, wildfires, hurricanes, volcanoes, earthquakes, droughts, all seem to be proliferating each year.
Simultaneously the lines drawn in the sand between different interest groups are becoming more polarized, more ferocious and entrenched.
It is easy to blame corporate greed or world powers, global warming, racism, bigotry and the like but I must then ask, what ultimately gives power? It is easy to blame the apathy and laziness of western culture but where does that originate from? Once again, where is power taken and given? I feel like one answer has been burning in my soul, one answer that is unpopular; that can instigate the anger of an angry people; and ultimately threaten the very foundation of identity that so many have grasped onto as an attempt to survive a chaotic world.
I believe that our true freedom lies beyond this door. It will take courage to cross but it will change our lives. It is a disease that has spread through the minds of people for millennia. It is one that we must stop on our own accord least we never find the power to unite as one people, truly free and empowered.
The disease is Division.
It seems to have begun millennia ago with Men and Women. When our roles were balanced and healthy we lived in strong tribes or societies. The unique roles and leadership that was offered by men and women free from any thought of gender roles has been seen in tribal societies and recorded for centuries. I recommend ‘The Forest People’ by Colin Turnbull as a place to start; from the perspective of a man who was very much an entrenched part of a divisive society. The list of case studies is exhaustive but the point remains the same. When gender identity plays no role in the existence or lack of power; the society or tribe is emotionally healthier for it.
Suffice it to say, after millennia of creating divisive roles and false power structures between men and women, we have a society full of very weak, disorganized and apathetic people who do not have the power or unified voice to stand up for what they believe in. Women fight for rights against oppressors while men lash out with repressed and diminished emotional maturity and no sense of true power. As these cycles battle one another the opportunity of our true collective power passes by. Thus business as usual wins the day.
It is likewise well documented that poor people used to identify with one another regardless of race. The white poor were given a small modicum privilege over the black to seed separation between black people and white. Thus a point of division was created that kept poor people fighting amongst themselves rather than being able to utilize their unified power to topple systems that continue to exploit them to this day.
It does not matter where you go, conservative, progressive, this race, that religion; you are being encouraged to pick sides. Not just a side, an identity.
Here is the unpopular truth of this.
To say “I am Black” or “I am Transgendered” or “I am a Conservative” or “I am a Liberal” amounts to the same regardless of side, and potential justification, from this perspective.
Regardless of how justified a stance seems, it places you in a community, a camp where you can feel a part of a group, a common cause, a unity. This is not inherently bad. We will naturally seek out those who share our values. The only problem is that more often than not, regardless of what you choose, it places you in opposition to something else.
This is the true issue here. Identity into one group often means we are automatically opposed to another. This keeps us divided, weak and apart. It gives us another human or group of humans as focus for our anger, for our sense of injustice; and likewise gives us a sense of belonging and community with another group.
Unfortunately even righteous identities and causes blind us to the greater machination at play. As long as we have a force to oppose, we are weakened from our true potential as a whole. These cycles do not end with the victory of one ideal over the other. Ever. We need all types of people to create the real power that our society has lacked for millennia. We just need them in their empowered, authentic potential. Right now many exist in an unfortunate shadow of that potential.
For example, I am just me. I am not straight or gay, not black or white, not this religion or that. I am so much more complex than any identity I may choose. If I really look at myself, layer upon layer, deeper and deeper, any identity I could choose would fall apart in the authentic reflection. What is left is simply me and simply you. Human. Eventually even those lines can blur.
When I see you as the unique expression of you, as you exist right now, unlabeled, a lot of interesting things happen. My expectation of who you are and how you are dissolves and a more profound opportunity exists in its place.
My lack of automatic responsive behavior may not trigger your conditioned behavior that subconsciously compels you to act as expected. My social cues become more provocative, more creative and unique to each moment. The being that is you has the freedom to express itself however it feels called at any moment. Whether you recognize this or not is besides the point. At least from my side, there is a space for you to be authentic if you choose. It is the only place we can ever start this process.
Perhaps you kiss a member of the same sex. I do not suddenly place you into the box of “gay” or “bisexual”. You are literally just you, acting as you do right now. You may act completely differently in the next moment. You may choose to behave a certain way your entire life or drop an old behavior on a whim. I have kept my general space of understanding open and therefore have less preconceived impressions to place you in a common, archetypical box. You are free from the burden of my subconscious expectations.
