Cattle grazing in a field

Can each be true to themselves?

In terms of individualism, can we each just be true to ourselves? Regardless of convention, expectation or the opinions of others, simply be “authentic” with regards to our own experiences, thoughts, wounds, interests and inclinations. As if the world weren’t there to limit us in any way and we could just unravel all that’s within us honestly and insistently onto our surroundings. Is that what life is? Our honest unravelling.

Maybe it is. Maybe life is “always” the unravelling of all the individuals living within it: each person working through their own grasp of life; their own capacities or limitations; their own priorities, desires and concerns; their own attempts to find meaning, belonging or recognition within the complex interwoven fabric of all of our lives. Maybe we can’t help but be true to ourselves, given it’s the only thing we really have.

Yet it seems, in the past, that convention hemmed people in a little tighter by asking that “the self” bend to meet the firm expectations of their community. This idea that, in the balance of things, individuals “should” somehow hide or distort aspects of themselves in order for society to run smoothly. Truths, realities or struggles perhaps repressed for the sake of appearances or expediency. As if what’s hidden just disappears.

Almost as if “life” were covered over with some quaint veneer of politeness under which all the problems and frustrations simply grew toward the point we’re now finding ourselves. This picture of compounded, ignored or denied issues within society having been left to develop as they will – out of sight, left to their own devices as generation upon generation lived through the consequences.

It seems perhaps natural that such a situation would erupt and shift to its opposite: for all that’s within us to seek the light of recognition, acknowledgement, healing and release. That we would eventually realise that things must be addressed as they don’t simply “disappear” but inevitably remain within the lives and souls of all they affect. That perhaps all we’d been doing was sweeping our problems under the carpet.

What happens, though, when everyone’s pushing everything out into the open? If everyone’s vehemently insisting on their own concerns, perspectives, interpretations, priorities and interests. As if each individual wants to become “the way to be”, the archetypal human on which our collective understanding should be based. How are we to broker some new balance between us all in that realm?

Sometimes it seems individualism is like this tipping point where we’re pushing toward “self” at the expense of the shared spaces surrounding us all – a lever between self and community along which the balance of power has shifted quite dramatically.

Given we all live within one reality – interwoven by the countless moments each day where our choices and words unavoidably converge – and need, somehow, to share our thoughts around how to resolve all the many things happening within it, how’s that conversation to work if we’re all insisting on our own version of reality?

Notes and References:

Authenticity & writing our own story
“The Spirit of Community”
People, rules & social cohesion
Can we manage all-inclusive honesty?
Conversation as revelation
The power of convention
Do we live in different worlds?
All that we carry around with us
Integrity and integration

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