WHAT?! …came roaring out from my depths last night, in the middle of making dinner, as NPR reported a group of middle school students had been harassed by MFA staff, guards and patrons a week ago this past Thursday. Why did it take a week for our public to hear about this affront to our human dignity?
Our society is in trouble. When any human beings, but adults in particular, feel they have the prerogative to speak whatever uneducated anti-people/person comments come into their minds at all, is, without question, deeply troubling – but to feel entitled to do so as a staff member, or patron, of as reverent, public and pluralistic a place as a fine arts museum – is a travesty.
99.9% of DNA is the same among all us humans. 0.1% of our DNA varies. 94% of that 0.1% variance is between individuals of like population areas of origin. 6% of that 0.1% is between individuals of disparate population areas of origin.
We humans fire racial slurs at we humans over a variance of less than 0.06% in our DNA.
The good news is there is a cure for our stunted thinking and acting. To footnote – the following is a direct quote from ‘Don’t Label Me’, by Irshad Manji, p.269:
“Most beings aren’t aware that they’re plurals, so they let others define them. But when you’re a self-aware plural, you commit to these actions:
- You embrace the fact you’re more than your labels and you treat others as if they are, too.
- You lift the lid on different points of view without pretending that all views carry equal moral weight. They don’t. But before judging your own perspective to be superior, you find out why your Other holds the beliefs that you don’t agree with.
- You take disagreement as an invitation to engagement. You can’t do this with everything that interests you, but to be true to yourself, you must do it with the one issue that moves you like nothing else does.
He doesn’t know it yet, but for his fifteenth birthday our youngest is receiving a booklet of moments Mom scribbled down of his antics from ages 1 to 6+.
Early on, a neighbor friend suggested I keep a can to collect memorable ‘Sam’ moments on scraps of paper, rather than labor over trying to keep up with a baby book. (Wish I got that suggestion 20 years before for the older two!) I unearthed that can a couple months ago, cleaning out a cupboard. Here’s a taste:
One December morning Sam walked into the kitchen:
SAM: Momma, could I please have K R S T M U N C for breakfast?
MOM: Um – what does that spell?
SAM: I don’t know. What does it spell?
I mourn the family phone. It has, for us, become a warehouse for imposters and deceivers.
We still have a landline. Can’t give it up. Even though 98% of the calls ID themselves as “SPAM*^&#)$*%&” or far more cleverly as of late – Hopkinton residents with Hopkinton based phone numbers who, when answered, turn out to be another pre-recorded telemarketer.
Before Caller ID, and the capitalistic insurgency of telemarketing calls, the ring of the family phone stirred up all sorts of wonderment and possibilities: Who could it be – someone known or not? What will I say? My older brother’s friend who I have a crush on? Oh no, what if it’s Mom’s friend, Mrs. So&So. I miss the uncontrolled connectedness. It called up social nimbleness.
Now we’re left few surprises, once we decipher the telemarketing tactic (98% of the time) from the true friend or family member – and as backup, we can enlist our recorded voicemail. Now with all our one known person to one known person cellphone connections, we can readily determine who we’re going to be talking to, and whether we want to or not.
I mourn the family phone.
Yesterday morning my muse led me to a web search. I came across a gem – a melding of music and painting. The music purveyor is Stan Strickland, the musician who played all the wonderful woodwind parts on my album, and the painting purveyor, Nancy Ostrovsky (new to me!).
Though we can tend to draw definitive distinctions between arts, mathematics, literature, science, accounting, plumbing, cooking, car mechanics, neurosurgery and the like, little by slow my mind seems to be witnessing all human practices as the underlying art of living life. Labels are certainly helpful for discussion, learning and understanding but absolutely unnecessary for beholding.
Behold this five-minute sojourn through the giftedness of Stan Strickland and Nancy Ostrovsky:
A couple weeks back I got to play a set on Hopkinton Town Common for the Celebration of Recovery. It gave me pause to consider all I’ve been given.