Preconceived notions are hardwired responses; once we archetype someone we view all of their actions through a veil of hard-wired expectation. We see the behaviors we expect so see and even trigger them through our subconscious body language relative to our expectations. Overall, a lifetime of this simplifies and limits our neurological toolset to properly interact with the unique multitude of humanity that really exists.
For example suppose I were to meet someone who appears to be a redneck, a good ole’ boy. I may not even realize it, but i’ve judged them by my subconscious archetypical division. I automatically file this unique human into a tidy mental box. My body language and behavior towards him changes without so much as a thought. In all likelihood he will have grown in the world accustomed to those social cues and will respond to them in a way that will simply reinforce the position. He may identify as such and wear the clothes and speak the language. Eventually his body shape will easily reflect that archetype just the same. To think of him otherwise would seem ludicrous. This happens everyday without so much as a second thought.
Thus the challenge to slough off these notions is real, but the rewards are substantial. Most importantly, it is our only path to true human community and empowerment.
People will dress and act a certain way to make sure you recognize their archetype and treat them appropriately. This does not help our ability to perceive them purely. However, we will only encounter a few humans who truly do not project archetype in this way. It is therefore our duty to consciously look beyond the presented archetype a person shows us and see the human individual beyond it.
What happens when I look at someone with the wonder of unrestricted possibility? I do not judge, I listen, I pay attention. I use different parts of my brain when engaging them. I use parts of my brain unavailable if I package them into one of my pre-sized neurological boxes.
I grow, I learn and adapt as they react to having the space to be themselves freely. Whether they take the opportunity or recognize it is besides the point. Until I consciously create the space first, there is no option. It is up to each of us to do this as best as we can.
Like any muscle this grows stronger with practice, with exercise. It becomes natural in this state to drop judgment, to look at people with a wide perspective that leads to compassion, empathy and understanding. With practice I can see the individual behind whatever archetype they present on the surface with greater and greater ease. As such my tools for coaxing out authenticity also increases.
With practice this helps us to build repertoire gracefully. We recognize the importance of each individual, not as an archetype but as that individual. We recognize the power derived in understanding, collaboration and compassion. We bridge gaps between people, between ideas.
We recognize that the greatest way we can serve ourselves is through understanding and connecting to the special magic in each person we meet. We build bridges, create connection. We actively stop participating in divisive behavior. We stop dismissing or attaching to those who vocally, even aggressively identify with one interest group in opposition to another.
For this reason I will always endeavor for understanding, to bridge gaps between people who think they stand on opposite sides of the fence from each other. With practice those fences, which once seemed immutable, become transparent, become 3d projections we can walk straight through. The only power we lose is our own in the never ending game of interpersonal opposition, in cultivating identity that divides.
With time I have seen that reconciling the differences between each other always reflects and heals the unreconciled differences we harbor in our own hearts.
Ultimately you are not gay or straight. You are not black or white. You are not Catholic or Muslim. Strip yourself naked and you will see that you are human, utterly unique and with complete freedom to choose differently each and every moment. Strip anyone else down and you will see the same. Beautiful, unique and brimming with potential, one and all.
Until this is the only identity we choose there will always be an “us” and a “them”. No matter how virtuous our side may seem to be it will always be in opposition to another. That, my friends, is the true nexus of our lost power. It is where our true opportunity will likewise return to us.
Once we strip away identity we may at first feel lonely. We lose some sense of community we have built with those who identify similarly. Take heart, this is only temporary. You are now building a community of pure humanity. You need not be confused about one persons’ belief or another. You no longer need choose a side. Simply connect, learn and grow in each moment anew. Become a malleable force, an improvisational artist in the world of interpersonal communication. Open up to the worlds that exist inside each and every person you meet, regardless of what they might think of themselves or present on the outside. You will find in the process, a deep well within yourself, immune to identity that requires an opposing force to exist, present in your own creative excellence.
Over time the result seems to always be a sense of duty to humanity, to the world. A sense of truly being a part of something much larger, something that includes us all. Actions that serve any interest beyond that feel empty. We become those who weave worlds together, bring coherence to the parts that seemed at odds and empowerment to a human world weakened from centuries of in-fighting.
This is real for me, it exists in every relationship I see. It sits underneath every drama. I would like to know what you think. Please share your own experiences of Identity and how it serves or does not serve you and the community of people around you. I will undoubtedly learn something along the way.