These days, being "fluid" can mean that your sexual preference can change...the phrase "to be fluid" has entered the vernacular to define a willingness to explore or lack of willingness to be "fixed" in one's sexual orientation. I first heard the term when working in private, higher education, probably about 10 years ago.
Today, the idea of "being fluid" means much more to me than the popular definition applied through the diversity and inclusion movement. Those who have debated the binary system of gender as two distinct, opposite forms of masculine and feminine are absorbed with expanding the nomenclature and distinctions. Sure, somebody needs to do this work. But, I am less interested in what divides us, or defines us as individuals, and more interested in what binds us, defines us, as human beings.
To be honest, I am weary of a world that INSISTS on binary arguments. Black or white. Republican or Democrat. FOX NEWS or CNN. Democracy or fascism. Liberal or conservative. Christian or non-Christian. Believer or non-believer. Right or wrong. In or out. Ingroup or outgroup. Rich or poor. Racist or anti-racist. Black Lives Matter or All Lives Matter. Hell, today, we can't even agree on what the word "PATRIOT" means!
I understand now why people defect from their beloved home countries. It's hard to feel like you "belong" in a place that not only doesn't feel like "home" but has developed a national psyche and way of being that does not fuel understanding and, instead, foments MIS-understanding. We are no longer musing and writing about some future "dystopia..."
WE ARE LIVING IN IT.
It's hard to just "be" with such chaotic conditions. Not to mention a pandemic thrown in...the stress, the anxiety, the sickness...how much more can we take???
Don't get me wrong. I'm all for the dissidents. Yo, history tells us that even in his time Jesus was a dissident. In Jesus' time, remember, if you followed his rantings, you were considered a "bad Roman."
Yes, someone has to fight to help change things. And, I deeply appreciate their dedication, and stamina. The experience of America today, for MANY Americans, is that of an authoritarian, oppressive state. We do need to continue to challenge policies, doctrine, our institutions...and this pandemic and time in history has laid us bare.
But the idea of "being fluid" isn't necessarily a political one.
So, what is this idea? A young friend of mine, I'll call her "P," says BEING FLUID is "being like water...
...Acting like water when things get difficult versus lingering."
"Otherwise, I'll sink," she says.
P is referring to the need to stay light, to be adaptable, to shift quickly...uh, and maybe, to stay afloat.
How do we do this, when all around us, there is unabating disagreement, distress, dismay, disenchantment, disappointment..more "dis-es!" dis- 1. a Latin prefix meaning “apart." Yep. (Rodney King had it right: “Why can't we all just get along?")
It's a psychological problem, really. Despite our best efforts in legal, economic, and scientific fields over the centuries to establish our systems and human responses as "logical," the truth is (as neuroscientists have postulated) that we are 98 percent emotional and about two percent rational.
What does "being fluid" look like?
In the emotional reactivity of today, people are generally acting from their FEAR zone. This is natural, of course. When you are operating from your natural fear zone, you are denying and avoiding. Or, you may be taking extra care to "stay comfortable," and "seek validation" (talk to others who look and think like you, watch and listen to media that supports your viewpoints).
Coming away from a fear zone involves entering a LEARNING zone. Learning is the evolutionary step that requires new awarenss, recognition, seeking, understanding. And, learning takes an individual to a new place of educating themselves, and even more scary—becoming vulnerable (admitting to themselves, and perhaps others, that there are GAPS in their knowledge, yikes! "I never saw this or understood this BEFORE!"). In the learning zone, a person may also learn to listen to others who think and look different than themselves.
The third zone—the ultimate goal in "being fluid," in my view—is the GROWTH zone. In this area, you will not only have learned new things and new ways of thinking, but you may actually be excited to promote and share your new learning with others. And, it's a strange and wonderful thing about being human that you may also be able to "sit with" the discomforts or tensions or dichotomies, even natural conflicts, between your old assumptions or learning, and your newfound "growth."
This brings to mind another conversation I had this week, with another friend...an older friend of mine. I'll call him "J."
J, like P, is very wise. And quotable. He is able to hold natural conflicts within him, and stay very clear on both sides of the arguments. Of course, he holds his side with passion and conviction, and is able to clearly articulate his strongly held views. However, it isn't the warrior in him that I admire this week. It's his way of capturing the essence of our conversations...this particular quote about the juxtaposition of our emotionally fraught, and DIS/DYS-functional lives stays with me:
J says: "Honey, life is CRUEL AND WONDERFUL." How right he is.
Don't sink. See, and feel, it all. Stay fluid, please.
Don't fear. Keep learning. Keep growing.