What am I to be, to do, to have in this world?
How do I decide what/how I am to be in this world? How do I decide what to do, how to conduct myself, what to chase after in this world? Of all questions these are the most important questions and they do not have easy answers.
Given that these are the most difficult questions and there are no ready made answers how do I answer these questions? The default is simply to follow the herd: look around me and buy into the way of life that everyone around has bought into. Look deeply and you will notice that we human beings are herd animals. We just don’t use the word herd instead we use softer more appealing words like ‘community’, ‘profession’, ‘vocation’, ‘nation’…..
“It’s all made up!”
If we are fortunate there will be glitches in the ‘matrix of the taken for granted every day life’ and we will notice these glitches.
I noticed these glitches. I would go to school and be told “X is great, this is the right way to be, the right thing to do…” and I’d get home and I would be told “X is totally wrong! It is the wrong way to be, the wrong thing to do, the wrong thing to chase after…”. At home I would learn a set of views/practices and upon arriving at school I’d be told that these were wrong. I was lucky enough to be born into one culture and live in it whilst at home and then be embedded in a different culture during school hours.
At the age of about 8/9/10 I remember thinking “Its’ all made up!” That was the most liberating thought of my life – it changed/directed the course of my life. I focussed on school work rather than religion. I studied Physics rather then Biology and thus dashed my parents hopes of becoming a doctor. I went to a university far from my parents home rather than one nearer home. I chose my wife rather than get an arranged marriage. I made friends irrespective of their colour, their race or their religion instead of sticking with my ‘own kind’. I questioned things and asked difficult questions rather than accept the ready made answers….
Being with the herd does not make you ‘right’, going away from the herd does not make you ‘wrong’
Most of us will experience a series of glitches in the ‘matrix of our taken for granted way of thinking and living’ and one or more of these will grab our attention and open our eyes so that we see beyond the surface. When we see beyond the surface we may come to the conclusion we are living a false life, a shallow life, a mindless life, a meaningless life, a joyless life, someone else’s life. Then we are confronted with choice: act/reclaim our life as ours or to go back to being with the herd and pretend we never saw what we saw.
Most of us lull ourself back to sleep and get back to following the herd. And if we don’t do that then the people around us act on us with more and more force to get us back in the pen with the rest of the herd. Our argument, their argument is often that the herd cannot be wrong, we must be wrong. With that in mind and with a commitment to leave us with the freedom to transform our lives I share with you the following passage from R.D. Laing’s book, The Politics of Experience:
“From an ideal vantage point from the ground, a formation of planes may be observed from the air. One plane may be out of formation. But the whole formation may be off course. The plane that is ‘out of formation’ may be abnormal, bad or ‘mad’ from the point of view of the formation. But the formation itself may be bad or mad from the point of view of the ideal observer. The plane that is out of formation may be also more or less off course than the formation….
In particular, it is of fundamental importance not to confuse the person who may be ‘out of formation’ by telling him that he is ‘of course’ if he is not. It is of fundamental importance not to make the positivist mistake of assuming that, because a group is in formation, this means they are necessarily ‘on course‘.….. Nor is it necessarily the case that the person who is ‘out of formation’ is more ‘on course’ than the formation……
If the formation is itself off course, then the man who is really to get ‘on course’ must leave the formation.”