Unsolveable Philosophical Quandires
To which I replied "Sometimes the most complicated things are ultimately simple."
He paused for a minute, and then said "That's a very Buddhist thought."
Amused by this, I then painted a visual picture for him that I have had in my mind's eye for many, many years (as I am wont to do with people on occasion).
"Take a dot," I said. "Put a few more next to it, and then add more. It doesn't matter, maybe horizontally, maybe vertically, maybe diagonally." My eyes lit up, my expressions went manic and wild. "But keep adding dot after dot after dot and suddenly you don't have dots anymore, but you have a line. And then you take that line..."
I finished it there, but it's how I see things a lot of the time. Infinite complexities leading to infinite simplicities leading to infinite complexities again and so on. And when I apply it to human existance, things get very complicated indeed.
The talk of "feminism" yesterday and my apparently Buddhist thought patterns have conicided in my thoughts again, and I am reminded of the difficulties of reforming society. We as "women" want to be seen as "just people," you see. And if I expand that thought further, to encompass all other cultures and demographics, when it comes down to it we're all "just people." We have a lot in common, and we all want to be treated with respect (however we tend to define it).
To me respect means nothing short of being seen as an equal, and being given no special or restrictive social treatment on the mere basis of gender, skin color, immediate cultural/class background, etc. Now, granted, respect must be maintained. If an individual wants to take out a loan on a house, for instance, and they have an absolutely horrid credit record of their own making, they should be treated as someone who could be termed a "deadbeat bum." And conversely, if an individual has been a loyal and stellar customer with a meticulously spotless credit rating, they should be given the best terms on a loan possible.
But everyone should be given a fair chance at the start.
However, the problem with everyone being "just people" is that we have the potential to lose certain important parts of our identities. Diversity is the spice of life, and such a wonderful thing to have. And certain "just people" have grouped together over time to form little divisions of identity separate from the whole of all the other "just people" people. I have mentioned before, I think, how poignantly this hit home when I began to learn more about Jewish culture from my ex boyfriend. I was completely flabbergasted at how there was an entirely different culture and way of life living conicidally with my own, and that the general way I was raised (with a somewhat Christian backing) was very much not the way that this other culture existing comfortably in our society raised their children. I felt terrible that I had never truly understood what it is to be Jewish until then. At times it's a very special thing.
And how could I expect anyone to give up the culture that they have been born with, that has shaped them in some way whether they went with it or against? Or the societal subculture that they identify with? More than that, there are certain inherent differences in gender that I fully believe are naturally occuring (only unfortunately exploited and exacerbated by societal conditioning). There are things that make me different from men both physically and psychologically that I want to be recognized, not ignored.
If we take away the larger structures that we identify with, then who exactly are we?
But back to the infinite complexities again, each culture is made up of lots and lots of "dots." And each overlaps with gender, causing so many other complex patterns of dots. And sometimes these larger cultures and genders want to define other entire categories of people as inferior. Women are placed on pedestals. "Minority" cultures in every country have to deal with debilitating prejudices against them. Misunderstood subcultures are sneered at by the mainstream, and vice-versa. Why can't we just forget about all of that and be people?
But some people don't want us all to be "just people." When women fought for the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1980's, those who were against it started making statements of "Oh, women won't get any separate treatment at all! You'll have to share bathrooms with men and everything!" And like most of us raised in American society, we recoiled at the thought. Surely, because of the differences of our genders we should have "separate but equal" bathrooms!
But now I look at it, and I find that I think that because of how this culture brought me up. "Men and women are different. We should not have to deal with each other's basic bodily drainings/excretings, because that involves 'private parts,' and 'private parts' are bad." Why did we have to think this in the first place? What's so wrong about men and women pissing and shitting in the same public restroom? And yet, because it's been twenty six years that I've held this conditioning, I am loathe to change it midstream. (This also brings into question many, many notions and definitions of "privacy," which I won't get into here.)
If I am not a "woman," what am I?
If I am not a "single woman living in a one bedroom apartment with two cats," what am I?
If I am not an "artist," what am I?
If I am not a "Marketing and Media Coordinator," what am I?
If I am not an "American," what am I?
If I am not "mainly from Florida," what am I?
If I am not "forced to live in Orlando," what am I?
If I am not a "regular patron at a certain local coffee shop," what am I?
But if I am not a "person given the same equal treatment and basic opportunities that every other human being on the planet deserves," what am I then?
Where does it stop? Where does it begin? What point on the moebius strip did I come in on? At what point to I get off? And does it just keep going on and on like that? All that exists has always existed. All that is born has always been there and has always ceased to be. And yet we have taught ourselves to see time as linear, that our actions have purpose and are means to an end. The segments we see are framed with "start" and "finish." But in reality we're all just the same amalgum of energy, forever moving and still, doing what it does constantly, no linear purpose in sight, simply there.
And with a philosophical view of existance like that, it's really hard to get anything done at work.