This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
It's admirable how many people I know who not only live life this way, but don't seem to know any other way TO live. Candor about their beliefs, identity, and opinions are as second nature as the patellar reflex.
For some of us, though, there seems to be a guardedness about certain topics, and as one who seems to cloak parts of my identity from some, while sharing it so openly with others, I find the phenomenon fascinating.
Many who share my beliefs, or at least my belief that we need to be more openminded around hot button topics, know me as a leaning-slightly-toward-the-left moderate who - if a spiritual label is required - is a Buddhist / Unitarian most days, a skeptic other days, and on any given day, an existentialist who is hopeful that God exists and, at the very least, has a sense of humor.
My problem? The number of people I know from my past and current life who would find that previous paragraph heretical. This leads to notes from relatives who are 'praying for my soul', and the well-intended but misguided pressure to change my dogma or my dharma.
I'm finding myself less interested in what others think of me as I get older, but there are still those old ghosts of 'fear of judgment' that continue to haunt.
It's why this blog isn't advertised all over Facebook, but instead shopped to a select group of friends who I know - even if they don't agree with what I believe - are open to reading about the journey.
Yet, I realized I've done myself a great disservice for most of my adult life by not living out loud a bit more fervently. All it took was a couple of snide comments to get the Obama '08 sticker off my car after the last election. I mean, my guy won, why offend anyone, right? Or was I just eager to avoid confrontation?
Confrontation sticks in my - well, I won't use the word 'craw' because I'm not even sure I have one of those - but, it sticks in my chest, to pinpoint a spot, like nothing else. I cannot let a fight go unresolved, and I can't seem to let a relationship live with so much as a thorn it it's metaphorical paw without trying to mend it. Until recently, I called it diplomacy. This year, I've redefined it as fear. Fear of loss, fear of judgment, fear of standing for something.
To that end, I look around at how ridiculous it is that I think I'm fooling anyone. Let's go through the ingredients that make up the Tommy casserole, circa 2011: my office is populated with Buddhist photography, a chiming bowl, a half dozen Buddhas, incense, a meditation cushion, and Tibetan prayer flags. I swear, it looks like Richard Gere's study. I do yoga. I live in Decatur. I wear those creepy barefoot running shoes. My favorite artists include Bruce Springsteen, Michael Franti, and Tom Morello. Does this sound like a Tea Party Baptist to you?
As someone who gets hung up on labels, I have come to realize that most of the people who matter most to me are NOT that hung up on labels. Or if they are, like me, they are trying to rid themselves of such an attachment. What am I doing trying to appease close-minded people anyway?
I once told someone that if I were in a room with Dick Cheney, I would try to start the conversation off with something nice to say to him. We might spend the first hour in silence, but eventually, I'd find something about his suit or his tie that I could make mention of. Now, that's weak, though more common than many would like to admit. On the other hand, I don't think it's cool to unleash on the man, either. As many things as I might have to say to him, there's a way of sharing dialogue that errs on the side of dignity and humanity, and I'll always believe that's the way to connect with a fellow human being.
All I can hope is that those who don't understand what happened to that young seminary-bound youth minister-to-be who seemed to love doing Reagan impersonations for church talent shows went, will cut some slack to the dude in the lotus position who thinks, more times than not, "The Daily Show" is more accurate than Fox News or CNN.
It's a journey. I'm figuring out how to read the map, same as you. As long as I don't fall off the edge, it's all good.
Little joke there. You...uh...you do know there's not an edge, right? It's...it's round. We have pictures now.