The Challenge of Being Human

A lovely midsummer day with brilliant early morning sun and a lovely cooling breeze! We have had two days of sun in a row, with another couple to come! Abundant sunshine with rain every three or four days during the growing season is a boon!

I’ve been thinking about identity lately. Maybe I should say I’ve been thinking about identity again, or even still. As a clinician and healer I find identity good to think about, as it seems to me most of the people who ask me for aid are primarily wrestling with issues of identity, even those facing challenges to health and soul.

In these days of raging intolerance, identity has become a central zone of conflict. Here in the U.S., the present government  appears to be mesmerized by the idea of a singular identity, that of older wealthy white men. This quest for a monocultural definition of self is doing enormous harm as it erases the identities, values, and aspirations of the vast majority of the folks who live here.

Of course, erasures of identity are not limited to those currently in power. The history of our country is one of systematically oppressing groups in order to benefit others. Inevitably, this oppression has resulted in the vanquishing of conversations that might privileged the needs and experiences of the oppressed. It has also led to deep divisions within oppressed groups as elites within those groups seek to maintain an idealized version of the collective identity. Of course, families often have their own version of this, and marginalize or exile family members who do not confirm to their idealized definition of self.

Identity politics serve to obscure a much larger sameness. Human beings are more alike than we are different; we are also more akin to all other lifeforms on this small green-blue orb than we might like to admit. We are also quite literally all connected, as are our fates.

Group experiences of shared identity are crucial to the formation and maintenance of cohort cohesion and solidarity, but do more harm than good when we lose sight of our overarching connection to, and shared fate with, those identified as other. I often wonder how it is that we forget so easily that we are each infinite beings, that life is a blessing (a gift from the Creator), and that should we wish, Earth could be an Eden.

Off course there will always be suffering; that goes with physicality. When we suffer, or witness the unimaginable suffering of others, we may find ourselves outraged or terrified; this, too, is a part of the human condition. Yet, perhaps even suffering is a kind of gift, providing us with opportunities to be generous and kind, to reduce the suffering of others and ourselves, and to receive the aid of others. In this view, outrage is a call to compassion and caring, and often, to action; it is also an invitation to remember the holiness of the other.

How are we to hold on to the sacredness of all beings even as we challenge indifference and harm? I don’t know; I’m  only occasionally able to do so.

How do you navigate the demand to hold multiple realities, to be caring, and to act?

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7 thoughts on “The Challenge of Being Human

  1. It is a difficult question Michael – identity politics have their place in furthering the needs of some groups, but as you say, they can create division in themselves by giving the less tolerant ‘confirmation’ that we aren’t all the same.

  2. how, is a good question, Michael!
    with so many wise songs
    about our foolish pride,
    i’m finding some success
    not identifying myself or others
    as anything but earthlings 🙂

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