Monday, November 29, 2010


Rory Miller has put to words what I have felt in many social exchanges throughout my life. I cannot say I fully understand or can realize first hand, perhaps, everything written here but I have glimpsed its truth.

Apostates: "This is going to be complex.
One of the tenets of Conflict Communications is that people belong in groups. We are all members of at least one and usually many groups. Whether that is a tribe, a school, a tradition, a family, a club, a profession or something else. People don't survive well on their own-- either physically or psychologically.

Groups have rules. You can call them mores (pronounced moray, like the eel) if you want to go all anthropological/sociological. A group without rules isn't a group. NOT because rules are the bedrock of social control but because rules are the bedrock of identity. Dietary laws may or may not have had survival value in the past. The fact that they continue even when they do not is a sign that their primary value is one of identification.

There is no identification value in common sense. Any society that survives will value, for instance, trust within the group and productivity. No society will survive that doesn't value self-preservation (and this is one to look at because what someone says they value or what a group honors, like martyrdom, doesn't actually happen all that often. The words and the music of many cultures are not truly in accord.)

This means the identity value is in the silly stuff-- the stories and myths and ritual. A Christian is not defined as someone who is meek and kind to others and honors his parents. A Christian is defined by the belief that a man-god got nailed to a Roman torture/execution device and quit being dead three days after being buried.

You can follow every law and rule and live with what people might call perfect Christian ideals, but if you don't believe that piece, you can't be a member of that group.

So every group has mores that are arbitrary if not down-right weird, because those are where the group identity rises.

And this is where the edge-walkers come in. I can't speak for everyone, but one of the things about almost dying is the way it clarifies things. Lots of things are bullshit and once you see that, once you see the value of breathing when someone has tried hard to stop you AND you see the inevitability of the end-state of not breathing, your identity doesn't come from labels and rituals. Maybe, in the end, your identity doesn't even need to be.

So loving your neighbor makes sense, because there is only so much time to get loving in... but heaven doesn't matter. Heaven is not good or bad or true or untrue. Heaven DOES NOT MATTER. The rituals and the myths do not matter. If I like you, what do I care about the patch on your shoulder or which party you vote for or where your ancestors came from? If your waiken has forbidden you from eating birds, other than some menu switching, your myths don't affect my friendship (or dislike) for you.

When the edge-walker gets to this understanding, he is neither fish nor fowl. He does fit into a tribe, in his own mind. He values what he values- the good works and the people themselves. He does the right thing. He will give his life to protect these people, myths and all, and will not feel slighted or ashamed to do it. He is one of them, on a deeper level than they can probably feel because it is not a matter of ritual and the random chance of birth. The edge-walker chooses.

But he will no longer be accepted as one of them. Without the rituals and the myths, the trappings, he cannot be identified. 'Because he serves us and will die for us does not mean that he is one of us.' He hears it rarely, but sees it again and again. This is the separation, one of the most unexpected and disturbing things if you spend too much time on the edge.

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