Personal Challenge 2 of 20
One Size Fits All is a Stupid Mentality is a generalization and therefore goes against my belief (and it's own) that generalizations are generally unhelpful. There are always (ehm...almost always) exceptions to these kinds of statements, but for the most part trying to dictate how EVERYONE should be is at a minimum unhelpful and taken to extreme can be deadly.
I'm not going to talk about the extreme-- not today at least. I think that most of us can see how believing that everyone should be one way or another can lead to violence, death, and the destruction of civilizations (I.E. the last several thousand years of history).
Today, I was thinking about this more in terms of its subtle, more insidious form. In particular I was thinking about sleeping and eating. Maybe it is out of love and security that we like to narrow health information down into generalized formulas. Maybe (if you see things with a more cynical lens) its because of marketing and greed. I'm sure that the reasons are as varied as the people who invent them. However, I think we've seen enough fad diets and unhelpful "health" tips to notice a pattern.
I'm not going to spend too much time adding to the surge of laments about the impossibility of finding good health information (ie no carbs, no fats, no calories, sleep early, sleep in, do cardio, do strength-training, maintain a schedule, be impulsive, be active, sit still). The point is that we seem to like to think that there is one way to do something and that is the ONLY way or the BEST way. Then we have to spend years (sometimes our entire lives) either trying to fit into "that way" or breaking ourselves against the molds or maybe giving up altogether.
When I was in 7th grade, I liked to "steal" (borrow) the books my older sister read, because I wanted to be smart like her (another example of having one idea of what it means to be smart.. but I digress). During that year I read a very philosophical book called The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff. I liked that book and its accompaniment The Te of Piglet immediately even though about 90% of what I read went completely over my head. Maybe if I re-read the books now they will make more sense to me.. but at the time exploring new ways of thinking about ethics and learning principles of ancient (or even modern) philosophical/ religious practice was still new to me. However the 10% that didn't go over my head made an impression.
There was a section I remembered reading about square pegs and round holes (which I think might actually have been from The Te of Piglet because I can't find it in the copy of The Tao of Pooh that I have on my desk right now). In my very enlightened 7th grade mind this image stuck as contrary to everything I then believed and I argued, grinding it against my own perspective and shaving the corners off the square pegs to try to make them fit into my round-hole perspective. (This would eventually become a theme for the next 15 years of my life I realize now). Anyway, instead of listening and understanding that not everything can fit everyone I insisted that the logic behind the image was flawed--- Maybe the holes should be made bigger? A square could be inscribed into a circle if the circle was big enough... Or maybe (I think this is the lesson I not-so-wisely decided on) the real meaning was that we should all force ourselves to be circular pegs because they could more easily fit into any shaped-hole (given that the hole is big enough).
Hmmm... I'm now seeing a strangely profound, tangential metaphor for my own life coming on.. Did I really integrate that lesson so thoroughly that I spent almost 2 decades whittling away at anything that might make me unique? Making myself as small as possible so that I might be eventually engulfed by any hole that came upon me? What an unhelpful misreading of a great philosophy about letting people be who they are--- No wonder I lost so much of myself and am only now beginning to find it again.
This is getting long and fraying at the edges so I'm going to sum up my thoughts real quick and wish everyone a great day. This has been extremely helpful for me, I hope it provides some insight for you as well. Here goes:
We are unique people--yes we've heard this a million times since childhood--but what would happen if we actually started to believe it? Let's do a thought experiment okay? Let's get rid of the concepts of "better" and "worse" and think instead of what actions will take me down the path that is healthiest, happiest, and most fulfilling for me as an individual? Can we imagine a world where "unique" isn't cynically followed by a negative about being different? Can we imagine what it would mean for all things that are different to be accepted not as better or worse but just as? Take away the "priority" list. Take away the hierarchy of expectation. Take away the self-evaluation, take away evaluation in general. What if we could learn without being graded? What if we could live without "measuring up"? Try not to come up with arguments about why that is impractical or how that will never work. This is just an experiment-- a game or practice-- I know that it might not seem possible in everyday life to get away from prioritization and discernment (in fact it is often dangerous to get away from these things so please don't do it). I just think it would be helpful to think about what a world would be like where we didn't have to do that? Where we didn't have to fit into any holes or desire any shape or belief system. Imagine what kind of world it would be where we could be fully ourselves and equally valued. Idealistic? yes. Practical? Yes actually. Imagination is a step towards creating something new.
Thanks for reading. :)