Community | Individuation: Becoming who we can be

Communities allow us to make up our own rules, and to live by them without the fear that we are doing something wrong or strange. By the time we reach our twenties we will have absorbed a lot of information about how to live our lives: standards that we should be upholding; things that we should be doing at certain times, or have done by certain times; things we shouldn’t do; paths that are foolish; paths that are brave. The list goes on. Much of it will be received wisdom, and a lot of it may be very well grounded and useful. However, we shouldn’t forget that these are our lives to lead, and they haven’t been written already. We are all free to make up our own rules; to paint whatever pictures we wish for ourselves, and in whatever colours we like.

Becoming what one is is a creative act comparable with creating a work of art. It is freeing oneself from the tyranny of one’s upbringing; emancipating oneself from convention, from education, from class, from religious belief, from all the social conventions, prejudices, and assumptions which prevent one from realizing one’s own nature in its totality.2

Throughout our lives we are constantly growing and changing, searching for an identity that we can call our own. In finding out who we really are – or in becoming who we can be – we sometimes have to make difficult decisions, or to take challenging actions. What we know of integrity tells us that in many ways it is good to remain the same; to have continuity in our thoughts and actions is seen as a virtue, and we admire those who have stuck by their views over the years. It is undoubtedly true that in many cases we are right to see this quality as a virtue, but this realization doesn’t mean that it should be taken as an absolute. The ability to abandon a viewpoint is often as virtuous as the ability to maintain one.

The other terror that scares us from self-trust is our consistency; a reverence for our past act or word … Why drag about this corpse of your memory, lest you contradict somewhat you have stated in this or that public place? Suppose you should contradict yourself; what then? … With consistency a soul has simply nothing to do … Speak what you think now in hard words, and tomorrow speak what tomorrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict everything you said today.3

The ability to change is vital if we are to succeed in realising our potential. We start off knowing nothing and end up knowing very little: in between these points is our journey of discovery. Whilst many things we learn may have little impact upon us, there are also things – truths, ideas – that impact upon us so greatly that they compel us to change. We must always be open to this change, to be able to make ourselves available and ready for it. The voice of who we can be calls us along and sometimes it can be hard to follow, to take the next step towards it.

In becoming who we are, we may take paths that received wisdom or general consensus doesn’t approve of or cater for, routes that lead into unknown territory. Being surrounded by a community of like-minded people makes such routes easier to take, and can allow us to explore ourselves and the world in ways we would have found more challenging otherwise.

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