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We Are All Skeletons

One day, a day I am unlikely to live to see, humans will no longer care about race. Identity politics will have been relegated to the dustbin of history. Perhaps even identity as we’ve come to emphasize it – based on religion, sexuality, etc. – will be a relic of the past. One of the reasons I called this blog “à la carte spirit” is out of a recognition that identity is not constant, it might not even be visible, nor is it determined by others. We can choose within our own menu of personality traits, family history and life experiences what we wish to bring forth at any given moment. My blog title, even if its meaning is ambiguous, is less cumbersome than if I had decided to call it by the identifiers that society has or could heap upon me. Imagine if I’d named it the following: the assorted writings of a multi-lingual, introverted, nature-loving, heterosexual, single, Jewish, gluten-free and alcohol-abstaining female Pisces? Talk about a strange mouthful, and that’s not even all of the labels I could claim. I could toss in where I went to college, that my father survived the Holocaust, that I love cats, eat sushi and drink copious cups of tea. And talk about nonsense, especially the astrological sign part. I have little patience for people who wish to perceive me through that particular filter. If you were to introduce me to someone based on any single label, or even a handful of labels, I’d cringe or flinch inside, because it feels like being reduced to a shorthand. Even “Jewish” is imprecise: what it means to me today is not what it meant to me 30 years ago or 10 years ago. We are all far larger than the labels we wear, whether by choice or coercion, such as the yellow stars Nazis forced the Jews to wear, before stripping those who survived of everything but their skeletons.

One day, a day I might live to see, elementary school children will learn, from a full-sized skeleton that is permanently parked in their classroom, about basic anatomy and how their bodies are designed to function. In this culture, skeletons are relegated to the metaphorical closet, representing some dastardly secret a person is trying to hide. They surface on Halloween, intended to frighten us. Yet why should our bones, which keep us upright and moving, be so terrifying? In my Feldenkrais training, a group of us, men and women of different shapes, sizes, genders, ages and pigments often stood around a skeleton and studied it, bringing to the forefront what is normally hidden. Beneath our diverse appearances, histories, labels and identities, we share a basic set of bones. We often forget that fundamental sameness in a world that prizes ephemeral appearance and the muscle tone, skin and hair that temporarily hangs on our skeletons. Imagine if school age children were reminded, every day, to see beyond the superficial, to find what is similar in others. Imagine the world they might create.

One day, a day that might only exist in my imagination, humanity will weep when one human kills another human, when precious life is lost. We will not breathe a sigh of relief, thank our lucky stars, look away or shrug our shoulders when it’s another race or another religion or another country that is doing the killing or is being slaughtered. But we are still far, far away from such a time, an era which may never arrive. Today, however, is Halloween. Perhaps a kid dressed as a skeleton will appear at your door, intending to frighten. But the real trick humans have played on each other forever is to perpetuate the fallacy that externals are more important than internals. When a skeleton knocks at your door, it’s a chance to get in touch with your own bones, to feel the strength and support they offer. That is a treat we can enjoy every day, not just on Halloween.

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