According to several websites, there are approximately twelve hundred words that end in ‘ist’. Though I’m pretty sure some of them are made up words which I’m totally down with. If you want to make yourself seem like a badass at something just put an “ist” on the end of whatever it is you think you are good at and you can instantly become recognized as a resident expert on the subject.
For instance if I said I was a cruciverbalist you would know there would be NO SENSE in trying to beat me at solving crossword puzzles. Though at first glance, I thought the word meant being super good at eating vegetables. And my vegetable eating is about par with my ability to do crossword puzzles which is pretty much zilch. But I bet you too have now learned a new word today. You’re welcome.
But I digress from a place I haven’t even GOTTEN to yet.
With all of these words ending in ‘ist”, of which FIFTY or so start with the letter ‘R’ my question is did any of you jump to the conclusion from my puzzly attention seeking title that you were going to read about me confessing to being a racist?
Really? What the fuck people? ALL those words to choose from and you assume it’s THAT?
You clearly don’t know me very well.
I forgive you though. I really do. Because racism (and other words that create dark division) is on many of our minds lately thanks to social media and news reporters suffocating us with stories about mean things we are doing to each other on a regular basis all over the damn world, except in Australia, where apparently nothing bad happens.
So it’s natural I suppose that some of you would make the assumption that I am admitting to being a racist. Especially since my last blog was about why it’s my fault there is war. I tend to be a little dramatic in taking on the world’s problems as my own. And the truth is, I have been stewing for MONTHS about whether or not I am capable of intelligently writing about the subject of racism. It’s a dark, heated and emotional subject and quite frankly has given me a terrible case of writer’s block.
TWO painful months of it.
I wish I could blame the muse for the block but he and I are getting along relatively well. The problem is that I have been unwilling to sit down and FACE this subject. I’ve been full of perfectly logical reasons to stay away from it: work, kids, sleep, painting a bunch of things in my house BLUE while listening to the comforting voice of the late, great Bob Ross tell me from the television “Yeah…just tell the paint what you want it to do…it’s easy really, juuuuust let it happen”, me saying back “Yeah Bob, blue is where it’s AT.” And the muse is unwilling to chase me down and make me sit still. He is difficult that way. Apparently it’s an unwritten rule that sitting still is my part in this writing “gig”. Some kind of damn free will thing. His job is to whisper “H. You’ve got this. Just settle yourself down and focus on what calls to your heart and TELL about it.” And I nod at his soothing words, start typing and pretty soon sentences turn into paragraphs.
But this topic, this mean spirited hateful thing that is happening all around us from all different directions: it’s painful and AWFUL to have calling to my heart because I simply can not make sense of it.
The writer’s block hurts just as badly though, maybe worse, so I am sitting still now, doing my part and the muse is whispering to me: “Write it H. Make sense of it in YOUR way.”
So, with permission given to do it MY way, I’m going to take a little detour and talk about a phrase one of my friends recently sent me, suggesting I write about it:
“I’m an island of such great complexity.” -Author Unknown
My first thought was “Hell NO I’m not going to write about a statement like that! Whoever wrote it is self absorbed and braggy about being all complex, which means that they are above being “figured out” by the average Joe and henceforth are hoity-toity. But the statement has been festering in my head (annoying) and when that happens, well it needs to be addressed or it won’t go the fuck AWAY.
AND really? Doesn’t this describe us all? Each one of us really IS an island containing blood, bones, water and organs wrapped up and contained and physically SEPARATED from each other by this thing called we call SKIN. Damn skin that we hide our unique souls and our beautiful minds behind because we so often let our egos run the island and egos do everything based on fear. They try to protect us from looking stupid or being hurt by other islands that don’t seem to care enough about us to transcend their skin and say “Hey! What’s goin’ on beautiful complex island sister? You sure look different than me and that feels scary and so while there is no way I’m EVER going to know everything that’s going on in that fantastic brain of yours, how about we figure out a few things we have in common and see if we can’t get a little CLOSER to each other because I’m lonely and kind of wondering how I stop this sad, lost feeling from blowing up inside me like volcanic lava.” Our egos tell us “Why should WE turn ourselves inside out for anyone? Why should WE try and see past someone else’s SKIN and find out what’s going on below the surface? No one does that for us!” And so we all keep our distance from each other and our complexity remains unexplored. It’s just so much easier to judge a book by it’s cover than dig deep into the story.
