It's a Playground, not a Cemetery

The most difficult aspect of adult life for me is understanding that our societal identity is formed around a bunch of agreements which mask as Absolute Truth yet tend to shift over time so they often feel extremely arbitrary. Interracial marriage was still illegal in parts of the US until 53 years ago, and it took a Supreme Court ruling to overturn those laws, but sure, everything we believe now is totally moral and true. Of course we won't look back 53 years from now and shamefully shake our heads at all those people who refused to wear masks during a pandemic. Surely not!

It's not that we've hit upon some perfect way to live. It's that, as a species, humans tend to fear and mistrust what's foreign, and nothing thrusts us into the Great, Foreign Unknown more expediently than change. And yet we do change! There are innumerable agreements which we have reevaluated and reformed. In the US, discrimination on the basis of race or sex is unconstitutional. Slavery is illegal. 40 hours a week is considered full time and workers have a basic set of rights. How well these laws are carried out is arguable, but they do exist now. Conversations have drastically changed in just the last half decade around trans rights, mental health, police brutality, drug decriminalization, and healthcare availability. We are reaching new social issue tipping points with each passing year, spurred on by how easy it is to connect to like minds thanks to the interwebs.

The uncomfortable, invigorating truth of it is, there are few real rules. We've been making it all up as we go, continuing to evolve practices and agreements as our evolution inevitably alters the world around us and the ways we live. I'm on board with practicing a basic code of conduct to keep people safe, but beyond that we are free to organize ourselves in any way. The only limits are what we choose to value, and how courageously creative we can be in envisioning a fresh reality we have not yet tasted. In a conversation with an older friend this week, she expressed concern about the possibility of drug addicts taking advantage of a universal health care system and I asked, "What if we entirely shifted the way we talk about and treat addiction? What if we built a society that takes better care of people at every level?" We can! It is possible to break the stranglehold agreement of capitalism that pits people like my friend against people who badly need care, as if my friend has more in common with Jeff Bezos than she does with the vulnerable. (She agreed that this sounded good, and we began brainstorming ideas around what it might look like to better care for and value people. I will infect every older person I know with my "radical" lefty socialist ideas, but definitely not with COVID 'cause you know I'm wearing a mask. WEAR A MASK.)

The last few years have been a deep clean of my agreements. I'm taking out every single idea, expectation and "truth" from the cupboard and checking its expiration date. Scrolling its ingredient list. Identifying its place of origin. Let me tell you, a LOT of that shit is stale as hell and does not spark joy. Dr. Thema tweeted this applicable wisdom, a version of which has been floating around in meme form: "Pay attention to your patterns. The ways you learned to survive may not be the ways you want to continue to live. Heal and shift." 

Adhering to familial or societal agreements may keep us accepted and fed, but it will not honor our unique needs. Not all agreements are necessarily toxic or unworkable, but every one of them is worth critically examining, especially the ones that seem Absolutely, Obviously True. I remain unconvinced of any clear meaning or purpose to human life, other than to follow the urges of my heart guts and see where it leads me. I'm committed to making choices that alleviate suffering, or at least don't cause any more harm. Following the map of my past will not lead me anywhere new. Living into a fresh reality I have yet to taste means being brave enough to engage with the Unknown. That is, to change. To not seek parity with the past, but to courageously iterate a healthier, more honest and pleasurable future. It is possible.

This world is a playground. It's colorful, lively, full of creativity and innovation. It is a place to practice new skills, learn and grow, a place where we are changing because we are still alive. There is no One Way that is is right for everyone and nothing works forever. If we're honest, we'll see that every day and every season of our lives requires slightly different strategies to thrive. And make no mistake, thriving is for you and it's for you in the exact way that suits you best. Break any agreement that confines you to small, shallow joys, to parity with others or to the past. Nothing is absolute, fixed or finished. You are not yet interned in the earth for a great sleep. As long as you are alive, you get to change. It's not too late to follow the urges of your heart guts and make your own meaning.



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