Thursday, March 13, 2008

Superficial Individuality

The dictionary had a plethora of definitions, so to serve my purpose I chose a couple that I liked.

the particular character, or aggregate of qualities, that distinguishes one person or thing from others; sole and personal nature: a person of marked individuality.
2. state or quality of being individual; existence as a distinct individual.
3. the interests of the individual as distinguished from the interests of the community.

As inspired by my friend and fellow blogger Lady Di, and because I tend to stay up way too late, I have decided to blog on a topic that will be eternally discussed between two people who don't, nor want to, think the same way.

I don't consider myself a very unique guy or this extraordinarily individual-minded person, but I do empathies with those who do. I have done small things like dying my hair black or a patch of blue or bleaching it blond in whole or in part, and who can forget my shoulder-length mess. I've worn trendy clothes, ties with t-shirts, and I had my whole black clothing phase. I can't think of many other styles I’ve sported outside the norm. If you can, please remind me.

Because of the nature of the conversation being that the "normal" person will usually initiate the conversation by asking someone why they do some "abnormal" thing that they do and the "unique" person having to explain and/or defend their views, the "normal" person will often get the impression that the "unique" person feels that their way is correct or otherwise superior to that of the person who chooses to "follow the crowd." This is not the case, but please note I only speak for myself and what I have found to be common. This vibe is only felt because of the defensive nature of the conversation. No way is better or correct. Truth like this is relative to the individual. For some people, being superficially individual or unique is healthy or necessary. For other extreme cases it is pride or vanity or somewhere in between.

It comes to mind now to explore what makes someone "different". I'm going to use a common local high school scenario for an example. There is a common cliche lovingly known as Emo. You know you love it. So... a group of boys walk the halls in their tight girl's pants and wearing their dark-rocker clothing with their dark hair in their face. Some decorate themselves with multicolored hair, lip rings, and yes, eyeliner. Are these boys different from the rest of the student body or are they the same as everyone else in their cliche. . . Both! They want to stand out and be different, so they costume up to fit in with everyone else who wants to be different. I'm speaking cynically, because I don't like high school kids at all anyway. No one is really "them self" in high school. Puberty is still taking its toll on their emotional physiologies.

So what is different? I really don't know. I don't think that that word does justice to what these people want. I'm going to include myself in this and speak from the heart even though I don't qualify as an extreme example. What I want, and I think what everyone needs is a self awareness. The realization of self is the major difference between us and chimps, oddly enough. I learned that in my Biological Anthropology (Evolution) class. We all need that and everyone accomplishes this when they're children and they realize that it is them self in the mirror, but this goes a bit deeper when we get older and we have to find out who we really are which is the basis for many popular stories in books and movies, etc.

Batman said that it's not what's underneath, but what I do that defines me. I thought that was so true. As we grow, we start by following mom and dad or whoever takes their place. We are taught by them and our environment collectively what is right and wrong and what is socially acceptable and we acquire all our skills thru this process as well. When someone starts to become really self aware and has the desire to define them self, a common scenario would be that they look back at all the places they've been guided to; all the decisions they've been encouraged to make; all the norms they've been placed in, and in all this they might wonder what they have done. What has been accomplished by "Me." There might have been great things accomplished. Or maybe nothing accomplished. Either way, if they aren't felt to be autonomous descisions or accomplishments, they might not suffice. Many roads can be taken at any of these stages, but we'll follow them downt he path of the "individual-minded" person.

At this point there is a very easy path to follow which makes it common, and that is the path of rebellion. Doesn't seen relevant, does it? Well, this path will accomplish a lot as a quick fix to the "I haven't accomplished a lot of my own accord" problem. One might change their appearance to be totally unlike what they've been raised to become. They might change their political or religious views. They might do "bad" things. VoilĂ ! I'm different. I’m individual. I've done this myself. I am who I’ve decided to be. I am not a "product of my environment."
*I am accomplished*

Right? Wrong? I don't know. Does a green mohawk make one truley unique? Does it dammage society or cause harm to others? Does a suit and tie move us all to become a happier people? I think the template of these questions are imortal because there is no answer. The only absolute is that we all need to be self-aware to be content, psychological beings. How we accomplish this is extremly... individual.