Treeline against a rainy grey sky

Getting around things

How often in life are we simply trying to find ways around things? Looking for how to achieve our aims or overcome what stands in our way. The human mind forever reading its surroundings and seeking its most rewarding path forward. Is that how we meet the world? Seeing it all from our perspective and identifying ways “we” might manifest our desires.

Maybe the mind simply “reads” any system or situation – as a board game – to find its best options: weighing the benefit of any given strategy and the likelihood of getting caught. That, as thinking beings, we naturally apply ourselves to understanding our position, what we can do and how it might help. Flowing like water against any attempt to restrict us; finding the points where our interests might somehow prevail.

Isn’t it destined to bring us into conflict wherever those interests converge? All those moments where we take, say or do something that impacts others or limits their opportunities. This sense of life as this perpetual dance of give and take as our needs and capacities “meet” in the complex interactions of society – all sharing space, resources, and whatever hand we were dealt.

In its way, isn’t society all about the systems, conventions, laws and obligations tying us together? This attempt to put guidelines in place that let us freely interact within the limits of a common agreement. The restriction which needs to be there if we’re not to live lives of perpetual conflict, violence and aggression. Isn’t that the point of it all? To help delineate the circumstances within which we might harmoniously coexist.

What happens, then, if we approach “society” as something to get around? Straining against its wisdom; testing the limits of others’ patience; creating all this tension, anger or stress as individuals pull against what’s aiming to unite us. Almost this picture of community as a cage or leash we’re hoping to be free of – resenting the fact our existence is tethered to others.

Is it the best way to think of society? As a personal trap we seek to escape; a series of obstacles we must find ways around to secure whatever we want. That, restrictions only existing to thwart us and benefit others, we “should” simply pursue our own interests. Maybe, though, society’s counting on self-interest as our drive for social engagement.

Not to say societies necessarily embody perfect wisdom – that there’s not an indispensable, ongoing conversation to be had – but as a basic gesture, why is it we tend to approach limits as something to overcome? What does it “do” to society if that’s how we relate ourselves to its restrictions? If, our own plans and desires looming that much larger than anyone else’s, we rail against anything curbing “our” personal freedom.

Is it that, once written, rules effectively change the game as we play against them? Or, that alongside it all we need some form of compelling vision that’s inspiring us to limit ourselves for the sake of something greater.

Notes and References:

Belonging & believing
What’s at the heart of society?
Can there be joy in contracts?
What inspires collective endeavours
Mutual awareness and accommodation?
Picking up after one another
What holds it all together
Smart to play the system?
Created a system we seek to escape?
People, rules & social cohesion

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