My Name Is Iden | The wisdom of the weeds
- Published: August 21, 2022
By Iden Crockett
I’ve been told that I’m not a good fit, that I don’t belong, many, many times and in many different ways. I’ve been told through exclusion, through teasing, through legislation, through gossiping and bullying. There are a lot of us that don’t fit, and believe me, for every time we have been told that, we have felt it a dozen more. We’ve seen the stares. We’ve heard the whispers. We have felt it. We know that America, right now, is a lawn, we are weeds, and we don’t fit with the pretty green grass.
People are funny. When I say “people” I mean humans, and when I say “funny” I mean strange.
Humans are strange. Is there a creature that craves novelty more than a human? Or one more fearful of change? Is there another animal as fundamentally paradoxical as a human?
We put enormous effort into developing the next thing. We line up for the newest phone, celebrate the innovators of new style, scramble over each other for a reservation at the hot new restaurant and write essay after essay on the value of diversity. We hunger for that relief from the routine and mundane, and we recognize, at least academically, that such a hunger has pushed us forward as a species every step of the way. And here is where that uniquely opposed brain structure comes into play. Here is where we take all of the effort spent in innovating and we put in double the work to resist that evolution. Our higher brain demands progress while our lower brain is terrified by change.
This neural conflict is evident all throughout the history of our species and each one of us struggles with it daily in our own lives as individuals. For every two strides forward we have taken in pursuit of new and better, it seems we have taken one backward seeking solace in the familiar and homogeneous. This is the human paradox.
Intellectually, we value diversity. Fundamentally, we fear it. We will all marvel at the talent of the innovative artist, the genius of the revolutionary idea or the bravery of the activist — but only after we have derided them as obscene, blasphemous or radical. That fear runs deeply through us all, through our very DNA.
Our human eyes are trained to see patterns. Our brains are constructed to find differences, exceptions, things that break the pattern. Those differences, those exceptions, are then deemed to be threats. The very diversity that we consciously seek leads to great anxiety in the subconscious.
We impose homogeneity in order to relieve this primal anxiety. We spray chemicals on our lawns and trim our hedges. We align the spines of our books, we match our purse to our shoes. We legislate segregation and censor thought. We don’t do these things because they bring us joy or enhance our understanding of the universe. We do them because they comfort us.
This response is often subtle and, if you are the type of a person who “belongs” in your space, if you fit the pattern, then you may not even be aware of your own prejudice at work. If, however, you are the type of person who does not fit, if you have ever been the only autistic person, the only woman, the only little person, the only person of color, then you are all too aware of it and the harm it can do. It hardly needs saying that it hurts the individual to be pushed away, singled out, or worse, but the harm done is larger than that.
This genetic desire for sameness causes great damage to us all as a society, as a species, and as individuals. Art is not appreciated, advancements in technology are not embraced and exceptional individuals are not given a chance to contribute. All of that potential is wasted. All of that momentum dissipates because we humans won’t put in the effort to override our base programming in favor of our higher nature. We would rather kill the flowers than risk a weed.
People are funny. We will take nearly any risk in the name of discovery, in the name of diversity. It is our greatest strength. And we will commit nearly any crime to maintain sameness and predictability. That is our greatest weakness. If we humans are to continue to progress, if we are to evolve to be more than just frightened animals, then we must recognize our weakness. We must set aside our fear and embrace those around us who break the patterns. We must seek out those that aren’t “a good fit” because they are the ones who, through their very strangeness, will highlight our own stagnation and push us forward. That is the true value and beauty of diversity, and it is the only way for us to grow. Take it from a weed.
*Iden Crockett is an artist and writer. She lives in Yellow Springs with her wife and three children. You can follow her work at http://www.mynameisiden.com.