Can we separate people from their roles? In every area of life – workplace, community, relationships, society itself – aren’t we always playing some kind of role? We assume these parts, act consistently, and, doing so, make up the complex realities of all our lives. “Everything” is perhaps, at its core, an interwoven picture of all the roles we’re agreeing to take on.
Some we’re given at birth – looks, health, early life, socio-economic standing, basic demeanour are just some of the things effectively “handed to us” as we emerge into the world. Others we might adopt ourselves, because they seem to fit or we feel they’ll serve us somehow. Around every human there seem to be all these masks we’re wearing (Notes One).
And the drama of life perhaps just plays out on those terms? Different masks carry with them different degrees of power and status, affording their wearer the delightful advantage of how others then respond to their presence. Whether we’re talking about cultural ideas of beauty and style or the weight of socio-economic realities, there’s this sense in which we’re each assigned a place.
Is it possible to move beyond that, to see it for what it is? Isn’t it some form of illusion? Beneath it all, aren’t people simply people? Isn’t a lot of “this” simply inherited and undeserved? Isn’t “what we make of things” ultimately more telling?
The psychology’s fascinating – how is it we’re taught to feel about ourselves? Society has its history, all these stories and the qualities they supposedly portray, this strange pride or shame at paths each country has followed into the present day. We all carry such “baggage”. All this stereotyping, branding and spin we’re constantly dragging into the present and projecting onto the future (Notes Two).
Isn’t it all a picture of “what we value”? The narratives of economics and culture seem, in many ways, to be a conversation about values in either of those two realms (Notes Three). And certain roles or positions in life are seemingly more valued than others – placed up on a pedestal, deferred to, and given great power within society.
What on earth does it mean, though? Why do we assign meaning, value or worth and relate to one another this way? Maybe, as humans, we need some code or sense of meaning in order to understand reality and apply ourselves within it. But, is this the right one? Is this the best way to be looking at people, judging status and deciding how to act?
Society clearly assigns to some more prestigious roles than others (Notes Four). Those who labour, tend and nurture seem less valued for their work than those who direct, manage or set projects in motion. But aren’t those the roles that keep things going by sustaining environments, relationships and assets? Isn’t it possible we’ve underestimated the value of all we’re bringing to life?
Could we come to see the truth of who we are, what we’re doing, and what it all means differently?
Notes and References:
Note 1: Masks we all wear
Note 1: Letting go of “who you are”
Note 1: At what point are we just humans?
Note 2: Stories that bind us
Note 2: Personal archaeology
Note 2: Seeing, knowing and loving
Note 3: Language and values
Note 3: Mathematics of life
Note 3: Definition, expression & interpretation
Note 3: Economics & the realm of culture
Note 4: Those who are leading us
Note 4: The beauty in home economics