At times, it’s all I can do to embrace my connections with others while ignoring the falderal that accompanies it.
As a human being surrounded by other human beings on most occasions, it is inevitable that I’ll be exposed to a certain amount of human behavior that is just baffling. Some of this behavior might fit most people’s definition of nonsensical (an adult pirouetting in Starbucks while waiting for coffee, for example), but a lot of it simply doesn’t make sense to me, and it makes me wonder if it is the behavior that is unusual or my perception of it.
We’re all blessed with unique perspective, since no two human beings are exactly alike, and so there’s a certain amount of play in the idea of what is acceptable behavior and what isn’t. For example, if we take dining in a restaurant as an example situation, I am relatively certain that running up to the table of a stranger and removing all of their cutlery is unacceptable behavior. But, in that same restaurant, is it acceptable for a child to run around the restaurant rather than staying at the table with whoever brought them? Some would say yes, and others would say no. It’s a matter of perception; if I allow my own children to do that thing, then it is likely to be acceptable to me if other people allow their children to do the same thing. If I don’t allow such things, then it is more likely I will find such behavior appalling and be baffled at the idea that someone thinks this is okay.
It gets tricky, for me anyway, when looking at things that society as a whole deems acceptable that I just don’t get. To take what I think is a good example: marriage in the United States contains an expectation that the people entering the marriage will behave as if they have no romantic love for anyone but their spouse, no physical attraction for anyone but their spouse, and no desire to form relationships that go beyond the platonic friend stage with anyone but their spouse. Those who do not behave in this fashion are called “immoral”, “unethical”, “cheaters”, and many other things because they deviate from the societal norm. But, while I understand that society has built up expectations of how married people behave, those expectations baffle me. I cannot imagine turning off my feelings and attractions to other people simply because society expects me to, and thankfully my spouse is of like mind (if he weren’t, we probably wouldn’t be married now).
(Now, I should probably say at this point that I do think lying about such things is inappropriate. Someone who agrees to do one thing but does another is a liar, and that’s what makes it cheating. Anyway.)
My position on relationships between people has led to some interesting situations in my day-to-day life. I can’t watch a television show that has a “love triangle” plot without ranting about how the person in the center of the triangle should just admit how they feel and try and work things out with the other two. If I am attracted to someone who is in a relationship with someone else, I tend to ask about the openness of that relationship, thereby exposing myself as non-monogamous. This baffles other people at times, and yet I am baffled at their bafflement…and around and around we go.
Here’s another one: there’s a child in one of my swimming classes, a four-year-old boy who, when choosing a toy, always picks one that is pink, or purple, or has sparkles on it. He’s a bright child, and is really enjoying his swimming lessons, and I didn’t even think about his toy choices until his mother approached me after a class and mentioned that her son’s toy choices didn’t mean he was gay. I am sure the expression on my face conveyed my confusion, because she further explained that he was the youngest of four children, and the others were girls, and so it was natural that he would want to play with their toys…
WTF? This person was concerned that I might read something into her child’s behavior, that I might think her four-year-old was gay because he likes to play with pink and purple ducks in the pool. I was flabbergasted that she felt the need to say anything, but of course I reassured her that I hadn’t read anything into his behavior and that, in my class, everyone gets to choose the toy they want. She walked away happy, and I stood there stunned because the idea that someone would expect a preschooler to adhere to gender stereotypes, and then comment on them, is baffling to me. It’s falderal – it makes NO SENSE to me.
It’s easy enough to be myself, to be open and honest, when I’m in situations where it makes things better. In the case of the swimming lessons above, it was an easy thing to reassure the mother than I wasn’t thinking anything about her son based on his choice of duck, and go on when life…but when it is my own behavior that is causing bafflement, it gets trickier. When I see that I am brushing up against societal norms and cultural mores, when I see I am making others uncomfortable, I end up torn in two directions. On the one hand, I want to rail and shout and explain that I am a decent person despite their bafflement, and that it is our differences that make humans so interesting, and that everything I do is consensual and it doesn’t affect them anyway! On the other hand, well, I have to live in society and things work better if I am not marked for ostracism. So, almost inevitably, I end up pulling back and behaving in ways that are way outside my own norms to please others…and it fucking sucks not to be myself.
So, why am I writing about this, especially over here on a religious blog? Well, I’m a FlameKeeper, and as a FlameKeeper I am always looking for connections, for the things that tie us to other pieces of the Divine and to the Universe. And, behavior is a pretty big connection between people; we’re joined by our behavior preferences, by things we do and do not do, by what we think is appropriate and what we think is inappropriate. The trouble is, we’re also connected to the people who do not behave like us, and those people are not going away despite our wishes to the contrary. There will always be someone on the other side of the debate: for every person who identifies as pro-choice, there is a person who identifies as pro-life. For every liberal, there is a conservative. For every theist, there’s an atheist. For every gamer, there’s someone who thinks video games are a waste of time. But, we’re connected to those people, the ones who disagree with us on a fundamental level, the ones who behave totally unlike us.
We are all Divine – you, me, the tree, the rock, and my left shoe (especially my LEFT SHOE). The connections between us are there, even when we pretend they aren’t, even when we let the falderal get in the way of recognizing them. The trick is to see past the nonsense to the essential, to see the spark and what radiates from it, and then nourish those connections. Through this, we improve ourselves, and thus the Universe.