By Lauryl Hebenstreit
Carefully or carelessly curated personalities plague our 21st century milieu. I could elaborate on this alone but I won’t–not here at least. However, I am just as hell bent on a search for authenticity as everyone else. I have taken the enneagram exam, I know my zodiac sign, and I can dissect my personality through the use of four letters thanks to the Myers Briggs test. In my search for who I am, or rather the quest to check all the societal constructed boxes, I have pinned myself as someone who isn’t a romantic.
I have always disliked Valentine’s Day, I’ve never put my initials in addition to someone else’s inside a heart, and I’ve always thought big gestures of romanticism to be too trite.
The unfortunate reality I’ve come to realize is that perhaps I am a romantic.
You see, the thing I’ve begun to realize is not that I love one person enough to invest in matching sweatshirts with each other’s faces immortalized through cheap iron on vinyl, rather, I see now that I love human beings. To me, we are one of the most incredible things to exist in this world. We are greedy, power hungry, inconsiderate, and painfully cruel to one another. But the sound of human laughter, the warmth of a hug, and the face of a stranger remind me of the awe and curiosity I have for humanity.
Living in The Upper Room–an intentional Christian living community above The Lutheran Center–has put me in such closeness with fellow humans. My 10 roommates have taught me a bounty of lessons in humanity. Here are my two takeaways:
- Humans are not good at articulating what we need. In every conflict that has existed in our living community, a much larger issue was at hand. These moments, on the surface, felt like an iceberg sinking our Titanic. What we forget is that it wasn’t the portion of the iceberg that stuck out of the water that sank the Titanic, it was the part of the iceberg hiding under the waves’ surface. I failed to consider the ways human beings are deep and complex. Dirty dishes or gossiping are rarely the true issue. Our conflict is interconnected with our trust, hopes, aspirations, and views of one another. When this community has articulated what truly hurt us, what our deepest needs were, the hole in the boat became patchable, no longer a rift in the hull threatening to rip us in two and pull us under.
- The light humans create is not the same as the light that humans naturally emanate. In moments of strife and joy, we cast light–or create narratives–on those we are close with. In times of endearment, we cast rose colored light and halos around certain people who can do no wrong. In arguments, so often we can only cast negative light, a shadow, on the person we are in conflict with. Suddenly, in anger, actions are executed often with malice. I see only the ugly of humanity forgetting, like the sucker in a romcom, that humans are humans. They are not gods untouchable by strife or immune to hatred, and they also are not monsters or master manipulators. We simply are messy. We make mistakes, we create, we destroy, and still–at a fundamental level–we are deserving of the deepest love.
The author John Greene seems to share my sentiments and observations about humanity. In his book The Anthropocene Reviewed, and his podcast of the same name, Greene articulates beautifully his notions on the spectacular event that is the existence of humanity. I can only agree and meet his words with romanticism.
Within my love and romanticism there lies a central notion that love means admiration coupled in criticism. Your search and mine for authenticity is a waste. Who we are or what our personalities are cannot be confined by boxes. By nature we are already remarkable. Our searching limits us in our ability to love our neighbor and ourselves. We, perhaps, are so exhausted by our searching that we cannot raise our fist in protest of injustices done to God’s creation. In his chapter titled, “Humanity’s Temporal Range” Greene writes, “We must fight like there is something to fight for, like we are something worth fighting for, because we are.”
The true realization I’ve found in my searching is that this romanticism, this love, is compulsory.
I love humanity because I cannot bear not to.
Because we are.