We each are not free. Not entirely. All around us there are the laws of gravity, of nature, of others, and then too, even of our own individual making. We can find ourselves cauterized, curtailed, and cut off from further perceptions by the very fences we refuse to, or simply cannot, overcome. As Tevye, in ‘Fiddler On The Roof,’ put it: “If I bend that far, I will break!”
Paradigm shifts can be both individual, and collective. A group of us, like the One Hundred Monkey Syndrome, may feel some instinctual and collective sympatico, somewhat simultaneously, and begin a cultural shift of adherence to a new habituation, often by disavowal of a previously held perception. Such is the very course of history. We are creatures of habit. We acquire acculturations from our parents, our immediate others, and then from the group at large. We generally can easily identify Nationalities by such idiosyncrasies. Accents alone are not the only give-away. As such, “A Scots, an Italian, and a Russian…” quite easily conjures up a joke.
But being burdened and beleaguered by others, or worse, by the self, is not funny. One needs to feel ‘worthy’, no matter one’s age. We can spend much time in pain while shuffling off the mortal coil of shame and insecurity. As the sages have urged, “Why hide your light?” Comparisons to others, always, will only show that there are differences. We each need allow for our own story, our own right of existence.
Graduating from the collective identity of High School, we all burst away, like dropped marbles, from the collection bag. Some of us stay close, but many scatter far afield. And decades later, ten, forty, and even fifty years on, gathering us together for a Reunion, or even a full collective of the participants in one’s past, is tantamount to recalling the memories and all the people you too have known in your own history.
But staying burdened and beleaguered becomes quite a bit a matter of choice. We are people, each of us, who journey. And a journey, by definition, denotes movement, and is not a product, except for point by point. So too for enlightenment. So too for Integration. Despite Tevye’s pronouncement, he capitulates, overcomes, grows larger, more inclusive, and changes his world paradigm. So too, may we.
Within the programming of our childhood, and especially our adulthood, we are free ‘to think’. And thinking about our thinking gives us, if not license to change, at least the inner reserves of endurance and fortitude and resilience to wait things out, until, like metamorphosis itself, we can change from the cocoon that enwraps us, or the cage of acculturation that is imposed by others, or the traditions of the elders, for which we have no present reality. To be ‘truly’ individual there is so much more to be attained than simply eschewing one’s past; one needs to include it, assimilate it, understand it, and absorb it into one’s being, and be larger than its entrapment, however sordid, disdainful, horrid, or enslaving it might have been. One needs to be able to breathe in the NOW. We each reflect on the past, in the natural way of being a human being, but the pains of it may become but steppingstones, chapters, in the very story that is making up one’s own biography. And the greater the personal freedom, the greater one’s responsibility to others.
Psychologists do much to unburden us. Digging out the inner child, and attending to its unfulfilled needs, can be a pathway to much enlightenment. So too for those of us who write a Memoir, or those of us called upon to reflect upon the past, and to give our story a meaning, a significance, and a relevance for others yet to come. Bitterness can accompany past brutality. Pain can prevent present recall. Insecurity, shame, and worthiness are watchwords, for each of us, that so easily trip one up in the progress of maturation.
And now to be called upon to participate in a collective endeavour, such as the gathering of the marbles for a 50th Reunion, or other, and to be asked to tell one’s story, can prove a tremendous challenge, indeed. How to make the passage of one’s life be an inspiration to others? Or is one, sadly, not yet, readily ‘free’?