Friday, March 30, 2012

Arbitrary Division

I want to learn about my people. All of my people.

For years now, I've been struggling with my cultural identity. At first glance, I thought I didn't have one. Others seemed to be so sure about what cultural group or subgroup they belong to. Many have traditions and values going back an untold number of generations. But I was always at least a little outside of these groups and subgroups. Even the ones I later identified as mine (the “American”, the sci-fi lover, the math geek, etc.)

This made me feel... disconnected, somehow. Disconnected because from time to time I would glimpse personal meaning in those traditions, stories and customs. And yet, because those traditions were not mine, because I was not a full member of those groups, and because I could not bring myself to accept 100% of any given set of values, I remained an observer. Don't get me wrong, one can potentially learn a lot as an observer. But not everything I need to learn. It's always, “Hey, that's an interesting culture, I wish I knew more about it”, and rarely, “The meaning behind that tradition is part of me”.

However, perhaps I am lucky that I don't fit into any one particular group. There may be some I would thrive in more than others, but I don't think I could ever again limit myself to a single outlook. Not since the first time I saw things from a new and completely different perspective. Today I realized what group it is that I belong to: humanity. Yes, I've thought this before, as passing idea, but today I truly believed it, felt it so clearly that it's as if it's always been this way, though I know I haven't always seen it as such.

War cannot even pretend to make sense to me now. The invisible walls between peoples, proclaimed to be so impervious by those who work so hard to make them, are like tiny lines drawn in the sand. It's as if I spent my whole life studying those lines, pondering over the symbology and meaning of their shapes as they are drawn and redrawn whenever waves obscure them, only to realize one day that it was only sand I was looking at all along.