• The Grey Squirrel

Living the Venn Life

Updated: May 29, 2019

We all want to feel safe.

We all want to feel secure.

We all want to feel comfortable.

When we stepped out of our cave, strapped on our woolly mammoth loin cloths, and ventured out into the world, we would protect our safety, security, and comfort by setting up villages on tribal lands with other people who were just like us. When outsiders wandered in, they either needed to converted, enslaved, or killed. Outside things were a threat to the safety, security, and comfort of the group, and they could not be tolerated. Unfortunately, the world has gotten far too crowded for this type of thinking, and yet, like cavemen getting their first tan lines in the open air, we keep doing it.

Homogeneity is safe. Homogeneity looks secure. And homogeneity feels so comfortable. It allows us to put people convenient little boxes: us versus them, good guy versus bad guy, capes versus monocles. We like knowing that the guy holding the red light saber is the bad guy; the guy holding the blue light saber is the good guy; and the guy holding the purple light saber is a total bad ass. It allows us to think that we are always on the side of the good guys, because if they aren't one of us then they must be one of them.

This system is perfect.

Except that it isn't.

Perfectionism and solutions cannot coexist.

Perfectionism and vulnerability cannot coexist.

Solutions can only be found when we get vulnerable and wade waist deep into the alien unknown. It looks nothing like safety. It looks nothing like security. And it is anything but comfortable. But it is the only thing that works. We need to take our little boxes, in which we are like Schrodinger's Cat, both happy and sad, kick out the corners, round out the hard edges, and then roll those suckers over to someone else's circle and make a Venn Diagram. We all learn about Venn Diagrams in elementary school; they are created when two circles overlap and what is different goes into the edges, but what is similar goes in the middle. The middle of my Venn Diagrams were always messy. I was forever having to write really small because I would underestimate how much the two seemingly disparate things would have in common. Eventually, I had to make the circles lumpy because I would have to make the middle space bigger. Living the Venn Life is like that too. Once you overlap your circles, you find that there is a lot more that joins you than separates you.

For example, here is my friend Evelyn BruMar and I.

We had coffee today and talked about all the things. Every little while, one of us would say, "Look at the time! I need to get going." and then we would talk for another 45 minutes. Seriously, shift changes occurred at the coffee shop and we were still chatting.

Here's the thing, we didn't agree on everything. On paper, we come from very different "tribal villages." Our safe space boxes look quite different.

But if we knock down some of those rigid walls and turn these boxes into circles, amazing things start to come to light.

To find that middle space, which is really where the best stuff is, we had to be vulnerable. We had to take a chance, show our soft spots, and look beyond the comfort of our boxes. We had to live the Venn Life. The messy middle, as uncomfortable as it may look from our boxes, is the only place where solutions live. It is where progress lives. Staying in our safe, dark caves is not an option. That option left us the first moment that we strapped on that loin cloth and stepped out into the sun. Sure we gathered a tribe around us, but even as we worked towards homogeneity, we kept bumping into other people. So if we are going to bump into each other, we might as well round out our corners, embrace our discomfort, and work towards a better way of living with each other.

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