I feel like I—and we—are in the liminal space between a death and a rebirth. Societally, I think we are on the precipice of breaking into a new sense of inclusion and equality. Yes, this is a more optimistic view. I recognize we are also on the ledge, liable of falling into the canyon of ever-greater income inequality.
But the overarching truth that I feel is we occupy the space where the old self or norm is dying, and the new self or norm is incubating in anticipation of birth. I suppose I will start with my story. Then, I'll speak to the hopes for our future.
I have spent most of my life living the tension of wanting to "fit in" while chafing almost on a cellular level at the basic premise of being normal. As long as I can remember, I was valued for my ability to perform roles according to societal standards. This looked like being a "perfect gentleman" as young as five years old.
What. The. Fuck?!
I certainly do not blame my parents as some of the dinners to which I was a party were business functions and opportunities for growth that I have since recognized. However, I was robbed in many vital aspects of childhood. I grew up too soon. It's no wonder that several people have cited my ability to go into acting or the theater. While Olympians were learning sports at young ages, I was learning how to adult.
In many ways, I wasn't being an adult so much as I was learning to disdain my real self. I learned that to be me wasn't acceptable, much less appreciated. In a way, I died my first death at a very early age—you must bury the true you to be the version of you that is acceptable and deserving of love.
I have experienced a few rebirths in my life, short as it is. I was a Computer Science major in college. I had a brief stint as a professional singer-songwriter. I was in seminary for a class before dropping out in my second semester. I'm currently a user experience designer studying to become a mental health counselor.
I'm finishing my degree and becoming a counselor. But I'm also in the midst of a transformation that has been nearly three years in the making. I realized in seminary that my particular vein of theology at the time was limited and, fuck it, misogynistic, xenophobic, racist, homophobic, transphobic, and hypocritical.
Yes, I grew up in the Evangelical Christian tradition. At twenty-nine-years-old, I finally acknowledged that it was failing me. Nearly three years later, I haven't been able to fill that gaping hole. When that hole encompasses your marriage, social circle, faith, and way of living life, it's not overly dramatic to say that leaving that tradition is a marked form of death.
In my case, I ran from it. For nearly two years, I outran the existential crisis that John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, and Mother Teresa called the dark night of the soul. No, I don't consider myself Christian, but I find the phrase constructive. It is a state that mirrors depression, but its roots are not in a stable life state, but rather a spiritual dislocation. Something on a spiritual or existential level was out of joint. I finally realized that I couldn't soldier on any longer; I had to fix what was so clearly broken and not working for me.
I have a few conjectures today about what remains unset. Still, I suspect it has something to do in my case with feeling a unique sense of being cut off from the Source or Flow. Or perhaps a distinct fatal flaw from birth that makes me defective compared to the rest of humanity.
I'm in the process of coming out of this negative self-talk and self-image. However, the process is one of death and painful un-becoming. It is challenging to learn as we grow older, but it is significantly more painful to unlearn. Thankfully, I am not old, but the pain is real. And many days, I believe that the pain will be unending, infinite—unbearable.
This is where I find the tie-in with our society today. We have been stuck in such a pattern of exclusion and privilege that opening up the proverbial floodgates may be painful for those in power. Comfort is a hell of a drug.
We do not grow for the sake of growth, nor do we improve for our purpose. No, growth is far too painful for the individual benefit to justify—the individual's growth always benefits the whole. There must be some mutual benefit because the death of the self, much less a system is excruciating for all involved. I may be biased, but is the cost worth the benefit if there isn't a far-reaching benefit?
What would happen if we operated as if there was enough space, resources, and opportunities for everyone? What if we treated our former competitors as collaborators? Gasp! How would anyone make money?
I'm not trying to come off as a smart ass, but what industry has attempted that? What if each organization in that industry or vertical claimed a niche, and everyone sought to make themselves and their competitors within the industry better by what they were learning? It seems like there might be some remarkable opportunity that continues to remain untapped.
What would happen if we pulled back from the hyper-capitalism that has defined this country over the past couple of decades—in my opinion? What might happen if profit or shareholder value weren't prioritized over social good? Is it possible that the collusion and collaboration that we have seen in various contexts in the wake of this pandemic could function in a broader application?
I argue that scarcity—in terms of opportunity—is a false premise.
All this being said, what the fuck? What is this pandemic experience? What are we to be learning during this time? I grew up in an environment that fell back on the idea that "God" had a purpose for everything. With all the anger that I can muster, I ask what the "good" purpose any god could have for such a purely horrible period such as this is? This also applies to the Spanish Flu or the Black Plague for that matter?
I would apologize for the tangent, but many people today are looking to the divine for some form of an answer. I'm not sure that there is one outside of chaos theory. There is a method to the madness, but it's still a form of chaos. For those of the Judeo-Christian tradition, I offer the parable of Job. The reason for the calamity is effectively chaos—God is either all-powerful or loving, but to be both may be a paradox.
We are stuck in a nightmare that will last for too long. However, what we do with it—whatever it might be; there is no shame here—is up to each individual just as it is up to the societal majority. There is more opportunity, more space than many of us have learned is possible. I persist in believing that this world and the Universe are one of goodness and abundance. Despite what many of my lived experiences have communicated. And we are all connected—what benefits the whole benefits the individual. My meditation is that I—and all of us—can examine how our actions are out of alignment with our beliefs and our words. Namaste.