There’s certain things each of us likes and certain things we hate. Is it due to conditioning or do we each have a predilection towards these things. It’s the classic debate: nature versus nurture. That’s not what I want to talk about tonight. Some of you are psychology majors or just in general wiser than I am and are much more qualified to speak of that stuff. Instead, I’d like to ask, how much of our tastes are affectations?
In our culture, image is everything. If somebody’s seem cool and hip, he’s treated differently in almost every respect than somebody who pays no attention to what’s fashionable or currently acceptable according to our culture. But it doesn’t stop there. Beyond just being in tune with the culture, one has to ascribe to the particular aesthetic values and personality mold of a specific subset of the generally relevant.
We have an entire nomenclature devoted to categorizing people in this way. We have goths, jocks, frat boys, nerds, geeks (which is apparently something completely different than nerds, though I’ve never been able to tell the difference), skaters, gangsters (I’ve been told this can be used in a positive sense?), and, my favorite, hipsters. If you’re anything like me, an image, a stereotype, flashed before your mind’s eye at the mention of each of these labels. We automatically sort each person we meet into these boxes, but no human being can fit in a box.
Worse still, we sort ourselves into these boxes. We tell people, “I’m a bit of a jock,” or “I’m a band geek” as if that’s the most important thing for another person to know about us, and maybe it is, but it shouldn’t be. How sad of a life is it if a dumbbell, a piece of metal, defines your identity? How terrible, if some natural ability you possess is all that enables you to differentiate yourself from the mob of humanity?
I’m Adam B. I like books. Better, I love books. I enjoy long runs and fast-paced sports that aren’t called American Football. I like music. To a degree, I make music. None of that is important. None of that will help you to know me any better. It might help you know the image I project into the world. It might even give you some clues about who I am, but you’ll never know me that way.
Valentine’s Day is ostensibly about love. Personally, I think it’s more about chocolate, not that that’s a bad thing. Love is a relationship and a sacrifice. We love to talk about love. We put hearts on our t-shirts and X’s and O’x on the end of our letters. But it’s much harder to love people one doesn’t know. Worse still, it’s a cheaper variety of love. And how many people do we really know?
I’m Adam B. I am a sinner redeemed by grace. That’s the start and the most important part, but there’s more to me. I’m prone to pride and overbearing assertiveness. I’m fiercely loyal to those who have earned it and sometimes to those who have not. Large groups of people scare me. I’m curious—in every sense of the word. That’s just the beginning.
But I’m not even sure why I went to that trouble. Truth is, you can’t come to know me reading my words on a blog. It requires much more than that.
When I really think about it, I don’t know all that many people. I know about quite a few of them, as quite a few know about me, but I don’t know them. Why is this? How can we live in a world more populous than ever and still be only tenuously connected to our fellow man?
I’m convinced that a large piece of the problem are these boxes in which we put ourselves. Why should enjoy a particular kind of music just because the culturally acceptable subset to which I belong enjoys them. To give a specific example from a subset we all love oh so dearly, why should I dislike well-known music merely because it’s mainstream?
I may have given you the impression earlier that the actions we take and the activities in which we are involved are not a part of our identity or at least shouldn’t be. That isn’t what I was trying to convey. I don’t ever want participate in an activity merely because its the culturally expedient action to take. Neither do I want to avoid something for the same reason. Instead, every action I take should have a purpose, perhaps not a conscious one, but a purpose nonetheless. I play sports because I enjoy them. I attend classes so that I can fulfill God’s command to work and because knowledge is beautiful. Etc.
I feel as if all of the above paragraphs run together without really ever conveying my point. So here it is. Know people. Let people know you. Stop being a fake.