Togetherness and the individual

THURSDAY, 9 DECEMBER 2004

Many people are familiar with the phenomenon of discomfort with themselves. One of the things they do to alleviate this discomfort is to make sure they spend as much of their waking hours as possible with people who like them, and who are comfortable with them.

“What on earth is wrong with this?” many will certainly cry out.

And I will feel tempted to say, nothing. I am just making an innocent remark.

But plenty of fish have swum through many an ocean on this planet since a question had started piquing my interest: What does it give the individual to be with other people?

A further question is what would be the result if the need that is being met with interaction with other people is reduced? Certainly the individual will not yearn for the fellowship of other people as often as before, and for such extended periods – an idea that will surely exasperate anyone who believes in the universal value of spending time with other human beings.

A third and final question: say a person can indeed reduce his or her need for companionship, would it not enable the person to be less dependent on the dictates of others on how they should appear to the community, about how they should function, and about what they ought to say and do, when, and in what ways?

Side thought: Some people may want to point out that human beings are not mechanical creatures waiting for instructions to be punched in before they can utter a word or raise a limb. Naturally very few people wait for someone else to punch out a command on their foreheads before they start taking action. The prescriptions and rules I refer to are sometimes subtle and other times they cannot possibly be more explicit, at times commonsense and sometimes so obfuscated that if you would point it out to some people, they will immediately strike their armour and run for their war ponies in order to force you to retract your words.

What results, to summarize, would it have on the psyche of an individual who becomes free from the prescriptions of others on how they should appear, how they should behave, and what they ought to do and what not? And may it be that in the case of certain individuals this freedom could be an essential part of the process that would enable them to bring about a positive result of their existence on this planet?

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