A SYTYCB entry
(Content originally posted at The Continuously Factured Life)
I’ve been thinking a lot about passion lately – about the center of things, about heart. I’ve been thinking about how long things connected to the heart might last; how something imagined suddenly becomes real. I’ve been thinking about how it would be if I woke up one morning and my passion, or something/someone I was connected to, was gone. This week, a friend of mine told me she found out an ex-boyfriend is dating someone new and I automatically knew what that moment felt like in her heart. At work, I’ve been around when the news comes in that one of our mothers miscarried. I have no idea what that feels like but my heart still aches for the situation. I feel for what a person might have gone through before and if they choose to come out to their friends and family; I’ve been thinking about the loneliness before and after that point, and about what parts of the world are about to exist or not exist for that person and their friends. About that shift when the semi-real becomes the very real. I’ve been thinking about various types of emotion and passion and interruptions to both – what a body goes through when the heart drops or raises in response to pain.
A guest speaker at my church once said that there are, loosely, three types of people in the church – those who best love God, those who best love others, and those who best love the world. I love the whole world. A lot of things started to make sense when I figured this out about myself. This fact makes systematic injustice affecting a large number of people, vast to my heart. I’m also an introvert, which means I spend a lot of my life internally processing. Connecting these two facts means that I can quickly become intense about something seemingly small. I’m getting better at temperament, but to be honest, sometimes it’s hard to have the world on your heart and remain calm about it. If you’re also like this, I want you to know its ok and we’re going to make it. There’s this odd fear that we’re like ticking time bombs. But we’re not. We’re just contemplative and deep-rooted in something big. You might have to tell people this. You will probably have to tell yourself this. I encourage both.
I continuously think about the manifestations of being together. Of solidarity. Of suffering and rejoicing together. Last year I took a Queer Theories class, because I thought it would help me better understand how the world and gender mix together. One reason I study gender is that I want us to recognize differences with respect and acceptance and not in otherness. As an attachment, I want us to recognize that, despite cultural/societal norms, histories, and religion, gender is fluid and different for all people. That is a big task that just keeps getting bigger. I wonder what the world would be like if we raised children with that in mind. I wonder how much pain would be avoided.
In the first chapter of her book Undoing Gender, theorist Judith Butler writes about the limits we’ve placed on personhood. She argues that “certain lives are not considered lives at all, they cannot be humanized; they fit no dominant frame for the human, and their dehumanization occurs first, at this level.” (25) She goes on to suggests that a person must first be comprehensible before their oppression can be taken seriously, connected to, and grieved. If a human isn’t comprehensible to society, neither is their zeal. Butler is writing about people who deviate from the sexual societal norm but I think this works in other ways. I grieve for the loss of my one grandfather, but not for the loss of the people the world loses to AIDS every day. They aren’t real to me. I’ve been thinking about that: there are human beings in the world – in the world that I love – who do not exist to me. Where is the middle ground between not grieving for everyone all the time and still figuring out who doesn’t exist to me? How do we fight for real, specific change and also, be sensitive to non-grieveable subjects that still exist in the world? Should there be two groups? Which do I spend my time fighting for?
I’ve been following the surge of the Occupy Movement in the news, even though I unfortunately haven’t been able to participate in the Chicago protests. Like most huge movements/ideas/ideologies it has good and bad manifestations. The counter culture can create just as much exclusion as the culture. Mainline critics say that everyone involved is protesting without actual goals or considered points. For one, this isn’t completely true, although it is a valid critique. Secondly, if everyone is in fact protesting a multitude of things with no real direction, shouldn’t we then consider that the people aren’t getting what they need and then pay attention? And third, the hugeness of the movement shows the intersectionality of issues. What does it mean to just be concerned with capitalism, poverty, patriarchy, or military issues? How do we whittle it down to fight for specific issues we’re passionate about and still acknowledge that they’re closely intertwined with other important things? What are the implications of siphoning the public off into percentages? How do we make sure everything exists? Again, there are probably good and bad implications. There are various exclusions and ranking of oppressions within the movement. Maybe veterans are easier to stand up for than transgender teenagers, but both groups are protesting what Wall St. stands for. What do you think about that? That we can quickly stand up for someone who is recognizable (veteran) but not someone who is indefinable in the larger society (transgender person)? (I am not attempting to down play military veterans in saying this.) In the documentary No Impact Man, someone tells the main character that because the pop media is talking about his environmental projects, they aren’t taking him seriously as a conduit for change. Wow. Will the revolution be televised? Parts have been in the past, but is it the groundwork? Is it the real solidarity that is the revolution or is it just the loud mouthpiece? The protesters with familiar signs or the non-grieveable suddenly becoming real?
“What if those who ought to belong to the human do not operate within the modes of reasoning and justifying validity claims that have been proffered by western forms of rationalism? Have we ever yet known the human? And what might it take to approach that knowing?” (Butler, 36)
What are you passionate about and with that in mind, who is the non-grieveable subject? Who does not exist? “And what might it take to approach that knowing?”
Butler, Judith. Undoing Gender. Routledge: NY, 2004.