2017, Metaphors, Expectations, Fictions.
I have been thinking about these thought forms we live by. The planet has rotated on its axises and spun around our yellow sun, landing once more in this spot. An arbitrary place in its orbit that we have designated the start of… something… a new year.
This is a mutually agreed upon idea–like money. It holds meaning because we give it meaning. I could decide I like some day in spring better to be the start of a new year, but if I shouted “Happy New Year” from the mountain tops on that day, people would look at me like I was crazy. Just as if I took out my markers and made “money”, it wouldn’t pass for currency and might get me locked up.
We humans are social beasts. Not a very revolutionary statement. We as a collective, and more and more this collective is global, create these “notions”, “expectations”, and useful fictions that a huge proportion of us just go along with. And they continue.
Some of these useful fictions as collective agreements are useful– like money and the calendar. Others are not.
Let’s consider some of the metaphors, expectations, and fictions…
More is Better
First, the idea more is better. This idea is so embedded as a metaphor in the English language our brains are wired to think more is better. But is more better?
Can our planet handle more people? People wanting more and more stuff, eating more and more, and needing more and more water?
The Free Market Will Solve Everything
Secondly, how about the idea that free market capitalism is the magic solution to improve any situation?
Politicians and some economists frequently trot out free market capitalism as the way to improve everything from public education to healthcare to janitorial services in public institutions. As if competition along narrowly designated criteria always makes things better. While I think free market capitalism can improve some situations, I am not so certain I want healthcare or education decisions made without regulations.
I offer as an example the time when a local university switched its security personnel from being employed by the university and given a fair wage to outsourcing to a private company. All the computers in the library were stolen. Within a few weeks. I could elaborate on this one more, but I want to move on.
Further, what about the expectation that New Year’s Eve should be celebrated as a wild drunken party? Beyond far too many people who normally don’t drink much getting behind the wheel of their cars all on one night, maybe this expectation hurts folks in small ways? Like the poisonous cocktail of expectations that surrounds St. Valentine’s Day.
I can count on my hands the number of times I have gone out on New Year’s Eve for a party. Here are a few of those memories: 1. with a friend in college who proceeded to get uproariously drunk and puked everywhere; 2. with a former partner who took me to a party to “celebrate” the year 2000 coming in at his nutty friend’s house who wanted to have my preschool aged son sleep in a room with all of his guns; and 3. with a different partner at a botanical garden in Cape Town (lovely night, too bad the guy is an ass and this memory has turned to shit).
I sat last night and thought this one through. Being home and rejecting the expectation I “should” be out at a party was a much better way to spend the evening. A mini revolution. I am tired of the fictions.
Lastly, how about the notion “good people will have good things come to them”? When tragedy happens to good people, everyone is shocked. Why? We can certainly have empathy, but bad stuff happens and being a good person is no shield.
Conversely, when someone has horrible stuff happen to them we think somehow they deserved it. Why? Sometimes, stuff just happens.
Also wrapped into our notions of what makes a “good” person are weird things like attractiveness, race, religion, education, and economic class. Too often poor people are considered “low life” and hence deserving of horrible maladies. Why? Also, being a Christian does not automatically make someone better. Again, perhaps actions should determine if the title of “good person” should be bestowed. Nothing else.
Further, it’s great if we are good people, but this has nothing to do with what we might get. As I said at the start of this post, we are social animals. We are all interconnected. Each of us “needs” and each of us has skills we contribute to the whole of humanity. We get according to what we have to offer, what we do, what skills we have, etc. Turning up to a job interview and insisting you be hired because you are a good person won’t cut it. Showing up on a date and expecting the other person to fall in love because you are a good person won’t happen. Groundhog Day kind of springs to mind.
In conclusion, I am offering these thoughts as examples. There are many more possible examples that I could have used to illustrate our personal and societal thought forms. I am offering these because for me this is the year to cut through the collective notions getting in the way. So…
Do you want a better job? Develop your skills.
Do you want your novel published? Write. Get critiqued. Keep writing. Saying you are an author, but showing no written work? This won’t cut it.
Are we going to oppose a potentially fascist regime? Take apart the propaganda. Lay bare the fictions. Be critical. Create a plan. Find doable today actions.
Do you want to get in shape? Take apart your actions– are you working hard enough? Are you sweating? What’s your heart rate?
Let’s make 2017 the year of clarity. A year we examine our collective fictions, the expectations upon us, and our personal stories we tell ourselves.