A friend and I were sitting out on the deck of a bar, hard by the Mohawk. We turned to look at a boisterous group across the way and looked at each other. I knew what she was thinking.
We were never that young. And we were never that young because we were never that free, never that uninhibited. For some reason, both of us were in the class that grew up early, learning to be an adult before we were a child. We learned to restrict our choices, to observe and consider before choosing, making a concious performance rather than a loose one.
Harvey McKay, in How To Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive, talks abouthow we can be a shark because we remember what it was like to be a shark when we were young, wanting what we wanted and getting it. But for those of us who didn’t feel safe enough to be loose around our family, who had to learn to keep our heads down early, well, that sharkness was never ours to own, so getting it back seems just like a call for danger.
When Bear talks about how being a human doing rather than a human being resonates, this is what I think of, the obligation for so many of us to learn to stay small. We become convinced early that we are “too” — too much, too messy, too weird, too smart, too visionary, too loud, too energetic, too overwhelming, too intense, too potent, too queer or too whatever the hell else.
For so many who have felt that way, they think the solution is to buy into the game that keeps us small. They explain why others are over the line, are too whatever, and why we are just right. “Well, sure, I stuff gerbils up my ass, but he stuffs hampsters up his ass, and that’s just sick!”
Those people distress me because their search isn’t to value and affirm in others what they find challenging in themselves, it’s to find a way to rationalize their choices by selling out others.
Bear comments that it is faith in our own worth and beauty that we lack. To have that kind of faith, we have to see ourselves in a context other than the mirror the world offers us, a reflection of how to play small so as to not challenge others. Somehow we have to believe that our allowing our bigness to show, allowing ourselves to be young & fresh enough to let it all hang out serves some purpose other than indulging our own ego or pleasure.
To me, that means the context of a creator who made us to “follow our bliss,” that our bliss, no matter how much it squicks others, is something that the world needs and will help raise all of us just a bit.
The question of where the line is between immoral & dangerous indulgence and healthy & constructive indviduality has been a big one for me. Where does wild freedom become too much, and where does tame comformity become destructive? How can we encourage beyond comfort, challenge beyond the status quo, while still protecting people and society from the effects of too much indulgence or too much fear?
That is the question I wish I could have asked older people when they started telling me to shut up and sit down, to take my own queerness out of their sight and tend to their fears & sicknesses instead.
How do we be affirmed for what we are — for how we are created & called — and not for what we do — for how we satisfy the expectations of others rather than challenge them?
I’m not sure I know the answer. I never was that young.