Ignorance and Bliss in Isolation (Courage Needs Company)

“Sin is a failure to bother to love.”

— James F. Keenan, S.J.

On the same day that a family member of mine came out, telling the world that he is gay, I happened to re-listen to Tim Ferriss’s interview with Samin Nosrat, author of the book Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat. Nosrat is an intelligent, jovial, passionate individual, who grew up in an Iranian-American household. Her cultural heritage, along with the color of her skin, Nosrat explains to Ferriss, has often left her feeling not only different than those around her, but at times also fearful and threatened simply because of these differences.

My formative years were spent in an upper middle class suburb between Washington DC and Baltimore where being different meant that you were not welcome. If you were black, hispanic, Asian, Jewish, Muslim, hell if you were smart or quiet or overweight, you were considered an outsider and outsiders were not treated well. My friends and I were the outsiders, a fact which came with ridicule, harassment, hatred, bullying, and lots of fights, both verbal and physical.

As I have gotten older, I have consciously or unconsciously moved away from environments like I experienced growing up. As an adult, unlike in compulsory public school, I have found that I do not have to associate with people who are racist, anti-Semitic, xenophobic, homophobic, mean, or cruel. I maintain a diverse group of friends and associates who are embracing and welcoming of others, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, or political beliefs. I am now coming to realize, that I have the luxury of living a life of self-imposed, insulated, isolation.

The world has not changed. My environment has. In the world at large, those who are ‘different’ still have to have courage simply to be themselves, to show up as themselves, in their own skin, with their own beliefs, and with the person or people they love. Realizing this fact made me feel a bit ashamed, as if removing myself from a world of bigotry, intolerance, and hatred, while based in self preservation, was also an act of cowardice. Courage needs company and love is not a passive act.

“As in life, so too it is in budo. As in budo, so too it is in life.”

-Robert Van Valkenburgh is co-founder of Taikyoku Mind & Body and Kogen Dojo where he teaches Taikyoku Budo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

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