Today I’m searching for words that effectively explain something I’ve learned this week. It’s something I’ve spent the past 30 months learning, and I’m realizing what I’ve learned comes with a lot of understanding. And that understanding leaves me wondering if words of explanation even exist, or if this is one of those things you know, and understand, or one of those things that doesn’t even exist. One of those invisible things no one ever looks at.
I wanted to look at “living outside your comfort zone” this morning. But, when I started looking, I found nothing but old clichés, old pep-talk, motivational crap that no longer has any meaning, if it had any meaning to begin with. I could only find homogenized, mass-marketed drivel, that for all intents had become useless. Everything said the same thing, in the same meaningless way, “To grow, live outside your comfort zone.” Everyone knows that saying. Everyone understands that saying. That saying no longer has any meaning.
So, I fall back to old descriptive techniques. And before I start down the path of trying to find the words that effectively explain what I’ve learned, I have a few words I have to share.
I’m a Christian. You can say what you want about how I live, how I’m doing everything wrong, how I’m a profound sinner, how I need to grow up, how I need to learn what a real Christian is, or any list of similar declarations. The reality is, I’m a Christian. What makes people question my faith in God and my belief in Jesus is that I am different. The simple truth is I don’t behave the way “Christians” behave. I don’t go to church. I question the words of the church, of its leaders, and of its organizations. I don’t have a “church family”. I associate with all the wrong people. Let’s be honest here, I actually talk with people on Facebook and Twitter that write explicit erotic romance stories, stories of zombies and the zombie apocalypse, mermaids, and fairies, openly homosexual, bisexual, and trans-sexual people. People the Bible and the church have declared are heathens, and evil, and the source of the world’s problems.
How can someone like me be a Christian… I understand that. I live with that question every day. And I’ve lost count of the people who have left my life when they realized I would never be the same kind of Christian they are. When they realized I would always question everything they believe, everything they never question.
But, you see, the reason I am not a Christian in their views, their way of life, their understanding, is because I’m someone they don’t understand. I’m someone outside the definitions they live by. Hence, I can’t be a Christian.
I could continue on this single point for days, weeks, months, even years, and never reach an end to this topic, this discussion, this idea. For me, it’s a black and white item, a yes/no item, an either/or item. I’m either a Christian, or I’m not. And I believe I am. You believe what you wish to believe.
So, I pull out my old standby, the Christian. I start with them. The world would not be the same without them, so I’m very glad they exist.
I’ve said before, “I watch people”, and I do. I have to watch people. I have to study the way they behave, the way they think, the actions they take, the facial expressions they make, the environments they live within. People are social. Even I am social. Yes, I live with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, and my social skills are severely limited by that disorder. Where social activity comes easily to many people, it doesn’t come easy to me, or to people like me. But I can behave in a social way. I can mimic social behavior, and with enough time I can begin to understand it.
My observations have, in the past thirty months, demonstrated endless rifts, chasms, gorges, oceans, and other divisions between different social groups, different social structures and different people. I don’t target “Christians” in the following, I simple have observed more “Christian” and “non-Christian” interaction than any other kind, so I have more stories of observations available for discussion that are specific to “Christian” and “non-Christian” social groups. As my observations spread to include other social groups, I’m finding similar divisions between them.
What I’m finding in my observations that are absolutely terrifying, and heartbreaking, is how few people within a specific social structure can reach across any of the divisions to any other social structure. I call each social structure, “the land of gray” because of that isolation I see surrounding each of them.
If I look at the non-inclusive “Christian” group, and its ways, and bounce that group against the non-inclusive “liberal” group, I find the two groups fight with each other endlessly. I also find neither side understands the true nature of the conflict any more. The separation between them is so divisive, so engulfing, neither side can speak the same language. They use the same words. They say the same things. But in each group, the words have different, distinct meanings. Using a dictionary to communicate with the two groups, and selecting the same dictionary definitions for each word to use the same language between the two groups is useless, because the words of the definitions have different meanings to each group.
So the two groups fight endlessly with each other. Neither group able to bridge the gap that lies between them. It is, to me, as if people from the planet Venus were trying to explain life to people from the planet Mars. It’s as if people from two different, incompatible worlds, decide to stand across the hall from each other, and scream at each other. There is no common ground. No understanding between the two groups. No communication between the two groups.
What happens when two people don’t understand each other, when they are unable to interpret each other’s actions, ways, words, beliefs and lifestyles? Is this a source of human wars, human conflict and human violence?
It saddens me greatly to see people unable to reach across these separations and divisions. Especially when the people in each social structure declare they believe, and embrace, diversity. Especially when they proclaim diverse views and ways are what make us, as a whole, stronger, healthier, smarter and better. It’s as if they are screaming, “We’re diverse so long as you believe exactly what we believe, and understand the universe just like we do!”
Which isn’t diversity at all, is it. Rather than being diverse, it’s a world filled with islands, each island being monochrome, each island being another shade of grey.
How do I find the words to explain such things to people? How can I show people what I see? When the words I speak are the same words they use, but each word means something different to them, something I never said, but something they heard?
How can words bridge such a divide?