Thursday, April 25, 2013

I, Universe


After reading one of my more lugubrious (love that word) posts, a friend said “Do you honestly think you’re the only person in the world who has ever felt this way?” To which I replied: “Yep.”

The fact is that I was fudging just a bit. It is partly because I realize that I am NOT the only person to suffer from bouts—some more justifiable than others—of doubt and self-pity, or to have done incredibly stupid things, or to be too-frequently frustrated to the point of tears or sometimes frightening rage by something that does not go the way I want or expect it to go. Which is, in turn, the basic reason I am a writer rather than a plumber or watch repairman.

Because each of us is born into a species in which we are only one of seven or nine billion (it's hard to keep up) and are therefore so vastly outnumbered, we tend to assume, erroneously, that everyone else is part of a vast private club to which we do not belong. It's a little like not being able to see the forest for the trees, and it simply never occurs to us that we are ourselves, in fact, a tree in that forest. And we're not only a tree in the forest, we're also round pegs in a square hole, and any of two thousand other metaphors indicating our sense of being separate and separated from everyone else. In a world of an infinite range of color, the social rules by which we live are largely written only in black or white, with very rare occasional shadings of grey. Our society sets up immutable rules which no single individual within that society could possibly follow fully.

Yet we are led to believe there is some sort of gigantic yardstick against which we are convinced we must measure ourselves. And since there is in fact no such yardstick, inevitably we fail. And the problem is not that there is none, but that we insist upon assuming there is. “This is the way you must behave,” we are told, and the fact that almost nobody really does or could behave in that exact way has nothing to do with it. “This is how you must think,” we are told. A box is drawn around us, and those few who ever even think to step beyond its imaginary boundaries do so act at their own peril.

Our popular culture insists upon establishing arbitrary and ultimately self-destructive rules which benefit few and do harm to many. Two of the most unbendable of these rules is that to have worth as a human being, to be adored, to be worshipped, one must be young and beautiful—fostered in large part by our consumer-based culture which features only young, beautiful people in commercials and other visual advertising. That only a relatively small percentage of humanity is both young and beautiful or, in fact, either, is immaterial. The further you are from either of the standards our society sets for you, the less value you have as a human being. Susan Boyle's initial appearance on Britain's Got Talent was a quintessential example of this theory. Here is this....this mousy little person....no one would look at twice on the street. You could see the scorn on the faces of the audience when she first walked out on stage. She was obviously a nobody. A nothing. Not worth paying attention to. Until she opened her mouth.

And how many people learned a lesson of tolerance and understanding from Ms. Boyle's stunning contradiction of what everyone automatically assumed by just looking at her? Sadly, I'd imagine very few.

We treasure our prejudices, even if we ourselves are victims of them.

I am not very good at either pontification or pondering of deep issues, but I do enjoy playing at doing both from time to time, just to prove to myself that I am capable of thinking at all. Descartes hit it on the head back in 1641 when he said, Cogito, ergo sum—I think, therefore I am.

Far too many people seem to spend all their lives concentrating on the sum and never bothering with the cogito.

We each are the center of our own universe, so cogita, people, cogita!

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website (http://www.doriengrey.com) and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (http://bit.ly/m8CSO1).


2 comments:

Kage Alan said...

Your example of Susan Boyle is dead on. Even two of the judges admitted how their perception of her versus her gift was a wake-up call. And I actually own all of her albums to date.

I've made it a point to try and be a tall, colorful tree in that forest or an oversize square peg that someone has to force into that round hole...just because they'll remember me.

David Kernohan said...

I love your phrase that we treasure our prejudices even if we are victim of them. That is so true and most of us don't realize that we are victimizing ourselves.