Message of the Month
He is a father of three, they say. She is a Nobel Prize winner. He is a missionary. She is a doctor… As if by these categories, we are meant to understand who and what that person is.
Well, Michael Jackson is a father of three. The Nobel laureates are as different from each other as trees in a botanical garden. And so it goes for missionaries, doctors, lawyers, fathers, bag ladies, streetwalkers, politicians, cops, daughters, friends, etc. etc.
It is almost as if by categorizing, we can put a circle around the individual and grasp them in a way that we can deal with them. It is as if we are trying to run away from dealing with their uniqueness, perhaps because that will demand us to be open, observant, and creative… all at the same time. And this is too much of a burden to place on ourselves.
So very conveniently, we create categories and pigeonholes. We try to fit people into their respective pigeonholes. And if they don’t fit in, we qualify the pigeonhole… we say things like he is a compassionate doctor, or she is a nice politician… as if the qualification of the classification gives us the handle that we could not grasp earlier.
But why do we do this? Is it because it makes life easier? Perhaps. But doesn’t it also diminish from the vastness of the individual that we’ve come to talk about? Are we not depriving ourselves of the unique experiences that we can only gain with that unique individual?
Or are we doing this because in a reflective way, if we acknowledge the uniqueness of the "other", we must also acknowledge the uniqueness of "ourselves"?
Could it be that being open, observant, and creative with another is difficult. But being open, observant and creative with ourselves requires infinitely more. It also demands us to be courageous, and have faith – have faith in ourselves, and in our world…
Could it be that in acknowledging our uniqueness, we also acknowledge our differences with the "other", and in so doing, we implicitly recognize our loneliness? Nobody else can feel what I feel – simply because they are not me. And likewise, I cannot feel like any other, because I am not another.
Perhaps the courage that we need is in recognizing and dealing with our aloneness. Perhaps the heroic exercise is to go through this lonely journey, and realize that at the place where we are most alone, and perhaps even most forsaken, that is the place where we are with the whole world. For no other reason than the fact that in our loneliness, others acknowledge their loneliness. That our point of commonality is exactly our differences, our uniqueness, and our loneliness.
Perhaps the only thing we are not alone in is our loneliness.
But alas ironically, the tranquillizer of categorization, though useful in giving us a handle on things, perhaps because it is useful in giving us a handle on things, is what separates us from ourselves. By insisting to fit ourselves as well as others, neatly into pigeonholes, we pretend that we are together – that we are not lonely. But deep down we know that each of us has bits sticking out of the pigeonhole – bits that are solely ours – bits that no other soul in the world possesses, and no pigeonhole can confine. And the only way we will fit neatly into the pigeonhole is to cut off those bits – to deny our uniqueness, our divine gifts.
Paradoxically, the very gifts that we try to deny ourselves, are the very gifts that can bring us out of the loneliness that we so desperately try to avoid.
© Shahriar Shahriari
Los Angeles, CA
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