So yeah. Islands. Which we can simplistically describe as little land masses surrounded by water until we zero in closer and see that each island, which has pulled up from a larger piece of land for one reason or another (maybe it was tired of being under water and wanted to see the sun) contains its own complex ecosystem defined by soooo many other things than just the color of the soil. And while each island is different and complex and thinks it is isolated, it is still connected in some way to the mainland, a.k.a. mother earth. It has just forgotten. See?
Think about that with me for a minute.
Now QUICK: what is the first thing that comes to mind when you read the word “race”?
I wish I could ask 10,000 people this question and see what the most common answer is. Was your first thought “skin” or a vision of someone’s skin color? Or did some of you think of a contest? Like a marathon or the Indy 500? Did ANYONE think of rushing water? If you did, you are either a linguist or a vampire. I vote the second option but only because it’s funner to think vampires are reading my blog than linguists, who can be kind of judgy.
Logic has never been my strong point.
But I’m going to try for a bit of that by taking a simplistic look at the etymology of the word RACE. The very first definition of “race” came about in the 12th century from a Scandinavian word “rasen” a verb meaning “to rush” which is akin to the Norse word from the 13th century “ras” a noun which means “a strong current of water or a rushing”. (Do you see now what perfect sense it makes for me to believe you could be a vampire? How else would you remember words from the 13th century? You look GREAT for being 600 years old!) In the 14th century it came to mean “the act of running”. It wasn’t until about 1510 that the word came to mean a “contest of speed” and then LATER in the 16th century, about the year 1540, the word came also to mean “a people of common descent” from the Middle French/Italian word “razza”. The English sense of the word at this same time period was a way to classify things like wine flavors, occupations and generations. Then around 1774 the word became associated with the idea of dividing or grouping mankind based on physical characteristics.
And skin color, to this day, is one of the more obvious surface characteristics upon which our eyes help us define, group, sort and sometimes sadly DIVIDE ourselves. Which is the most asinine thing I can think of. A skin race. Determining the winner can be pretty fucking subjective.
The reality is that despite the fact that the actual word RACISM wasn’t recognized in the English language until sometime between 1933 and 1934, this has been mankind’s thinking since the beginning of recorded time. Just because we don’t have a word for it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
I don’t think that we can pin this divisional thinking on any one specific person, unless you want to take the easy way out and go all the way back to the story of Adam and Eve. And heck if I know or care what color THEIR skin was. I bet they didn’t care either. They had a lot more important things to worry about than who had the best tan. Like that nasty meddling serpent who brought to their attention not that which made them joyful and peaceful and connected to life in this yummy symbiotic way but who instead LIED to them and told them that KNOWLEDGE was being kept from them and they were therefore inferior to God. And in this awareness they became separated from their maker, from the universe, from each other. Isolated, on a complex island.
Without the very knowledge that they had all along until they believed that they didn’t.
Does being aware of the differences between us make us racist? Does this disconnect that came about with Adam and Eve’s ‘awareness’ of being different from their maker, that same disconnect that comes about on a daily basis in each of our lives that causes us to strive to find meaning and balance and our PLACE in this universe by doing what we humans naturally do: define, sort, label and seek order so that we have some kind of comparison and the illusion of control as to WHO WE ARE and how our island connects to the earth, how our souls connect to our God, does this create division instead of unity, isolation instead of wholeness? But viewing racism as a journey toward wholeness seems kind of absurd.
“Absurdists” also focus mostly on the differences between us all but simply chock it up to the fact that the universe is irrational and meaningless and that the search for order and understanding just brings more conflict. Racists place superiority and scorn upon the differences whereas absurdists just throw their hands up in surrender to the chaos. There is no salvation in THAT thinking.
“Salvationists” (otherwise known as evangelists) while meaning well, often have a rather narrowly defined path for which to reconnect to our origin, calling all other roads taken to be fatal.
Yet “fatalists” believe all things and events are inevitable and without ANY option to change things. They say that we are powerless to do anything other than what we actually do. That things are out of our control. But there is NO WAY that our existence can’t be altered by the choices we make when we set ourselves out to discover how we are all connected.
My name is Heather and I am a connectivist.
“Connectivists” believe that life is a precious and amazing treasure hunt where we explore how we are all woven together into this fluid, infinite mosaic by glorious, loving, technicolor thread.
What if we all let go of our fear and tell our egos to rest a little? They must be so tired from thinking they needed to protect us from the knowledge we forgot we had about our eternal connectivity. We just thought we were all separate. It gets confusing when the colors are all so bright.