Saturday, August 20, 2022

I, sea-monster

     Have you ever been in a situation where you felt like an alien? Maybe you were literally an alien, in another country or cultural setting, or you're a minority in your own country. Or maybe, some time in your life you got some devastating, life-altering news -- even good news, like falling in love and then finding out it's mutual -- leaving you feeling totally cut off from the ordinary, oblivious, everyday lives of all the people around you. Or maybe you're just a teenager, when feeling like nobody understands you or ever will is pretty much normal. 

    That kind of feeling of alienation is normal among neurodiverse people, too. I googled "feeling like an alien," and on page one I got 5 articles about autism and one about ADHD, and I don't think that's just because Google already knows what I'm interested in. It's a thing for gifted people, too. The Internet has been a godsend for the world's outliers, helping us to find community with other people who "get" us. And sometimes, we can celebrate our uniqueness. Sometimes, though, it just feels lonely. 

    I've been in the "I found my people!" mode for a while now, and it's been great. But I had one of those lonely moments last week. It was brought home to me by something I read, that the combination of multiple neurodivergences makes me that much more of a minority. That I'm not just rare, I'm, quote, "extremely rare among the rare." And it just hit me all of a sudden, that feeling again, of being an alien among the human race. 

    That was a Saturday. I was still reeling when I went to Mass on Sunday. I was really struck by the gospel reading. In particular, Jesus's words in this verse (Luke 12:51): ‘Do you suppose that I am here to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.’ 

    By the peculiar kind of association of ideas that happens sometimes, with a snippet of familiar text taken out of its context, all of a sudden this is what made sense to me: I'm not here to fit in. None of us is here to "fit in." We are here to be holy, and holiness is not about papering over our differences. It's about authenticity. It's about getting our egos out of the way, becoming transparent to the Holy Spirit. Every one of us is unique, and sometimes we "feel like" that's to be celebrated, and sometimes we "feel like" it's a tragedy. It is to be celebrated, even though sometimes our differences rob us of a certain kind of social peace. I'm not here for social peace, I am here for division, into my authentic individuality. This is about unmasking, again. And, too, I am a hermit, so after all solitude, solitude with God, is what my life is all about on a deep meaningful level.

    And I realized, too, that how I interpret "extremely rare among the rare" is up to me. Does it make me weird? Does it make me wrong somehow, flawed? Or am I rare like one of those exquisite, beautiful, fragile creatures that grow only on some isolated mountaintop in the Himalayas, or in one bog in one valley on one deserted island somewhere? I love the strangeness of those rare creatures ... and surely, so does their Creator. I thought of the line from psalm 104, about "the sea-monsters that God made to play with." Surely God delights in my rarity, and in the perfect uniqueness of every single one of us. 

    And then, came time for Communion. And "communion" is the antithesis of "separateness," isn't it? But it's not antithetical in the way that "peace" and "division" are opposites in that gospel reading, or in the way that masking and authenticity are opposites. Because "communion" in the religious sense is a sharing in the incarnation of God, and in order for me to share fully in that communion, there must be nothing in between me and God. No mask. No fakery. I have to be authentic, because only the creature itself gets to partake of its Creator. God doesn't become one with who I wish I were. God is the life force of the Real Me, whether I'm as familiar as a house sparrow or as strange as a sea-monster. 

    And here ends the alienation. Because God is the life-force of ALL Creation. God is the mind (cognitive, emotional, sensory, intuitive) of all humanity. God pulls us all together. We don't even exist outside of God, and God exists within each of us. The same God, one God, whether we believe in God or not. Whether we believe in anything at all -- in God, we are one with all humanity, with all life, with all creation. Hindus say, "namaste," which means something like, "the God in me salutes the God in you." Some Native American peoples commonly say "all my relations" to refer to both human and non-human fellow creatures.

    This is true. We are not separable. I may be an outlier, even "extremely rare among the rare." But I am not, actually, an alien. We all belong to one another, in God. 

†††  PEACE  †††

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