21.5.09

The Hand that's Dealt



I don't believe in fate, or destiny. The idea that my entire existence is at the whim of some supernatural entity doesn't hold water (neither should it, for any rational individual). There is a type of 'fate' or set of pre-determined pathways that I do believe in, however. A kind of inevitability perpetuaded by the triangle of human influence, human behavior, genetics and culture (inseperable from upbringing in my opinion). These three conspire to hold us onto the behavioural tracks we ride along throughout our lives. There are some escapes, some people who experience true clarity and jump off the wagon, but how often? Even supposed life changing experiences only either temporarily veer us off the track and evenutally sling us back on, or further cement us in without moving an inch. One humurous, albeit depressing example of this fate is, if you don't go to college and have no real creative ambition, you will be ass-kissing your way through some corporate or industrial HR structure to end up in lower-management before retiring. For millions, that is a reality. Every day I see people coming to terms with that realization, desperately re-inventing themselves through materialism to try and escape the fact that the rails are set, and stretch off endlessly into the horizon.

We all have potential, but society is not designed, or could be sustained on such individualism. "Remember, you're unique. Just like everyone else."

The question I have is; can we change? I mean, really change, who we are, the way we see things, the methods in our actions and interactions? We're told we can, day in, day out, advertising thrives on the fact that we're in one hole, and we want to get out of it. Self help books litter the shelves on new and fabulous ways to change our lives, professing to pull us out whatever rut they just told us we're in, to newer and better things that are always just over that hill. Most of these are really just teaching methods by which we can 'get by', and become an accepted member of society, because people wouldn't really accept a truly open and happy individual, not really. 'Being yourself' is usually just a euphamism for learning to like what everyone else likes and to stop complaining.

We all think we're changing, we all think we have dynamic personalities that can absorb and react and adapt. It comforting to think like that, but it's not true. Little of how we act or think isn't because of some rooted neuroses or pre-set genetic variation or a facet of inneffectual parenting. Within those 'pre-sets' are room for movement, but not much. Can you litereally re-wire your brain, upheave the constructs that have supported you for so long and start over? Jump off? To where? Can people tolerate those sorts of changes? Some can, but they'll still be using the same framework that supported them earlier, before noticing that they're on a set of tracks that look suspiciously like the other ones.

In terms of modern psychological developments, we're living in a world where we are expect to define every last emotion we have. We're asked to explain how we feel about everything, and even describe our actions in terms of what we're feeling (I call it 'tabletop psychology' as most people piece together fragments from magazine articles or TV shows and try to sound like a therapists. Dangerous but true). I have known others try, and I've tried myself, to uncover the framework that the personality resides on. In thses cases, through both societal pop-psychology terminology and personal exploration, all that we get is the knowledge that the way we act is largely out of our hands. Depressing, no matter how you look at it (sometimes I say 'pshaw' to 'know thyself'. Better to be unaware and still be suprised from time to time...!). To me, these sort of efforts are like taking a block of stone and trying to sculpt something from it, only to realize that a) tools are too blunt b) the stone is brittle and unworkable resulting in something that looks crude, whilst running the risk of chipping too hard and cracking off a huge chunk of something vital, and c) (running with the analogy), that you're still working with the same stone, and it hasn't really changed.

Maybe true 'personality matrix variability' change doesn't come from within, chipping away at the innards of our minds. Perhaps thrusting oneself into new environments is the key, forcing oneself to deal with issues outside of the usual sphere of control. Of course, you have to have the kind of mind to want to step off the tracks in the first place, but anyone is capable of getting off a stop early and just seeing what happens.

Can true change take place? Or are we set in stone for good?

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