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Thursday, June 30, 2005

Quoting...is such sweet sorrow Pt. 3

Here's another one about freedom...by Jim.

"The most important kind of freedom is to be what you really are. You trade in your reality for a role. You trade in your sense for an act. You give up your ability to feel, and in exchange, put on a mask. There can't be any large-scale revolution until there's a personal revolution, on an individual level. It's got to happen inside first. You can take away a man's political freedom and you won't hurt him - unless you take away his freedom to feel. That can destroy him. That kind of freedom can't be granted. Nobody can win it for you." - Jim Morrison

I first read this, and my initial reaction was, "Tell me about it." "Of course," I thought, "Isn't that the only way to be?" And while continuing with the thinking for, I don't know, not more than a couple of seconds, another voice called out. "Hey! But isn't this what you've been doing?" "Isn't this the very definition or epitome of how you've lived your life?" it questioned. And then things began to go into a tailspin.

Society. What is it really? A divine structure that has been 'communicated' to the early human beings, since which time it has evolved into the multitudinous variants that exist today? Or is it human invention that has enabled them to mask very basic functions of Earthly species with a veil of civilization? Personally, I asrcibe to the second definition. Understandably, there are several levels of society that one can look at, such as society with regard to family, or society with regard to the individual. But, let's look at society at face value...not as gossiping neighbors, or being very traditional. Let's look at a couple of definitions from Merriam Webster...

1) Society: an enduring and cooperating social group whose members have developed organized patterns of relationships through interaction with one another.

2) Society: a community, nation, or broad grouping of people having common traditions, institutions, and collective activities and interests.

So far so good... I mean, there's nothing wrong with people wanting to associate with, or form associations on the basis of similar features and/or behaviour...it's a most natural thing. But how far does this go before the 'line' is crossed? Is it alright for one group of people to decide that another smaller group, or a sub-group amongst them is 'wrong' in holding on to a particular set of beliefs or practices? Is this not the cause for a great many of our conflicts? So, how far can this go? When is society's imposition of "right vs. wrong" appropriate and when is it not?

To answer this question, I feel we have to look at the individuals who make up a society...sort of the grassroots level, as they say. As an individual, how often can we match our own beliefs and values to that of the larger society 100%...alright, if not completely, at least mostly? Perhaps this is where people realize that they are more comfortable living in one place or another (thanks for this comment on the last one Ro...uh..have I made a mess of it?). We tend to identify with certain aspects of our environment and the laws which govern this environment; therefore, we feel more or less comfortable...often as a sort of 'first impression' of our surroundings. But, can we at any time say that we are truly in line and in complete and utter agreement/accordance with the rules of society? Probably not...or maybe that's just me. So what does the 'disagreement' amount to?...individualism. Interesting concept this because we quickly realize that there is an "acceptable level" of individualism. What?...you might say. But think about it...ever think about the people on Fort Street Mall, for example...the "Queen", always dressed resplendently and just sitting so quietly...what is she thinking about? I mean, sometimes she smiles, but still...what is going through her head? People make fun of her openly, still she continues to do what she does? What about the 'guy with the long white beard'? Now, I don't know his name, and if any of you do please tell me, but I'd always seen him on campus (HPU, that is), either leaving or entering the...uh...the big brown building (dammit!) in the middle of campus. It was a huge beard...like a foot-long (hahaha very funny Oz...and anyone else who had that thought)...but he went about what seemed to be a normal day and job. Which of these statements of individuality did we consider acceptable? Both? If so, where do we draw the line? At people running across the Wimbeldon Centre Court naked?

But society needs the individual to survive, and vice versa. If everyone acted in the same old fashion and didn't test the bounds of "acceptablility" once in a while, society would become an old sow, content in a peaceful existence, but too heavy to move and react when necessary. Revolution, then, becomes this thing that soceity must react against, if it has to maintain its status quo. If the revolution is successful, then the 'new order' becomes society...as long as it is generally tolerable. But a personal revolution...from the inside out...all the way out to society itself...what an ideal that is! Is it possible? Of course. Look at Gandhi...he started out as a lawyer, from a well-to-do family in Gujarat...but his heart saw the plight of people, 'his' people and the others like them who were being oppressed, and he took it upon himself to educate and show people that such oppression/coercion/abuse could be overcome by love. It's amazing, but he turned human nature upon itself...he identified the fact that every man, no matter how cruel, has a breaking point. One man can continue to beat another senseless for as long as he wishes, but there comes a point where in the face of no resistance from the victim, the attacker/agressor questions the reason behind his actions. Why am I doing this? And, if I do end up killing this man, how will it achieve my purpose...or any purpose? Facing physical strength with only your body as a barrier, and not hitting back got people thinking. It was an ideal, and he lived it and it allowed his dream of independence to be realized...for the most part.

Is that an example of personal revolution? Perhaps. Didn't he go against the grain when he decided to take on an empire? Is it necessary to take on an empire? No, I don't think so. But it's the story of a man who lived what could be considered a normal childhood and didn't have too many experiences that one may call life-changing...not at an early age anyway. In fact, he cites the example of eating beef, because he believed the non-consumption of meat to be the reason why the Indian people were so weak when it came to fighting against the British...naivete at best. But he felt for his cause, for his people, and most importantly, he felt what it was like to do the things he did. If you haven't read his autobiography, please do... He connected with the people and saw their pain..understood it...and took it upon himself to do something about it. There was an aim in mind. Admirable, no doubt...especially because it was successful...for the most part.

But we don't have to go this far. We don't have to take on the pain/confusion of others. We just have to let ourselves be who we are. From one day to the next, are we the same person? Maybe at the foundation of who we are...but what about outwardly? It happens everyday...personally, when I speak to people at work I sound different, when I call up the house I sound different (and not necessarily because I'm speaking another language), and when I talk to friends I'm different. Is that alright? Is it truly possible to be the 'same' person wherever we go? Or do we need the 'mask' that Jim Morrison talks about? What does it mean to remove the mask? What will it reveal...what lies beneath? If not in terms of daily interactions with different groups of people...what about when you look into the mirror. How well do you know yourself? I mean, after all, if you point a finger at the person in the mirror, is the person not pointing back? Do we truly feel the things that we think we feel? Is giving some money to the local charity once a month because we 'feel' for them? Is tipping the waiter because he served you with a smile your wanting to tip him...or is it your wanting to please him because you know that if you ever come back you'd want the same kind of service...a sort of ensuring his happiness, if you will. Is this not a conditioning of society in some freakish way? How deep does this go?

Feelings...and us, the people who 'feel' them. Man and nature, no longer in harmony. Only empty shells is a facade we call a world, clamouring for a freedom we know to exist outside of ourselves. Right on Jim...
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