To me, one of the best things about glass — beyond the whole transparent beauty thing — is how marvellously non-reactive it is.
You can put almost anything into a glass container and the glass will just sit there, doing its thing, not getting all hot & bothered, bent out of shape or just generally losing it.
Glass makes its case and stays there, firm and clear. It takes a lot to deform or start to destroy glass, though there are some things which can get into its molecular structure.
Humans, well, mostly we don’t do non-reactive so well. Reaction is easy, simple and for most people, fun. You feel something new, you react, lashing out, telling them what for, challenging and looking for a way to get some of your own in.
Freedom exists in the moment between stimulus and response. It is that instant where we choose what to do, letting off a knee-jerk reaction based on old habits or making a considered response. That considered response might be to find areas of agreement, to take time to understand what is being said, or even just to walk away, but it comes not out of quick reaction but out of thoughtful choice.
For most humans, instant reactions are exciting, intense and sensational. Like dropping a bit of sodium in water, we like the sizzle, the smoke and the bang of a high reactivity battle.
Non-reactive like glass is often seen as boring, intellectual, wimpy, compromising and without power.
It’s easy to know what we don’t like, what we feel we have to fight, what makes us sputter and lash out.
It’s much harder, though, to know what we do like, the thoughtful positions we we stand for, what we prioritize and value enough to create common ground and compromise about.
Today, social media is based on reactivity. Nuanced, considered positions can’t be lashed out in a sentence or two, don’t create pile-ons and click battles. Zing, bam, zap, pow; what passes for discussion now used to be the sound balloons on an old Batman fight.
Stepping back from the melee where people want to believe that the loudest and sharpest, the most entertaining responses are the winners has been crucial to me. Getting into slap fights, twisting quotes and playing for the news cycle seems counter-productive to me, playing the game of the spin-doctors.
The far right moved from standing from the kind of moral values that Confucius praised to using sound-bytes to generate fear, allowing them to manipulate voters to elect candidates who served the anti-government agenda. This all seemed a great plan until someone who was better trained in sound-bytes showed up and started to run the game, giving the now trained voters more of the reactive and ill-considered red meat they craved.
I understand why that kind of political game may seem like the only one in town, why we feel the urge to get our licks in. I just also know that once we start to play that reactive game, always looking for the next weak spot, the next power sound-byte, ready for the next event to use or lose upon, it changes us. We start to believe that there is only the moment, there is only kicking or being kicked, start to become manipulative and cynical.
To me, the legacy of all the transpeople who served as connective tissue across perceived boundaries in human culture is the truth of the eternal. We have stood for transcending the momentary welts of pain to see something larger, spoken to the intense truth that human are not just the sting of our flesh in the moment.
That’s why I speak for kindness, for transcendence, for consideration, for connection. And I can’t do that if what I am expected to do is react strongly to whatever the next stimulus, the next sound-byte, the next attack is.
It is being centered, aware and safe in my own skin that allows me to come from my strength. My hard won ability to not be owned by the third gotcha, reacting to everything I feel in the world, allows me the power of playing my game rather than being trapped in theirs.
If you are stuck in the past, you can’t claim your present. That present is, of course, the gift of being who you really are beyond the expectations and pressures of the dragon with “thou shalt” on every scale.
Becoming non-reactive, like the glass callan that moved me (1998), was the way I found to get beyond the herky-jerky battering that started when I was a kid and continued in a world that found me queer & overwhelming.
The thought of having to play the reactive game, especially by myself, just seems wrong and destructive.
I do know that is the way things are done nowadays, the way you get your message out into a world of warring notions, all vying for popular supremacy, but I never chose my beliefs because they could be effective in a crowded and noisy market. I chose them because they fit into a wider, broader, more human understanding of what is vital in our short lives.
Glass makes its stand, becoming part of the light, supporting and magnifying other things. It takes color and shape, caught in flow, as strong as obsidian and as fragile as a bulb.
Non-reactive means existing with intention, with a clear view of who you are and what you believe. It is, I believe, a good thing.
Although I am very sure that someone has an opinion to the contrary.