A surge of emotions rippled across the nation yesterday – from the declarations of love to the displays of pride no longer contained to one street or one neighborhood or one parade. How can you not be affected by it all?
Yesterday, I posted my story of slow revelation where homosexuality went from being a distant, sinful “other” to a valid, beautiful part of life. As I thought through my story and all of the conversations I had yesterday, I kept questioning: how did I end up where I am? How did we as a nation end up where we are? We march continually, progressively forward and when we cross the finish line, we look back and wonder why it took us so long. And we’re embarrassed by our deathly slow crawl. But we still get a ribbon and we write it down in our journals and in the history books —– because we did it, which is something.
Despite its deathly slow progress, I love that this movement for marriage equality was not a movement with one leader. This was a movement of the people. It was built on little conversations, on people challenging their friends and family members, on letters to the editor, and letters to legislators. Just like my personal journey, we, as a nation, gradually recognized that it is okay to be gay. We spent years debating about whether gay is a choice only to realize that even if it is a choice, it’s still okay.
I love to see the culmination of all of our little actions. Even if you never wrote a letter or signed a petition, if you at one point said to one other person, “hey, what you just said isn’t cool” or “I think everyone should be allowed to marry,” then you played a part in this. It’s the butterfly effect played out.
As I pondered the amazingness of the day, I thought about an Invisibilia podcast I listened to a few months ago about quantum entanglement (trust me, you want to know about this). I meant to blog about it at the time and even listened to it twice – and now 3 times since I listened to it again this morning. It is phenomenal and mind-blowing and definitely worth a listen as you are nursing your hangover from all of the celebrating you did yesterday.
Don’t be scared off by the “quantum” mention, but would you believe me if I told you that you can have 2 separate atoms placed across the room from each other, but they are the same? Like if you change something in one of the atoms, it will change in the other atom. This is the quantum entanglement discussed in the podcast as a lead-in to a story about mirror touch synesthesia which is like quantum entanglement in the natural world, better understood as empathy run amok where some people literally feel what other people feel – physically and emotionally – to a very high degree (luckily, most of us don’t experience this high level of empathy as it can be very overwhelming and debilitating – but empathy in healthy doses is a crucial component of humanity).
Now you might be thinking, well that’s really fucked up and kinda neat, but what does all this have to do with gay marriage and the march towards equality for all peoples? And I’m glad you’re curious because it is everything.
While physicists apparently don’t understand how quantum entanglement (where one atom is entangled with another) is even possible, they concede that it likely happens in the natural world outside of the lab as well. In fact, “there could be one particle of you right now entangled with a person that you just passed on the street.” I will not feign to understand any of this, but it blew my mind. It really brings some validation to the notion that we are all connected; we are all one. And we have more influence on each other then we might give ourselves credit for. Of course, conversely, we also are affected by those around us – giving more credence to the adage that ‘you are the company that you keep.’
Yesterday, as we watched the news unfold and we watched people crying with joy, we also felt a swell or at least a tingling of pride and maybe even cried. For me, when my husband told me that gay marriage was legal across the United States, my literal thoughts were: “Well, yeah, it’s about time.” And then I moved on. I’m sure this has a lot to do with the fact that I am not gay, I am already married, and marriage equality was already legalized in my state (not really sure how that happened in Arizona, but it did). So while I am a vocal advocate for equality, my initial reaction was decidedly and weirdly somewhat apathetic. But as I watched the flurry on social media as everyone came together on this landmark decision, and everyone showed their support through rainbows and words of happiness, and I saw people cry with joy, I took on those feelings as my own. And I cried, too. These weren’t my initial feelings, but my empathy allowed me to take on those feelings as if they were mine alone.
I think that’s the amazing part of it all, though. Most of us have this awesome capacity for empathy – a capacity that allows us to literally feel what others are feeling, which I think is what leads to progress and change. This empathy is what has built the movement. Because of empathy, we are able to make changes through our small every day interactions with the people around us, driving progress and creating a movement. And it is a beautiful thing, because most of us don’t have the time, energy, or confidence to be the sole leader of a movement.