In the beginning, God makes man and woman. Allowing them to hang out in the garden and experience life without knowledge of themselves. Once this plan fails, a surprising common occurrence considering he already knows everything, God changes the future of his freshly crafted biology with more than a little anger in his message and punishments for disobedience:
“16 Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.
17 And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;
18 Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field;
19 In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” (KJV)
In this moment man and woman are now divided by experience. Obviously, the roots of morality aren’t found in this passage, and there is very little offered to help us discover identity. The human race would have to wait, suffer, and drown before The Bible attempts to lay down the laws, providing some anchor points for how Western cultures would attempt to self-identify. That all seemed to be settled, and man would march forward into modernity knowing ourselves.
Like much of The Bible, this is untrue.
In our attempts to find our truths, many of us become lost in ourselves. Cultural influence soaks into our minds relentlessly. Blinded by the force of perceptions, we grasp and reach for understanding. Wandering through our spaces attaching definitions, roles, and reasons, reality and delusion seem to blur. Our minds are built to respect the authority of our elders, so as we become elders, the task of being respected by the next generation places an even greater pressure of being correct for peers and offspring. Here, we’ve built the cognitive foundations of culture: this is who we are, where we live, and how we are to be. What exists in the world which doesn’t fit, is an outsider—one who is disconnected. Our greatest fear, greater than death, is the fear of being utterly alone.
This fear drives us to identify ourselves as well as define others. Are we the outsider? Are they? A daily sprint to be “placed” before we are left in the cold to perish. Constant is this race. Anxiety abounds when we feel we don’t fit. We injure ourselves and others in the panic to find the safe spaces of confirmation, so that we may indulge in humanity’s original addiction, affirmation.
This addiction has caused us to shame those who are the harbingers of dissonance. Our shaming of others, leads to the nightmare of being ostracized, so those shamed run the gauntlet again, to satisfy the addiction. Maybe they try to shame us in response, sometimes they’ll find allies in retaliation, their minds feel powerful with the addiction satisfied again. The conditioning element met, we are set to repeat this behavior like a trapped wasp. Could it be, in this era of communication and information, that maybe we ought to deal with this problem?
We now recognize the violent results of neglect. The self-destructive power of shame revealed in pathological behaviors, which can cascade through generations. Doing the only thing we know to do, secure our safety.
Identify your label, affirm this is true, and seek confirmation in others is a system humans often exercise.
More people, more labels, more outsiders. The number of ways to label ourselves and to find inclusion acts like self-medication. We have no idea what the healthy number of labels might be, so they’ve run unchecked, protected in the rush of fulfillment when we identify with others. We wriggle with ecstasy as belonging triggers rewards, the high leads to hallucination as others are marginalized with vitriol of the righteous, which can be any of us when we think the world is as we believe it is. Distorting our perception of others is delusion about ourselves, as we are all human beings, 99.5 percent identical. I am almost the same person as Beyoncé, boo-yah!
Life experiences carve details into our minds into a myriad of forms, but we are intrinsically linked by the physical evidence. No matter how you may wish to identify with a cultural idiom, it is illusory. Which leads me to a single conclusion: it’s time to change.
This is old “magic,” and gone are the days where we can safely separate ourselves based on ideals. While we need those ideals, dangerous or magnanimous, to pave the way for the global neighborhood. The separatist mentality will only lead to pathologies mentioned earlier, and some we’ll fail to predict. Too long the tribal mentality has kept us ignorant of one another, “us vs them” being used to coerce and control those wishing to benefit from segregating populations. And the popular culture propagated the separation of people based on sexuality, heritage, income, religion, and anything else that could be identified: mom vs dad, Democracy vs Communism, black vs white, cis- vs trans-, you vs me. Professional manipulators know your fear of alienation, your addiction to beliefs, and how to place these in the way of those who would unite us.
Break the spell with me. Don’t let the ideals and labels be who you are. You are not “Christian,” you have Christian beliefs. You are not a “lesbian,” you love a person. You are not a US citizen; you are a human being with the capacity to identify as many things, changing things. The labels are the words we describe ourselves with, but you, Gentle Readers, cannot be defined.