Small house, big world

TUESDAY, 8 JUNE 2004

What is relevant and not relevant to the “owner” of the SELF are some of the most important considerations to take into account during the process of defining the SELF.

An example of this is opinion. Which issues are relevant enough for a person to formulate an opinion on and which not require knowledge of the SELF.

It follows that the smaller the area of which you are aware, the less information you receive, and therefore the easier it is to find/define your SELF.

For example, if I live in a big city and regularly interact with a wide variety of people, and I’m aware of political issues stretching from Northeast Asia to the Middle East to Central Africa, Europe and North America, as well as environmental issues, ethical issues, religious issues and many other topics one can have an opinion on, my process of defining an identity will take significantly longer than will be the case with a guy who grew up in a small town, who lives there as an adult, and who will eventually die there of old age.

One would like to say – because don’t most of us live in the “bigger” world? – that it is better to be aware of more and that it is boring to spend your entire life within a limited area. Certainly arguments can be made about “knowledge is power”, about the lack of more or better information leading to fears of that which some people may only be vaguely aware of, and lack of knowledge that leads to misunderstanding and prejudice against those who are not “like us”.

This issue of big world versus small town is not what interests me at the moment, and my current relationship with the “bigger” world is of such a nature that I have no incentive to make a case for or against participation and engagement.

The interesting question for me at this stage is whether you can fully define your SELF in a “large” environment where you regularly enter into new relationships, where issues come and go, and where new data flows in on a daily basis while you’re still trying to finish last month’s newspapers or current affairs magazines. I don’t think so.

Many people will agree that issues you have to take a position on as part of your identity are less important than relationships. The benefit of fewer, but more meaningful relationships, including positive family ties, is thus once again emphasised. (I did not try to work it in. It just emerged as the obvious answer to the question of what provides a solid foundation to the SELF in an ever changing world. Therefore, it would seem that I have once again, after a round of intellectual contemplation, come across a bit of wisdom that the proverbial “everyone” knows.)

A balance can, therefore, be proposed between the “small” world at home, and the “big” world outside your front gate; priority given to the former provides people at the end of the day with a firmer definition and more certainty of SELF.

But now that I think about it … is this not what most people are already doing? Of course! People are brilliant! (Just a pity they don’t know it.)

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