By Helene Szabados
“Some questions are not meant to be answered; they are meant to be lived.” –Referenced from the Gurdjieff Foundation
Through the concepts of language and science, we, as a society, foster a culture of labeling and identifying. In recent explorations of identity, a new notion has risen called fluidity.
Fluidity: A continuous, amorphous substance or state whose molecules move freely past one another and that has the tendency to assume the shape of its container.
If we consider the idea of fluidity outside of its technical definition, we can apply it to various areas of our lives. Fluidity is a topic that is relatable to many different spectrums such as; art, children, work, life styles etc…
Peaceful World Foundation choose to use the neutral environment of a Peaceful World Conversation as an opportunity to discuss this topic of fluidity from the perspective of life experience. We collaborated with two special guest hosts and 2017 grantees, Create Peace Project and C.A.S.A. to cultivate an exploratory setting and converse on this topic of fluidity. Both organizations work with local youth to build community through art.
As a warm up, we began with an ice breaker around the question, “when do you feel most alive?”
We found a few commonalities among a variety of answers:
- Spending time with family
- Being in nature
Leslie Einhorn, Executive Director at C.A.S.A., shared a jar of “unicorn poop slime” (named by her young daughter) with the group. Leslie introduced the idea of slime as a visual representation of fluidity, because although slime has its own shape and texture, after some time slime will settle into the shape of its container. Leslie posed a question using “container” as another term for label; “what is a container that you are comfortable settling into and what is one that you are not as comfortable with?”
A few participants shared their experience with fluidity within the construct of their families. Laurie Marshall, Program Manager and Lead Artist at Create Peace Project, expressed the fluidity that comes with being the youngest of three sisters. She compared her sisters to mountains; solid in who they were and compared herself to a fluid river that would move smoothly around these mountains. Heidi, Program Director at Peaceful World Foundation, described her experience with fluidity as a single mom and her shift from playing the feminine, nurturing mom figure to the masculine, authoritative father figure.
We had several participants describe the fluidity that is found when growing up with two gay parents. One participant expressed the burden of her parents’ love life she carried through her peers’ curiosities. She asked herself, “Would they be asking these intimate questions if I had a “traditional” set of parents?” Another participant described a similar family dynamic, however she grew up in, North Hampton, MA, a setting that was open and accepting to the gay community. When she moved out on her own to South Hampton, she realized that there was a whole world separate from the accepting bubble she grew up in. Although she appreciated the loving happy childhood she had, she was less prepared to deal with judgement.
A patron from Artseed posed a question about age appropriate exploring. “At what age do children start defining or exploring their orientation and how do I know if I am supporting their curiosities or influencing their choices?” Leslie responded from a place of experience working with children, “It is the parents’ decision to make space for their child’s expression. If space is not made statistics have shown that children will exhibit high risks of depression, anxiety and suicidal tendencies.” Giving your children options is a healthy way to allow them to explore what they identify with.
As a group, we talked about how comfortable children can be with the unknown and how as adults we feel comforted by identifying and analyzing what is the unknown. Leslie shared some observations about today’s youth generation and their exploratory ideas regarding love. As a young woman Leslie used the concepts of Femme and Butch lesbians which back then were seen as radical and progressive labels, to help her navigate her attraction towards others. But today’s generation of young adults view these labels as conservative. They are exploring new forms of identifying love that aren’t secluded to one gender but are rather inclusive to both ideas of feminine and masculine.
Laurie’s recent joys of celebrating grandmotherhood, has deepened her explorations of the gift of the feminine and the power of the masculine.
The gift of the feminine is:
- The ability to grow life
The power of the masculine is:
- The will to protect life
We returned to the main concept of fluidity and our explorations within it. We identified a few perspectives on the topic:
- Fluidity is a way of navigating an environment of similarities and differences
- Fluidity is uncategorized attraction
- Fluidity is an expression of artistic freedom
- Fluidity is a transitional phase
We concluded our conversation with an interest in further exploring the ideas of identity, labels and the comforts and limitations that come with them. Perhaps the deeper question we are all reaching for when we consider labels and identity is, “What does it mean to be human?”