Hitting Refresh

September 8, 2010 Leave a comment

|Photo by RandomChu|http://www.flickr.com/photos/randomchu/251646898/sizes/m/|

Just yesterday in a meeting of the Senior Associates at the Interaction Institute for Social Change, Gibrán Rivera made a comment about the ways in which being too fixed with an identity prevent us from getting to a place of liberation.  I’ve heard him talk about this before – and am challenged by it every time he says it.

In part, I’m challenged because I find myself thinking about the importance as well of what’s come to be known as “identity politics,” especially in these times (one of the things I cling to).  Though I sometimes fear what clinging too fiercely to separations may come to mean, I also am challenged to try not to swing the pendulum too far toward dropping all of that. But somehow yesterday it fit in with some things I did while on vacation this summer.

The previous day, I was on a long walk listening to a recording of Pema Chödrön talking about her continuing understanding of the ways that a fixed identity are the cause of suffering.  Specifically, she was talking about the ways that we fix on our identity of who we are and who others are and do everything in our power to cling to that – even when all evidence is to the contrary.  I’ve been playing around some with watching how this is true for me – the ways that I have a fixed view of others, or a perception of who I am, to which I rigidly cling – seeing what effect it has, and trying, even for a moment, to let that go.

And so yesterday, when Gibrán was talking, I started wondering about the ways this plays out in organizations or movements as well.  In what ways do our fixed ideas of each other impact what we can become and do with each other?  How might this limit our movements for social change? Are there also ways this strengthens our work?  What do you think?

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  • Curtis says:

    Very provocative. I think this quote by David Kundtz that I tweeted recently is relevant – “The more you separate what you are from what you do, the more you can do.” I also was intrigued by an article that was written by Taylor Branch (the Civil Rights historian) in this past Sunday’s NYT profiling Glen Beck and his march on Washington. I was struck by how Branch went beyond (or beneath) identity profiling to consider the meaning behind Beck’s actions. Not that I am a fan of Mr. Beck, but it was a refreshing non-polemical take. I guess we are back to the old both/and. Identity serves a(n often powerful) purpose, and sometimes it is not so helpful. How to hold on to both truths . . .

  • Linda says:

    Great quote Curtis! I’m reminded, as well, that Thich Nhat Hanh always encourages people to carry a little card in their wallets with the question “Are you sure?” written on it. It’s amazing to me to see how seldom I really am – even when I think I am!

  • Provocative question… and just when i think i am ready to give up the attachment to a fixed identity, something comes along to shake my world. This week it is the suicide of five young queer students. It is not unique to queer kids…suicide that is. or bullying. But it is horrific. It is makes me want to hold on to my identity as a queer woman tighter.

    I think what would make me loosen that grip is the knowledge and the belief that others in different parts of the many social justice movements would take a stand and recognize that violence against women, queers, people of color in general, immigrants in particular is NOT OK.

    I am pleased to see so many people responding to these suicides.. asking questions and mourning the loss. and proposing ways to prevent bullying and homophobic harrassment. Maybe i can feel the cement cracking a little.

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