How Much of You Is Really You?
I am no bird and no net ensnares me, I am a free human being with an independent will.
-- Charlotte Bronte
We Are No Birds of a Flock
When we observe a swarm of bees, a flock of birds, or a school of minnows in the sea, we can't but admire that unison in their collective motion, which makes you wonder how the heck they don't bump into one another.
So, really, how do they manage to navigate in such a collective fashion? While nobody knows the exact answer, as usual, science is quick to play with some theories, which, in this case would involve something like a "collective" consciousness.
All species living in a social arrangement seem to express it in their own way -- certainly including us, humans. Only, since bees, birds, and minnows are missing verbal ways of communicating, theirs must be expressed a sort of telepathically, that is, all within such a group being tuned into a single mind broadcasting certain directions for behavior.
As for us humans, there is also a default part in our nature that's programmed in such a way that all of us see "blue" the same way, hear sounds within the same range of frequencies, and otherwise share characteristics that are species-specific.
And yes, by that same animalistic instinct, we also abide to a collectively agreed on paradigm, or the common principles of coexistence and beliefs. It's for that inner urge of collective consciousness that we have created all traditions, customs, laws, religions, and moral norms of social interacting.
But then, it wouldn't be all that bad if we didn't forget that, unlike other living beings, we are given an advantage of our highly developed ability to discriminate and choose for ourselves -- what to think, feel, and believe, independent of our collective consciousness.
Namely, it's due to that constant inner referral to our collective consciousness that we know when it's "appropriate" to feel good or bad -- and in which ways, picking from a rich emotional repertoire of ours.
And hey, we even got something like a "common sense", that's supposed to be our universally valid use of logic and reasoning.
However, no matter what common labels we may be giving to ourselves in order to get a sense of "belonging" -- in the very first place we are individuals. And since no one is called upon to do our breathing for us, or eating for us -- and this list is really long -- no one is called upon to do our thinking either.
Yes, folks, ultimately, we are merely a bunch of individuals -- or, are we really? And how much?
Almost all absurdity of conduct arises from the imitation of those whom we cannot resemble.
-- Samuel Johnson
Are These Emotions Mine, or My Mothers'?
This is where it starts being somewhat amusing, as at some point of re-examining our life, we may gather enough courage to ask ourselves -- whose thoughts we are really thinking, and whose emotions we are really feeling, along with possible brave questioning our attitudinal mindset and our worldview.
What seems to be the truth about the most of us, we are heavily influenced by the collective system of beliefs, being mostly copycats of someone else's beliefs, while taking all that for "normal".
After all, blending with the mass gives us that warm feeling of being a part of a multitude that sustains us in every aspect imaginable, with benefits of having a comfort zone shared and recognizable by those around us -- so how could that be wrong, you ask.
Well, it's never about a choice of living in a society or living as a hermit in woods -- but rather a matter of living an individual or a collective consciousness. For we have both, and we certainly have to abide by the rules of a civilized coexistence, but then it becomes a big issue of something I see as mental laziness, resulting with identifying ourselves with our socially programmed automatic pilot.
It got expanded to the very core of what we see as "normal" in our own mentality. That introspective censor in us starts flashing a warning light as soon as we slip out of the range of the appropriate.
Like, if you tell me that I am a village idiot, I am "supposed to" be offended, right? Why? Because "everybody else" would be offended. So, should I just smile and say: "Thank you", my censor is bound to warn me about my weird behavior.
Indeed, we tend to constantly spy on ourselves with the eyes of others, so that's how "customary" turned into "normal". People have not kept enough of individual consciousness as to switch off their automatic pilot and live their life "on manual", by often improvising.
And, while nothing is wrong about adopting others' ideas, we might as well be clear that those are really our own choices.
The faith that stands on authority is not faith.
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson
If We Are Not Using Our Mind -- Who Is?
We don't owe it to our parents, friends, our leaders -- whether political or religious, to sacrifice our individuality for their convictions. We may pick some of the tenets if we wish, and reject some others. Mimicking those around us is a pathetic way of being, it's an agreement to live as a faceless particle of the human mass, covered by stickers with multiple labels.
A spiritual suicide happens when we even start being proud of not having an identity, by "living for a cause, and dying for a cause."
Now, I am aware how many of you are protesting these words, since you see a true virtue in such sacrifices. Let me ask you -- who gave it to you?
Leaders, or inspirators of such ideas almost never live as an example of what they are expecting from followers. Politicians' children are not sent to die in wars in the name of patriotism which they are preaching about; religious icons eat better, and live better, and enjoy a fame that followers never get -- not to mention how they are never to be seen among those who die in suicide bombings.
And your boss who expects you to go that extra mile in your performance, may be the one enjoying extra long lunches, taking days off, or just pretending to be busy. When I worked in industry, for a very short while I had a boss on night shift who slept in his office, and after waking up in the morning walked from one person to another complaining about their performance.
And we are brainwashed to respect our parents "no matter what". Like Werner Erhard, the founder of Erhard Seminars Training once said: "Why love your mother if there is nothing lovable about her?"
Am I hearing another wave of protests? Are any of you saying how our parents "gave us life, and put us on our feet...etc -- so they deserve unconditional respect"? Well, they surely had one hell of a fun conceiving us, and sorry -- but it's their duty, not their favor to us -- to provide for us while we are unable to provide for ourselves. That's one of the "hazards" of being a parent, and I happen to be one too.
You see, you can still love your parents, but love them because they are treating you with love, care, compassion -- not for the wrong reason of "having given you a life."
People might some day decide to crawl out of someone's collectivistic ass.
Be yourself, because original is always worth more than a copy.
-- Suzy Kassem
Come On, Let's Be Who We Really Are
So here we have a paradox, while assuming that a collectivist is more helpful to others than an individualist. You know, there is that saying, which could be used as a metaphor here. It goes like this: "First day you feed fish to a hungry man; the second day you teach him how to cook it; and the third day you let him catch his own fish."
Translated it might sound something like this:
When you are little, they should teach you HOW to think, how to be logical -- but then it's up to you WHAT you will think, which they should not provide for you.
Continuing along that same line of thinking -- you are not "helpful to others" by depriving them of using their own resources. Even the blind, and the handicapped, and the depressed, and mentally challenged can find a rewarding place in society. The idea is to help them initially to get there.
Being helpful is not to treat them with pity, but to give them some pride, confidence, incentive.
Being an individualist, I don't waste much time on "compassionate feeling sorry", I look for the ways to be of some help. I will give you a sincere, friendly hug, but I won't cry with you -- you need someone who is strong enough to pick your spirits up, not to cry with you in a duet.
Helping each other is not always doing things together in a unison, like those birds, and bees, and minnows are doing -- but doing something better than others, if we can, and pulling them up to that level.
In many ways collectivism is a sheer parrotism, where one is thinking and hundreds are copying, not using their own heads. So all of them are merely following a mental ritual of the "appropriate" -- not innovative, original.
That's why it's a right question to ask ourselves: How much of us is really ourselves, and how much of us is just a bad imitation of those around?
Let each of us find an honest answer for ourselves.
© 2020 Vladimir Karas