Tag Archives: humanity

Katmandu

26 Apr

The world falls out from under you.

They said you were prepared for this. The drills, the talks, even the seismological understanding. But apparently your buildings were put through no such rigor, born at a different time.

You are buried now.

You know help will come. It’s come before, to find people under the rubble of the lives they thought they’d prepared for. It’s all a matter of how angry you can be – will your heat show up on their scanners? Too much cold, uncaring detritus around is the real threat. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

This is what they prepared you for.

You know that elsewhere, feet still walk on firm foundations, the blessings that come with their more monotone landscapes. Fewer ups and downs, no sharp shadows at twilight to make you wonder about the curves and edges of the world around you. Safety.

You know you will be on their commercials. What – a week at most, this time?

Send help.

Send money.

Send you.

No – not that last one. It’s too dangerous for that last one. You risk other people’s lives and business meetings.

You understand.

They will try to sacrifice. Ten dollars, ten cents. Any little thing helps, but you will not be dug out of here with the shovel of other people’s well-meant quarters. Lives are bought in time and effort. It’s a pity now much you have to pay for that, nowadays.

But still, you understand. You understand why they can’t send more. They need that money. For their bread. For their gas. For their kid’s new start-of-school pencil box. These are what they build their foundations out of, and who are you to deny someone else what they need to ensure their world rocks a little bit less when they hear of disaster and misfortune?

A teacher calls about a scraped knee.

A lover calls to break a heart.

A boss calls to kill a career.

The news chatters in the background about an earthquake in Katmandu.

They will gather their children with their sturdy new pencil boxes close to them and clutch at the steadiest thing they have, eyes watering over with gratitude at this small foundation, while they wonder – what if that were me?

You wonder what it would be like to be clutching that pencil box right now.

Beside you, your hands try to curl into claws but they can’t because the debris of ages ago’s poor planning and yesterday’s shit luck prevents you from moving. The world crashed into itself, a byproduct of trying to stand up straight on too unstable a spine. It’s the way it’s always been. It will be again, somewhere.

It’s just you, this time.

You imagine that out there, the world is still shaking for you. Fear, anger, desperation at the rubble that provides too much metaphor for how humanity has built itself. They will fight for you, out of their own emotions.

You smile, a quiver of hope small enough to force its way past the crushing deoxygenation.

Maybe it will be enough, those other people’s movements.

But for now, you are still.

When You Are Raised In An Outline

17 Feb

I was raised in an outline.

No, not under a rock. Yes, I was sheltered, but not quite in that sort of way. Rocks prevent you from seeing the sky or the grass or the wind or the stars or the storms or anything, frankly, that isn’t already under that rock with you.

No, I could see more than that. I knew what else there was. I saw the stars and the storm and the lust and the poverty and the decisions and the choices and the birth and the death and the lifestyle and the beliefs and the very different ways of breathing out there. From my own little prescriptive outline, I could see all these other formats. Most I considered mere variations on the theme and format my limbs were propped up against. While I made my points in A-B-C some other person with really the same main header even if they said it differently was arguing for it as I-II-III. It was all right. We were really writing the same essay. We just said our oh so neat and oh so powerful five paragraphs differently. But we each still had our patterns, our expectations of our personal rise and falls and the great shape that our lives and humanity were supposed to take.

Everything else, the remainder of non-outline chaotic confusion, I just assumed was a deviation. An outlier. Those were not-even-essays where the structure had gone horribly, horribly wrong. They clearly didn’t work. They babbled. Said nothing. Destroyed their own sentences or tripped up their points later. There was no way anyone could consider them valid. There was no structure. No logic. No empathy. No – anything. No, this could not be a sufficient response to what the world, I assumed, expected of us all. This, as my outline out-dolers had told me, was unacceptable.

Imagine my shock and utter confusion when I discovered that these rules and regulations, this structure, this expectation I had molded myself to and excelled at filling – that it was not the norm.

I was the outlier.

I was the deviation.

My expectations were wrong.

The world was easier to get by in than that. It was crueler, more inattentive, it cared not for courtesy or protocol or forethought for one’s fellow humans.

Get your words out on the page; it matters not how.

So many babbling idiots – I understood then why the world so often wrote in blood.

But still – my ink, it glistened so.

Names, Not Labels

31 Jan

I love words. Obviously. I’m a writer. “Love words” is kiiiiind of in my job description. Words are lovely, useful, wondrous things with a great deal of power. And I understand that it’s important for people to have words, to have specific terms with meaning, they can use to describe themselves. To understand themselves.

But all the same, sometimes I wish we didn’t use some of the words the way we do. Because as important as naming terms are, there can be a lot more damage done when they get turned into labels. When a word is no longer purely an identification but a categorization. Identifications expand an existence. Categorizations shrink them.

I wish that certain words would describe but not delineate. Specify but not separate. Define but not divide.

Words like trans, male, gay, butch, woman, and straight. Words like disabled, elderly, mentally ill, druggie, cutter, and poser. Words foreigner, Democrat, GOP, Libertarian, celebrity, homeless.

These words are not an evil unto themselves. But too often we – you and me, people – use them to draw a line between us, the “people,” and the others. By calling someone a label that we don’t share, we push them beyond the realm of the experience we have in being human. By carving humanity into little boxes of likeness, we lose sight of the fact that we are all, in the end, human.

And inevitably, some – even ourselves, even if unwittingly – are bound to assign a “naturalness” to one of the terms out of a group. “This is what’s normal, this is what the null hypothesis looks like, this is the ground state of humanity.” And the ones who don’t fall under that term become something strange. Something different from that which resides within us. We deny full legitimacy to those without our particular label and come to understand them only in terms of deviation.

Thanks to The Lazy Yogi for the image.

Thanks to The Lazy Yogi for the image.

But what if we didn’t look at all the ways humans can exist as deviations from ourselves? What if we recognized each as a fully true expression of all the possibilities of what humanity looks like? What if we viewed the human condition not as bound and filed in a dictionary but as interwoven with no particular hierarchy into a novel? What if we stopped categorizing all the words we might type out of those four keys in our DNA and started seeing how they all fit together to make a larger sense? What if we gave ourselves names, instead of mere lists?

I’d like it if human thinking as a whole could move beyond trying to force us all into our separate encyclopedia entries and started using all the words we’ve got around to describe, not prescribe, instead. I want an identity, not a categorization.

You can get more information out of a narrative, anyway. Encyclopedias and dictionaries have always been so limited in what they have to tell you.