Standing different: Diminishing the separateness of other

'She must find them before I do', image copyright belongs to Nick Kenrick.

‘She must find them before I do’, image copyright belongs to Nick Kenrick.

The status quo & fashion have become so normalised that anything outside of that causes fear and distrust. No longer taught how to, or allowed to think for ourselves, we trust only homogenisation to tell us if something is safe and agreeable.  We believe everything being pumped to us through the media and our fear of the external grows, as we block out our internal voice, lacking the courage to peep under the hood.

This trip has taken me to places that scare me, to inhabit a place beyond my comfort zone, breaking down my thought and behaviour patterns to question why.  Why is one thing (socially) acceptable and another out of the question? Who made the rules? Why shouldn’t I do that? Why can’t I do that? Do I not have a mind of my own to safely manage myself?

I too am a victim of the programming.  My mind jumps to judgement before my awareness comes on-line and knows that I do not judge; instead welcoming the other to let me hear and see them as they truly want to be seen and heard. I understand that we have our frameworks we run to limit the flow of information coming in and help us make sense of what is happening, but weren’t we told as children to not judge a book by its cover?  What changed when we grew up?  What do we have that’s so important that we must distrust all those around us?

As I swapped my business outfits for my travel/yoga teacher clothes and challenged some class rules, I’ve found myself being looked upon with suspicion and distrust. I’ve been ignored and treated like I had an infectious disease, rather than being treated as a human-being the same as everyone else, with a good heart and the skills to support myself creatively and financially.

Right or wrong, as a white, not unattractive, successful in my careers, British female, discrimination usually works in my favour.  When I ask for help in developing countries, most people are generally happy to lend a helping hand, I can pop in to use the bathroom of hotels and restaurants no local could & I’m usually received with a smile.  In the United States, as I travelled between friends in New York City, and used the time in between places to sightsee; by the simple act of carrying a guitar I was treated like a leper. Even two Danish people on the train who were initially reticent to engage in conversation with me, assumed I was heading to the Highline in Chelsea to ‘work’, rather than walk and enjoy the park, enjoying playing the guitar in a quiet spot to myself. They asked in a slightly embarrassed way if I made a living with my guitar.

Discussing with a New Yorker friend that I found New York strangely unfriendly, because whilst people didn’t want to stop to help with directions and advice, once stopped and engaged with they were very friendly. My friend suggested that it was because New Yorkers have a problem with being asked for money and because of the way I was attired thought I was approaching to ask for money. This seems a much more exaggerated version of the British horror at being approached by an absolute stranger, which comes more out of social awkwardness at being called to maintain the unwritten code of British conduct than fear of the other. Sad that anywhere in the world the other is seen with such separateness, such fear in an immediate jump to totally the wrong conclusion.  Whether looked from a perspective of universal consciousness or universal human-ness, we are all the same jumbled up bunches of atoms, why can’t we look with wonder at how this combination of atoms walking towards us is made up, rather than made wrong.

In this celebration of Capitalism, the mighty, towering New York City; the home of the beatniks who migrated the oppression of prohibition and their parents’ rules, artists are no longer celebrated and supported.  They might ask for something. Probably money.  We wouldn’t want that.  It might discourage them from getting a job like everybody else.  Isn’t Art for free?

How could we even begin to pay somebody for the total devotion of their life to their craft? What is the price we pay for the furthering of our culture and for providing a history outside of world wars.  Visionary, sensitive souls whose eyes view the world differently and cleave themselves in to pieces to express what is in their souls; how do we calculate their value?  Whilst sadly the artist seems better celebrated achieving their fame with death, once upon a time, we used to care for them in our communities and welcome their view, their contribution, their darkness and light. 

I wear many hats and suits. Like the Steve Miller Band,  “I’m a picker, I’m a grinner. I’m a lover and I’m a sinner. I play my music in the sun.” I’m a gardener, I’m a teacher. I’m a traveller and I’m a worker. I play my music in the sun.”  As I persisted in trying to interact with the people trying to ignore me, once it was clear it wasn’t about money, New Yorkers were quite helpful.  I wonder how the reaction would have been had I been wearing a business outfit and been carrying my guitar?

Everybody has a story and nothing is as it seems.  I have been challenged to look beyond my preconceptions and understand my socially programmed prejudices to witness without judgement or fear and I hope never ever to be afraid of a stranger. They are just somebody I haven’t met yet and they probably have a lot to teach me.  As somebody who is unnaturally worried of how the other might perceive them, it has been immensely liberating to break free of thes shackles I have allowed myself to impose. 

As London embraces a new mayor of Muslim ethnicity I hope we are entering a new era of accepting others for how they act and what they stand for rather than how they look and where they come from. There is hope and I have never been more proud of you London. 

Thanks to Nick Kenrick for the image ‘She must find them before I do’  

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