The Whole Box of Crayons

Monday Author:  Susanne Skinner

“The soul becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts” ~ Marcus Aurelius

Crayola, crayons, big box, 64 colorsGrowing up, I envied the kid with the 64-color box of Crayola crayons. In the coloring neighborhood, that was serious cred. More if it included the sharpener. Those of us making do with the 16 or 24 set suffered crayon envy and hoped for sharing.

A fresh box of crayons—no matter how many—comes without any restrictions on how to use them. Kids see the world in living color; we are all born with that ability. Over time, we remove colors we don’t like and create a world shaded by our own perspective.

Age and bias narrow our thinking and the ability to see subtle shades and nuances in the spectrum. We forget we have the whole box of crayons.

Fifty Shades of Gray

During my social media no politics purge, I reduced my ‘friend’ connections significantly. Prior to unfriending and unfollowing, I took the time to read many of the posts and comments.

There is sameness to them. Political commentary assigns names with the goal of making me a Democrat or Republican. As in, all you Democrats, or the Republicans out there.  Subcategories like far right, liberal and snowflake, often prefaced with offensive adjectives, make for angry reading and a narrow viewpoint.

I dislike being lumped into a generic group that aligns me with the poster’s beliefs or calls me out as the enemy. There is no middle ground; no filter to allow for differences.

Posts no longer reflect personal connections or respect for others opinions. They exist to push the author’s agenda and beliefs to the exclusion of all others. You are right, therefore I must be wrong.

We label people for who we think they are, colorsWe label people all the time. Labels shape our perspective and create an absolute that cements our opinion. Once we decide, we rarely deviate.

Bucketing people under a generic label extends itself to race, ethnicity, citizenship, gender, sexual orientation and religion. Once labeled, we assume we know how a person behaves and thinks. The label becomes the all-or-nothing evidence we seek to justify our thinking.

Humans are complex. Choosing a single word to define whether an individual aligns with our value system is one of the deepest issues we face. Many of us became friends when we were too young to have political affiliations. Our friendship is so much more than a single word. However, in some relationships, it’s all that remains.

For those of us who are new friends, let’s not make politics the metric for getting to know each other better.

Single-Color Thinking

Crayola, crayons, colors of the world, single-colorThe world we live in is not monochromatic. There are 120 Crayola crayon colors, including 19 shades of blue, 14 shades of orange, and 23 shades of red. Fun Fact:  while the crayons come in over 100 shades, the labels are only made in 18 colors. You have to open the box and read the words on the side of each crayon to find the shade it represents.

Remove the color blue and you lose the ability to see the sky, the ocean or the color of your grandchild’s eyes. Take away green and suddenly trees, grass and leaves become a monotone of gray. Single-color thinking makes for a dull world and political parties are the worst offenders.

Forty Shades of Flesh

Earlier this year, Crayola launched 24 new Colors of the World crayons, designed to represent over 40 skin tones across the world. They replace the single flesh-tone crayon we used growing up.

“With the world growing more diverse than ever before, Crayola hopes our new Colors of the World crayons will increase representation and foster a greater sense of belonging and acceptance,” said Crayola CEO Rich Wuerthele.

If Crayola sees more than one shade in a name, why can’t we?  As for people I’ve unfriended, I did so because I could feel their anger and judgment towards anyone who thinks differently than them.

Never let anyone tell you who you are or what color you should be.

There is Always More

The main reason I distance myself from political posters, apart from their single mindlessness, is their willingness to label me.  The label becomes the dividing issue, destroying what we care about and value in each other.

Click here to see the bigger pictureReading social media posts, the label of Democrat or Republican endlessly repeats. Assigning a generic name to themselves and others negates any opinion but their own.

By categorizing others, we assume we know all we need to know about them. We close our minds to new information. When we label ourselves, we limit ourselves.

Think Differently

To those who continue to post with a single focus agenda, I offer a gentle reminder from Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson:

“The moment when someone attaches you to a philosophy or a movement, then they assign all the baggage and all the rest of the philosophy that goes with it to you. And when you want to have a conversation, they will assert that they already know everything important there is to know about you because of that association. And that’s not the way to have a conversation.”  

We can hold different beliefs and still be friends. We don’t all love the same colors but each of us has the whole box of crayons.