September marks 28 years of my involvement in recovery from addiction and depression. Having come close to a brush with voluntarily ending my life in 1994, I am grateful for all community resources available to us to heal.
As a family elder I experience the wrenching deep hearted desire to help those struggling; all the while knowing that family help, though well intentioned, tends to be more hindrance than effective help, postponing vital learning for the struggling one. In many cases we need to hit our own bottom to decide (and, admittedly – not decide) to pursue a better life; earnestly seeking help needed from outside family.
That afternoon, as I sang this song, I was suddenly filled with the realization of all I’d been given from seeking out help and, at least for today, sticking with it to the best of my ability. There is freedom from addiction and depression – though vestiges of both stick with me for life. This daily reprieve offers me opportunities to experience profound moments of joy. And in those moments I know all I’ve been given.
Reading the ‘Don’t Label Me’ author’s mind continues to be a paradigm-shifting sojourn for me. It has been a while since I’ve felt so structurally challenged by so deeply evolved thinking.
It is a rather easy read, in that she is in conversation with her blind dog, Lily – but not easy in the sense that it affirms all of my inner stirrings. Ms. Manji has me questioning the liberal terra firma of righteousness I have been standing on for all these years.
With her real life sampling, Manji crashes through my sneaky and rampant liberal leaning stereotyping. Her observations and construings call into question the hardened personal points of view that accompany my willingness to lump all humans, with certain beliefs different to mine, together in one group – to be reckoned with in a certain righteous manner. She calls me toward a more varied terrain to be approached with a sense of mystery. And to embrace that mystery – not by reverting to stale arguments – but by asking another, with no strings attached, why they think and feel the way they do. And listen to their answer. Listen. To their answers – not mine.
My husband runs. Not away – for which I am grateful. But he’s been running since high school and a few years back a running mate informed him he was part of a select group who have run an under 3 hour marathon in each of 5 decades.
Now he’s going for 6.
So Peter has been training for his 2020 goal. This May and last he ran the Pittsburgh Marathon, as his oldest, Alice, is in a PhD program at Pitt. She and her cronies root him on in a luau at mile 15. (This year they drafted a comrade as announcer.)
Peter did not run as well as he wanted. He takes it in stride but evaluates, analyzes and determines best practice for his build up to 2020.
As it turns out, because the Pittsburgh course is tough, only 5-8% of Pittsburgh runners qualify for Boston. Peter won’t look to get under 3 in Boston but, out of curiosity, I looked up qualifying times for 60-64 year old males. Peter beat it by nearly 40 minutes!
I wish I could be disappointed with a time like that!
My nascent opener for Mom’s Day night PCA gig:
We moms don’t always act divine; Nor manage, even in our prime; To create times of love sublime; Some days it’s just enough; To get by, breathing, on this earth; With those to whom we’ve given birth; Who do, for us, for all they’re worth; Fire proofs, refutes, rebuffs.
It’s not that I mean to complain; For surely it would be a shame; To raise a child whose only aim; Was to do just as we say; But I would not bemoan the fact; If that child should chose to act; In ways that kept our wits intact; Instead of in the fray.
Though if you asked me to speak true; I would have to admit to you; Though there are times my nerves seem to; Hold on by just one string; If I could manage to take pause; I would make note of one main clause; If I be true to this Mom’s cause; I would not change a thing.
“Don’t Label Me” should be labeled as genius.” Chris Rock
I agree. Though I’m only an eighth of the way through the book, it is upending my liberal, all-inclusive, ‘I’m in the right’ paradigm.
From page 9:
“…We’re attaching labels to individuals as if those labels capture the sum of who they are. Moreover, we’re labeling ourselves to the point of extinguishing our own humanity.
“…Allow me to elaborate. More and more of us in the diversity crowd label people as ignorant and insidious if they hold opinions that diverge from our script. We rally for diversity of appearance but we flake on diversity of viewpoint.”
Don’t label me, Manda.