How much in life are we essentially now just making up to suit ourselves? Deciding which beliefs, which attitudes, values and practices we’ll adopt in our lives and how closely we’ll adhere to them. This mini culture-of-self that might easily expand into a group culture or various conflicting group cultures. It’s fascinating how something once so tightly regulated became so individual, so unregulated.
Isn’t it that patterns of belief used to bind communities together in common feeling, celebration and attitudes toward one another? Knowing how to read things, how to judge them and how to respond must’ve made society so predictable and reassuring. Also, of course, limiting and subject to the wisdom or otherwise of those charged with establishing or maintaining such systems.
But all those little conventions surely helped soften the edges of social coexistence – everyone knowing how to act, what it meant, and why it mattered (Notes One). As if life were an opus and people, having all been distributed their parts, were able to come together as a harmonious whole. Don’t agreed-upon rules allow for that? Language, etiquette, driving all rely on shared terms, meanings, expectations and interpretations.
Now, it seems any notion of wholeness has been shattered into a billion little self-directed pieces. Each taking it upon themselves to be the decider, the judge, the actor in their own little dramas. All coming up against each other with perhaps very little understanding, interest or tolerance for how we might choose to live differently.
Some might be holding firmly to the ideas received from family or community; others, rebelling against any sense of being told what to do; many perhaps stand in the middle pulling different pieces together and striving to improve any perceived shortcomings. Everyone making things up for themselves and those around them, aren’t we all crafting our own responses to existence?
Which just seems amazing – that freedom, the responsibility of it all. Holding to received thought, you’re perhaps not quite responsible for what you’re part of; as if it’s an umbrella you’re simply standing under. Rejecting things on principle, to me, seems a strange method of finding wisdom in that you’re presumably just as likely to reject the perfect as the flawed. Maybe deciding for ourselves “is” the best path (Notes Two).
But it surely places us all in a strange situation where nothing around us is entirely clear. How can we know where we stand, individually and collectively? How are we to speak if our words might hold different meanings in another’s eyes? How should we act if we’re interpreted through others’ frames of reference with no opportunity to explain our beliefs or expectation they’ll be tolerant of our choices?
If shared culture and convention gave us the code for understanding one another and, therefore, the confidence of being understood, where are we now? If we’re all reinventing the wheel, mixing it up, and expressing individuality using those terms, what will it take for us to come together into something slightly more harmonious?
Notes and References:
Note 1: What keeps us in check
Note 1: The power of convention
Note 1: If society’s straining apart, what do we do?
Note 1: Culture as a conversation across time
Note 1: What really matters
Note 1: Invisible ties
Note 2: The need for discernment
Note 2: Passivity, or responsibility
Note 2: True relationship within society?
Note 2: Thoughts of idealism and intolerance
Note 2: Education as a breaking away?
Note 2: Ideas of agreement & mastery