Thursday, March 6, 2014

Framing with words - why division isn't as valid as we may think it is

I used to see words and identifiers as flat surfaces with a clearly identified meaning painted in bold outlines, which all must accept. With every word there was an acceptable meaning ... or two ... or three ... all easily distinguished from other words and labels.

"Christian" meant only this and excluded that. There were creeds and statements, verses and interpretations that defined who is with us ... and who is lost. It took a long time to realize we all meant something different by it, even when we thought we agreed.

Now, words, labels, identifiers appear to me like window-frames looking out on a landscape, vast or abbreviated depending on one's position. The larger the frame, the more often I will find someone means something entirely different than I do. They may stand over in the corner with their face pressed against the wall, looking at some hill or tree that I can't see standing back from the center.

I could fight over it, but why bother? If I know I can't see everything, then why would I attempt to challenge or blind those who see what I do not?

I trust and follow Christ, but I am not merely "Christian." Those who claim that word like a painting on a wall would feel betrayed by the constant changes in my perspective. I am the same ... and I am different. The more "the same" I seem, the more they feel betrayed by my differences. I don't need to claim the word to be who I am.

I am shy ... except when I am energetically involved in a group or talking with a stranger. Someone laughed at me for claiming that word recently, and I realized ... in a way I am, but I'm also not at all. It all depends on one's perspective at the time.

I am layered with labels, but I overflow their borders. Social limits and words do not define me unless they are in constant motion. Every day I move. I am a story among stories, and even I don't recognize all the layers that shape my path.  Labels are like an overlay ... letting me notice a contrast that might not always be evident ... but it is merely a contrast.

Poets and other creative sorts often take the frames off the wall and walk out the door with them. They overlap and entangle the borders of those simple boundaries; pushing limits; altering perspective; causing those who see meaning as an unchangeable painting of reality to falter in confusion or anger.

Some run from it. Others are freed by it. Both are valid responses. Maybe everyone doesn't have to be the same?

I'm giving up on clinging to stable identifiers and dictionary definitions. For every possible claim I could make about myself or others, sooner or later I find an exception. I'll still use the words ... after all, it's helpful to know when something is, generally speaking, blue instead of yellow.

Communication takes empathy for this reason--it is only by interaction that we can understand each other.

It seems I'm walking out of the house of set limitations, where frames are painted upon the walls so everyone would see the same view. And the house was a frame all its own, an idea of the possible places to stand. Even the Bible is a frame looking upon the larger existence that is making, mystery, love, and meaning.

I look at the universe from every step and see that the mountains are a frame; the horizon is a frame; the flower-face frames its own mysterious and tiny world; a cell is a frame; even the sky is a frame for the stars and galaxies I cannot yet explore.

I breathe deep ... exhale ... and take the next step into a new perspective.