Please Pass the Verbs
March 11, 2013 by

Well, my friends here at Collective Inquiry may have lost their collective minds when they invited me to do a guest spot. It is an honor, and frankly a bit intimidating, to contribute to such a wonderful place of wisdom and depth.

Lately, I have been reflecting on the role of standards in our lives. Rigidly defined standards feel like walking on a tightrope without a safety net. On one side of the standard we gain the fleeting satisfaction of “success” and being “right.” The other side of the standard has “wrong” and “failure” waiting with its suffocating embrace. Ironically, the elusive feeling of “normal” lives on the rope itself and those attempting to walk the line become consumed with keeping their balance. This is the irony of rigid standards; the moment we buy into them is the same moment that the quadruplets of inadequacy, pathology, normal, and success are born.

However, it is through the lens of standards that many people, myself included, have defined their identity. Previously, nouns like; “Mormon,” “Therapist,” “Professor,” “Straight,” “White,” “Man,” “ADHD,” or “Anxious” were standards I bought into. Once purchased, these particular categories became the home of my identity. When I “measured up” I felt good, I was a “success.” It was a comfortable place to live. I knew the rules. I knew the expectations associated with the standards.Walls

As life and experience arrived on my identity’s doorstep, I noticed that the categories I bought into had become prisons with the illusion of comfort and support. My categorical prison extended its walls, keeping those people “like me” within the walls and those who were “different” out. When I would seek to accept “diversity,” I unintentionally raised and strengthened the walls of my own “identity.” Diversity, by definition, is recognizing that you and I are different. Categories that defined me are different that the categories that define you. The higher the walls, the more isolated we are and the more threatening “differences” become. The more isolated we feel, the more we cling to others “like us.”

I do not want to be a Mormon-therapist-professor-straight-white-anxious-adhd-man anymore. Rather, I would prefer to simply be a “Nate.” Maybe, just maybe, the words that I need to describe me should be verbs. Verbs that provide focus and vision that break down the walls keeping me from truly seeing others and others from seeing me. For me, “understanding,” “loving,” “faith,” “kindness,” “accepting,” “curious,” and “valuing” would appear to fit the bill. These would not be adjectives to describe who I want to be. These are paths to pursue. Paths without an end, infinite. I hope I never arrive at the end of faith, hope, understanding, acceptance, or love.

Humberto Maturana defined love as “opening up space for the existence of another.” I wonder what my relationships would be like if we each had space to “be” in each others’ hearts and minds. No walls to keep me in or you out. Differences in thought and beliefs will surely exist, and gratefully so. Differences exist because we are human. It is our birthright to grow and change. The seeds of unfathomable variety are in each of us. We are united because of diversity, not inspite of it. We are not categories. We are not our most sacred beliefs. We carry our beliefs, we wear them.

We are more.

We are infinite.

We are human.

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