How Hard

No one can possibly know how hard something is to do until they have mastered it or something similar for themselves.

This is why masters are effective in the role of teacher.   They have made the mistakes, done the work, understand what is required to help another find their own mastery.

Today, though, placing value in that power of mastery can be seen as oppressive, insulting and retrograde.

Why shouldn’t anybody get to judge whatever they see, based on their knowledge and vision?   Isn’t the opinion of a fresh set of eyes, or better still, of a gaggle of fresh eyes, more relevant and useful than the hoary old view of a master?   Doesn’t the beginner’s mind hold the real quantifying revelation?

Great artists affirm the creative impulse in others.

Mediocre artists, though, tend to sniff in judgment.   Instead of identifying a spark of originality in a work, highlighting it and bringing it to the fore, they tend to apply the rules they use in creating their own work and only identifying were the other work — the competing work — falls short.

Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions.
Small people always do that,
but the really great make you feel that you, too,
can become great.
— Mark Twain

Rather than believing that creation is creation, that every stroke of brilliance reveals something strong and opens a space for itself, students usually believe that creation is recreation, just an attempt to capture a tiny slice of a limited and diminishing pie.

If you aspire, the right way can seem to be in the product, but if you have mastered, you know the right way is in the process.    Own that, get that vision, hone those skills, and the products will be authentic, unique and of high quality.

Trying to find affirmation and help from those who haven’t yet done the work of claiming their mastery is usually a futile and frustrating failure.   Instead of having someone encourage your spark, you get people who tell you how you are doing it wrong because you aren’t doing it the right way, which is always their way.

It is only when we have have found our own mastery, comfortable & centred in our own way, that we can delight in seeing others make choices we would never make for ourselves but that are brilliant, innovative and authentic for them.

If we don’t own our own uniqueness, we fear, constrain and live in irritation.   Projecting that tension onto others allows us to put ourselves up by putting others down, keeping our own level inside the barrel of crabs by making sure that no one can get beyond our own limits.

Facing our own call for mastery, though, is always daunting.   When a master sees possibilities in you, their expectations of you rise.   Those high expectations are a compliment, yes, but they are also a challenge. How can you get beyond the ease of being one of the crowd to polish & reveal your own exceptional nature?   How can you take the leaps into empowerment, knowing that engaging failure is the only way to claim success?

When that call seems too daunting, many try to find a shortcut.    They imagine that people who have already claimed their mastery know some kind of trick, some easy way to invoke what we desire.   If we just find the right person, their healing should be able to heal us too if we just cling onto them tight enough, just cloak ourselves in their magic, right?

There is no shortcut, though.   That’s what mastery teaches us: the only way out of hell is through.   We have to process for ourselves, have to find our own voice and our own practice, have to let the work transform us, making choices that pare away the false, pretentious and wishful to reveal the essential, the created, the shaped.

People find me valuable because I value and affirm the hard work they are doing in the world.    They find me a pain-in-the-ass because I challenge their assertions and believe they can show more if they are willing to walk past their own comfort zone, beyond their own illusions, neediness and fear to act from love.

For transpeople who have taken possession of their own emergence, this is very common. Having to had to make space for the queer and exceptional parts of who we are, we know how to see authenticity, know how to support vulnerability, know how to affirm choices that come from love over fear.

These transpeople, though, know themselves as individuals.  Group identity, assimilation and the oppositional doctrine that comes from identifying the simplified bits that we reject rather than the complex humanity that we embrace, is not fertile ground for diversity.   In those situations, symbol often trumps meaning, with a demand for surface conformity overwhelming deep communication of what connects us.

There are two LG/B/T events coming up within driving distance in the next few weeks.

“If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem,” the quote attributed to Eldridge Cleaver, seems to be the theme at TheTaskForce‘s Creating Change Conference in Philadelphia.   The scheduled workshops are full of language about class, race, privilege and oppression and strangely devoid of empowering individuals and communities to build coalition beyond doctrine & political correctness.

In reading it, I am reminded of a local organizing meeting that drew almost no participants.   When I tried to talk with one of the leaders about the failure to engage and bring out community members, she just wanted to talk about how they should be here, how they were wrong and misguided not to attend.

It was all their fault that they didn’t respond to the doctrine she was putting out.   She had no responsibility for meeting them where they are, for making them feel like the hard parts of their lives would be seen, valued and supported.

The other, TCNE’s First Event is seems geared for the closeted and the novices around transgender, which, face it, is the same thing.  Only with emergence can we grow beyond our dark, hothouse dreams, the wishes to not have to do the hard work of peeling back our own comfort and facing our own obligations.

Elderly Transgender Women Share Their Raw, Emotional Stories in Shatterbox Anthology’s: The Convention

For transpeople, conventions have always been closets, places where we show up before we go back into hiding, getting our fix of meeting with others who know how hard it is to hide.

Creating Change is the same.   Activists come together to tell each other that they are right and the world is wrong, that their doctrine will save the world if they just keep true to the faith.

I am very aware that I have already lost most readers who found this text.   To them it feels like noise, complex, convoluted and with no meaning that they can discern.

For me, though, the message is clear and cutting.

I know how hard it is to emerge as an individual, to face the discomfort & fear and then to push through it.  I know how to support people who are engaged in doing that hard work, with care, encouragement and challenge.

I don’t know, though, where to get mirroring, understanding, compassion and support over doing the hard work that I face.  Where can I go that people understand and respond from love, encouraging diversity, rather than fear that demands playing along, staying small enough to remain in the current comfort zone?

Gatherings of the faithful, I know, are meant to support the faith, reinforce the church, renew the beliefs.

Where are the gatherings of the seekers, those trying to connect and bridge beyond division?

No one can possibly know how hard something is to do until they have mastered it or something similar for themselves.

Where are the masters who can see and understand the work I have had to do, who can know how hard it has been?   Where are the masters who stand to help, to clarify, focus and empower the next steps, which are always harder, always beyond our own exhaustion?

Who understands how hard the work has been, what it has cost, and helps me understand why I can’t, just can’t, stop now?


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