Have you ever seen a mime? Kind of creepy dudes (though they probably have compelling stories, like this guy). A big routine with mimes is the box illusion. They move their hands around them as if exploring a flat surface directly before, behind, and above them. They’re surrounded on all sides by something that doesn’t exist.
As I mentioned in a previous post, we’re quick to label. It helps us make sense of the world around us. Democrat. Republican. Hippie. Yuppie. New Yorker. Southerner. Immigrant. Choleric. Sanguine. INTJ. High schooler. Retiree. We collect data points about the people around us, but somehow these pinpricks bleed into the margins. We define people. We define ourselves. We make assumptions based on our definitions.
No matter your questions - purpose, sexuality, vocation, career - here’s the trick. There’s no box to fit into. There’s no box to break out of. There is no box at all.
St. John Paul II wrote a pretty intense letter to his friend, theologian Henri de Lubac. He said,
“I devote my very rare free moments to a work that is close to my heart and devoted to the…mystery of the person. It seems to me that the debate today is being played out on that level. The evil of our times consists in the first place in a kind of degradation, indeed a pulverization, of the fundamental uniqueness of each human person.”
There is no box. There are people. Gloriously, uniquely, complex, unrepeatable people.
Of course, we want to “fit.” We want to make sense of ourselves. The Church offers this reasonable caution, saying “every man remains to himself an unsolved puzzle, however obscurely he perceives it” (Gaudium et Spes 21).
It’s easy to think categories for sexual preference or gender can help us understand ourselves. In the face of this “unsolved puzzle,” it’s no surprise that the list of sex and gender descriptors are limited only by the human imagination. Once we find the perfect label, then we can settle into it. Be who we are.
But how many boxes do we have to live in? How many things could define us? Our romantic and sexual preferences, sure. But what about our job or degree? What about our neighborhood, our family, our geographic region? What about who we voted for? How about the things someone did to us when they thought no one would find out? What about our own mistakes? At some point we have to admit the truth to ourselves. Self-knowledge is good, but
self-categorization turns into a tangled mess.
For better or worse, each of us is composed of pieces, parts, fragments of the whole. We’ve each received the gift of ourselves straight from the hand of God the Father, a multi-faceted diamond precisely cut to refract His light into a dim world.
You are you. All of you.
Step out of the pantomime.
There is no box.