Angels vs. Demons: Burnier-Than-Thou

Original image by colodio on Flickr. Modified by Gyesika Safety.

I’ve recently begun rereading Elaine Pagels’ wonderful book “The Origin of Satan”, where she postulates that the social origin story to Satan was an attempt to moralize an inherent human tendency towards us vs. them. To take that sense of comfort we feel at belonging to a group, and creating that group identity through defining what we are not (them), and magnifying it to a cosmic level. I see this tension at play in the burn community I participate in and identify with. I see it within myself, as I self-identify as a burner.

There’s a term for this interplay of “us-vs.them” within the burn community: burnier-than-thou. It’s a recognized and accepted concept within the group that this tension exists. There is a sense of moralization, I do more, bring more, work harder, been here longer than you, therefore I am more of a burner than you are. In some sense this is true. Some people have been around longer and thus have done more. The inherent nature of us-vs.-them is humanity speaking the less pleasant truths of our nature.

The benefit of having a “them” is that is solidifies what “us” constitutes. On a basic level it’s “me” vs. “you”; we tend to self identify with what we’re not, giving ourselves a clearer picture of what we are. We can also accomplish this process for ourselves on a micro level of our own self-identity and apply it to the macro group ethos. I tend to view burners as people who contribute something to the community and to burn events. Whether that be art, their time and energy via volunteering, a theme camp, gifting, or contributions that I haven’t thought of yet; for me, being a burner means action. Doing the do that makes up our community and events.

However, not everyone agrees with me on this (as it should be). For some, being a burner is attending an event and experiencing it. For others, being a burner is attending the myriad of activities that happen through out the year, including online interactions. I can get into an us-vs.-them attitude, where I dismiss these other versions justifying one’s inclusion in a group that I cherish but that this mindset, though natural, overlooks is that we are all on our own personal journeys. Some of us will stay and contribute more, others will fade away. However your journey plays out, the experience of a Burn has the capacity to change you, if you let it.

Perhaps that’s the real lesson to be learned about judging how other’s view themselves. We can feel justified by our self-identity (personal or group) and intolerant of those who are not part of our group. We can become exclusive, instead of inclusive. When we allow a group, an event, life to mold us into new, more open people, we have experienced and contributed to that group, that event, life. I think this appeal to out better, one could say angelic, nature.

I think that my criteria for what constitutes a burner has shifted to “Were you open enough, even just a crack, to let the experiences of the group, up to and including whatever event you attended, change you?”

“Not From Around These Parts”

Texas Bluebonnets by Gyesika Safety

Driving home from a friend’s beautiful wedding this past weekend, I got to ruminating on home and community and physical space.

I have felt displaced for much of my life. The feeling of attachment to a space (and the associated persona that comes with that) has always eluded me. I was born in Montreal but left when I was quite young, so I’m not really a Canadian. I was raised in California and spent 8 years living in Southern California but I was not born there, or in the States, and my parents were both raised outside of the US. I have never really felt like a Californian. I traveled extensively in my youth (Europe, Asia, Africa, North America) and have found comfort and solace in itchy feet because I don’t have that sense of returning home, once I’ve been gone. For many years, as an insecure adolescent, I obsessed over whether anyone would notice if I left.

Then I moved to Texas. A place with such deeply rooted identity with a physical space that being a native Texan is a source of personal identity for many people here. A place where the people identify with the history, the land, the ethic, the identity of the state. It seems that I had shot myself in the foot on finding that sense of home because I will never be a Texan.
I did not count on the immense power of Community and community. (“community” being more micro, the group of people who you are close to. “Community” being the larger social group that one’s community might be part of) Community that instills identity; community that gives freely of their time, resources and love. Community that has shaped my personal history and given me my story. One component of the wedding ceremony, that touched me, was when the bride and groom asked that the community take a vow to love and support them and their relationship. They recognized that community is what sustains us and they shared that realization with us. What an amazing gift.

There’s a bumper-sticker: “I wasn’t born in Texas but I got here as fast as I could!” That is not me. I was profoundly prejudiced against Texas: it’s ego, it’s people, it’s culture, before I moved. In the six years I’ve lived here, it’s gotten under my skin, I’ve breathed it’s air (and pollen, *achew*), it’s dirt has covered me and I’ve had it’s waters caress me. I’ve let the ego, the people and the culture in and that process has changed me. Some of the changes are obvious: I am no longer militantly anti-firearm, for instance. Others are more subtle. When I first moved here, I was dedicated to keeping my Californian clip of a speech pattern. As I have slowed down in this place, so has my speech (though I do not have drawl). I have always valued manners, I now value how manners can be used as a weapon. I’ve learned to become comfortable in my skin and I believe part of that stems from letting this place in and allowing Texas to become part of me.

I will never be a Texan. I will never be from around these parts. But at dusk, almost every day, I look to the Texas sky and my heart quivers and begins to sing a slow ballad of joy and peace. When I feel uprooted, I plant my feet in this soil and find my ground. My family is here. The family I found, all by myself. My children, my partner, hell, even my dog, are Texans. My community (and Community) is here and even as I am conscious that I am an interloper, an immigrant, an expat from wanderlust; I realize that this physical space, these people, the Community I found here; that is my home.

Big Girl Blog

Putting on the big girl panties. Photo by funkomavintage on Flickr.

This year marks the 10th year I have been using Livejournal and it has served its purpose over the years. I value it as a format; it’s been a way to connect with new people, learn random internet memes and is a fertile ground for processing. I will still use that forum for personal thoughts and reactions.

There has been another aspect to my writing lately, one that I have missed since leaving school: essays. I don’t particularly enjoy free associating and I have strong opinions, thoughts and one liners that have no place to conveniently land. As an introvert, it is not uncommon for me to “write” my thoughts into an essay format before ever touching paper or keyboard. Those prose thoughts need to get out and I have used livejournal for that purpose, in addition to the venting, 13 year old locked journal quality it has. It’s time to separate those writings into different formats.

So I’m putting on my big girl panties and putting some of those mental essays in a public forum, a non-locked down blog. It’s vulnerable and empowering at the same time. One part of me wants to keep my thoughts off of the internet another part realizes that the only way to truly manage one’s online identity is to be proactive about what is associated with oneself. I refuse to be scared of people’s reactions to my thoughts and opinions. Besides, I feel like I’ve now joined everyone in 2007.

Fleshing It Out: Why I like words

 

 

 

A sad sight for word nerds and graphic artists. Photo by smswigart on Flickr.

 

Frameworks. I like ’em. I have a special, passionate fondness for a well constructed *linguistic* framework. (Co-opted the term from Carnap but will be using it in a more general fashion to denote the way we, as a species, interact via language.)

Defined terms, clearly stated concepts, articulated arguments are important to me because life is so grey, so full of colors. The very little black and white that I am willing to accept (the linguistic clarity) frames that color, those shades of grey. The words we use are important — they have power, the power we give them to support our experiences. Even when I’m not hung up on specific terminology, the destinctions we make in words are incredibly relevant to constructive experiences and interactions.

I enjoy the definition/ defining process as an exercise that creates the skeleton hang all the mushy organs, hard working muscle and permeable skin of our actualized encounters with the world. If the skeleton is broken, weak or ill-constructed, the body is less effective. Hell, it may not work at all. I like creative chaos but I love to work within a well made framework more.