Off Label

Artist: 
Yamen
Rendered with Fractorium.
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This design was originally published with the following lore:

You aren't your character sheet. The list of features, attributes, afflictions and affiliations, equipment and capabilities that describe you are not the definition of you. They are just a record. The current state of a ledger that has been ticking along since before you were born.

You aren't your wikipedia page. The stories you've lived, the feats you've accomplished, the interactions you've had, these are your history, not your nature. They are where you've been, not who you are.

You aren't your label. The groups you identify with, the disabilities you manage, the illness that you defy, the religion you draw strength from, the brands you support, the fandoms you participate in, the company you work for, these are your shadow, not your shape. The are the wake, you are the vessel.

These categories aren't false, they are useful distinctions to be applied at appropriate times. They are useful shortcuts for filtering out noise in our environments. They are useful flags to seek useful people with. But their truth is limited to their usefulness, and ends there. You do not. You are the grander thing, the source that these categories try to sketch out of a composite of approximations.

Right now, there's a lot of reason to flock to these details. The world is facing many tough challenges, and the energy we can waste on incompatible people is becoming increasingly hard to justify. Our access to alternative views is vast, but rigidly organized in machine-readable categories. The pressure to see yourself as a representation of your labels is thicker than swamp air in the summer heat.

Do not fall into the trap of assuming your shape is congruent with the box you are put in. Nor should you hurry to assume that it's wrong to stick out of the box. Most boxes aren't closed as tightly as they look, they're just full of little regular things. But when a neat, unusual shape needs a place to fit, many boxes are happy to open up and accommodate, and often this is how a box grows!

As you take in this idea and try to see yourself as the thing that visits the boxes, try too to see that the boxes are full of things more like you. Things that belong to many boxes, that have many labels, and that wear many flags. With this in mind, your social spaces and groupings and labels stop being tribes to hide within, and become intentional coalitions of like minds with shared goals. You replace rules and regulations with policies and intents, you replace your judges with an audience of peers, and you begin to see yourself again when you look in the mirror.

You aren't your reflection. You're the shape that light itself yields to, and the source of the glow that lets us all know you're here. You are the subject within the presentation, the idea woven into the poem, the voice behind the mask, the tension between recollection and prediction that we call life. You are life and all that it encompasses, and there simply isn't documentation grand enough to contain you.

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