On Forgetting Our Boxes

I’ve been trying to build up the mental fortitude to express some of my thoughts on the current climate regarding sexual assault and it has proven to be incredibly difficult to get past the stages of frustration and anger. My blood pressure rises, I start getting shaky, it’s like a mini panic attack anytime I try to formulate a legible op-ed on the subject.

It’s not because I’m a radical feminist who hates men and condemns all penis-holders for their slights on society. Yes, I’m a feminist, but that’s a package deal when one considers themselves a Humanist.

It’s not that I am angry about any specific event, although I have found myself in a number of uncomfortable situations with men (and one with a handsy drunk woman), and have felt pressured, or assaulted, or ashamed of situations I’ve been in… no, while they were important pieces of my life, as much as any moment I’ve lived through, I was lucky enough to never be put into a situation truly violent or severely harmful to me in the long run–like many, many women have.

I’m angry, and I’m frustrated because it is so difficult to teach compassion to those who do not wish to learn. So many men (and women) have been raised by society, and by family, and sometimes by situational necessity, to believe that compassion, – and kindness, forgiveness, and all the peaceful qualities that the human race as a species needs to flourish and prosper – are merely weakness and apathy. I’m angry and frustrated that finding gender and racial equality in this country feels impossible to do with compassion. I keep looking for positive ways to mend the wounds, to encourage compassion in those who would think of no one but themselves – and I come up short. I get blindsided by my own anger that there are humans who would intentionally delude themselves and cause massive amounts of harm, not just to individuals, but to the very fabric of our society, all to avoid admitting that anything is wrong. It makes my blood boil to see such denial and such creative finger pointing and straw men arguments, all in the name of ignoring suffering of other humans. How anyone can intentionally gouge out their own eyes, to spite their neighbor is horrifying.

…But then I breathe, and I remember my own delusions. My own perspective is clouded, and questioning why psychopaths exist or how people can lie to themselves so effectively doesn’t help me, and it doesn’t help any cause, except the general disarray and chaos of our relationships with others.

I don’t like labels. I don’t mean in the “I’m so punk rock, you can’t put me in a box”, you can label me whatever you want. I just make an effort not to label myself. Don’t get me wrong, I know which boxes to tick when the sad gray person behind the desk asks me which color and genitals I’d like to be recorded as, but those things don’t have anything to do with who I am. My age, sex, race, sexual and political orientations, etc, are distinguishable qualities about me, but basing my entire existence on these things has never been something I was comfortable with. These descriptors aren’t what make me real. I exist beyond all of the categories that the world needs to have to classify me into smaller and smaller boxes. I’m not denying that I identify as a woman, or a mutt Caucasian of probably Irish and German desent, or that I was raised in a lower middle class pagan household, or any of the million other subcultures, organizations, descriptors and identities I could group myself in with. I’m merely suggesting that maybe… Maybe they don’t have as much to do with who you are as you think.

I know I am human. I think, at least. I’m what we consider human on this planet, or I look an awful lot like one. I know there are billions more that also look a lot like humans. And on top of that, there are billions of other living creatures on this rock right now who want the same things as I do. They want to live, and they want to avoid pain. That’s all we do at any given moment. Try not to die with a variety of actions both intentional and biologically ingrained, and maybe make ourselves a little more comfortable. We all hurt, and we all feel joy. Besides existing or not existing, everything else is boxes. Everything else, grouping races and genders and types and heights and even species is a tactic we use to avoid considering that other beings suffer the same as us, and that no one being deserves it more than any other, regardless of what boxes you insist they fit into.

Because when you start to consider the vast scale of suffering that exists in this world, it really, really hurts. Attempting to cultivate even an internal lovingkindness for the whole of the universe is fucking heavy shit, man. You can’t blame anyone for wanting to look away. It’s horrifying, the atrocities we commit on each other, for boxes and lines we’ve made up in our heads – or even just the unfortunate circumstances so many are born into without a second chance. It starts to paint a bleak picture of humanity. But we aren’t here to find the perpetrators – we’re here to feel their pain too. How could one feel driven to cause such pain to other beings, without there being a deep pain inside themselves?

When you really push that understanding to the next level – that even “guilty” and “innocent” are constructs of our mind, and attempt to cultivate compassion for all living beings, even for those we see as “bad”, a new feeling arises. A will to spread love, even to those who spew hate. A drive to not add darkness to those who already suffer so much – and we all suffer, so much. I will not attack anyone for their actions, whether I deem them immoral or disgusting or heroic (and yes, I do have opinions), I will not spread more suffering. I will watch my thoughts and words and try not cause more pain to any being, because isn’t there enough of that in the world? Even the most well meaning attack is still an attack. And when the entire world is a battleground, the last thing we need is another zealous soldier. I can’t argue compassion into anyone’s heart, I can only show them what it looks like.

And that is a practice. I’m not perfect. I say smartass things, I say passive aggressive things, I stereotype people, I defend my little boxes just like everyone else. But I’ve made the first step in acknowledging it and becoming a compassionate and freely loving being, and I’m making progress.

I can’t tell you how to feel, but I can tell you that with that great pain that comes with seeing the world’s suffering for what it is, there also comes love. Sympathy for all beings, and hope that every one of them can learn to lose their delusions and their boxes and see us for what we really are–One world, together, interconnected, with no descriptors that can defeat the knowledge that we all must work together with love and compassion, or we will surely perish.

Love everyone, especially those who only have hate in their hearts to give. We are one universe. May all beings be happy, may all beings be free. Goodnight. ♥🙏

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