Sunday, January 25, 2009
This image symbolizes the choices we make as individuals and the effect it has on who we are. In particular, this has to do with the choices we make which affect our own identity. There are those in society who would shape and mold us in their own way and often this goes against our authentic nature. Often the institutions and structures of society are successful in molding us into something that is against our true individual nature and our identity is lost to us. We become sequestered from our authentic individuality.
Sequestration in this sense signifies a withdrawal into a false reality that is simply given. There are many aspects in society that can distract a person from the things that are essential to that individual’s wholeness and overall well-being. This can be a voluntary withdraw or it can be an involuntary act. In the case of voluntary sequestration, this comes in the various forms of entertainment seen in society such as in television and shopping malls. Being distracted by these things and by excessively engaging in these forms of entertainment an individual can miss out on the opportunities and possibilities that life has to offer. In turn, by being distracted by these forms of sequestration their sense of self is also neglected and the wholeness of the individual is never achieved. Involuntary sequestration comes in the form of restrictions that exist because of structures in society or relationships that can suppress a person’s individuality and creativity. Institutions such as schools that teach people what to think instead of how to think. In certain institutions a person’s individuality is restricted, discouraged, or isn’t even allowed to flourish at all. There may even be relationships where one person restricts or inhibits the growth of another’s character and identity.
The setting for this image is reminiscent of the entrance to a circus or some other entertainment spectacle. We see a ticket booth in the middle, a desolate section to the left, and a bright, inviting area to the right. Looking closer at the area on the left we see posters and objects you might expect to find at a circus. A cage for animals, juggling pins, banner flags, etc. There are trees that have lost all or most of their leaves giving this area an even more run-down and desolate feeling. One might even find the colors in this area to be stark and lifeless. Given what is seen at the entrance one might get an idea that what lies further to the left outside the picture is filled with more lifelessness and cold imagery. Looking at the right side of the image we see that it is strikingly different than the left side. Its look and feel is the polar opposite of the left. The colors are rich, the trees and vegetation are full and lush. It is much more inviting indicating that this area itself represents a form of life while the right side represents a form of death. On the right side the eye is drawn up the stairs and to a red door. This red door can be seen as a symbol of where one might find the life that exists in this area of the image.
The environment of a circus can capture the idea of sequestration. In a circus, people dress up in costumes and wear masks, hiding their identity, and perform stunts and tricks for show. There are two perspectives at a circus. One is the standpoint of the viewer who is just a passive observer of entertainment and those who are the performers who put on a scripted show for the audience. Both of these standpoints can be sequestrative. Those who are passive observers of the spectacle contribute nothing to the show itself. They take in what is given to them directly and have no say or control of what they witness. On the other side, the performers have control and they have the final say of what is shown to the audience. This is liberating in that a performance can be an expression of one’s true nature through creativity, but at a circus the performers must wear costumes, make-up, and masks that, in a more symbolic way, still hide their authentic nature from the viewers. The part that is sequestrative from the performers standpoint is that they must hide behind what it means to be the characters in a circus and conform to their given roles of a clown, lion tamer, ringmaster, etc. Even though there are some degrees of freedom, the true individual nature of the performers is still sequestered by the roles they must hide behind. These roles that are given to the circus performers are similar in that we are given rigid roles by others in society or in some cases we give ourselves roles. By simply accepting roles and conforming to them the true nature our individuality is lost.
Often we gravitate towards forms of sequestration because they constantly surround us and their nature is concrete. There is also an element of instant gratification in forms of voluntary sequestration. In the image the sunlight shines on the desolate area to the left making it stand out more than the area on the right. This indicates the nature of voluntary sequestration which stands out and begs for our attention in our daily lives.
The development of one’s true nature is often tedious, laborious, and very difficult. It is subjective in nature, it is individual, it can even seem elusive, and isn’t easily identified. It’s an ongoing process that has no concrete endpoint. In the image, the area on the right is somewhat hidden, it doesn’t standout as much as the desolate area on the left. This is similar to how the mysterious nature of the authentic self may appear for many in society. This area is in shadow, but is it full of life. There is a fruit tree at the bottom of the stairs and there are more vibrant and living plants in this area. This is symbolic of the rich life that comes with the true wholeness of an individual.
Choosing a lifestyle that is made up of primarily sequestrative elements is an easier path to take because of its concrete nature. However, this not only applies to the external elements, found in the media for example, but also in the roles that inhibit us. The roles that we take on are also concrete in nature. Within roles, there are specific things that are required and expected of us. In modern society there may be more deviation from those specific expectations, but the core element of the roles we are given still dominate our being. As stated earlier, at times we are given roles externally or we give ourselves strict roles to conform to. When we choose to conform to our roles it’s usually because it’s all we know or have known. It is something that is already defined and in a way this can be a comforting element. In contrast, the elusive and unknown nature of the authentic self is territory only the individual can define for himself or herself. Most would choose to remain in their day to day roles because it is something familiar and one might not see value in journeying beyond that. To journey towards one’s true being requires risk, the ability to question, and to honestly look upon one’s own self and see what needs to torn away and what needs to be taken on. This is a task that would be daunting for most because it’s a change in lifestyle that moves people away from what is familiar, it is a journey into something unknown.
The evolution of one’s true individual nature ties in with the goals and aspirations an individual sets up for himself or herself. In many cases, these goals and aspirations do not match those advertised and handed to the individual in a passive manner from outside sources such as in the media, but come from within. They are created and imagined and are often quite different than any ideal that might be advertised to the individual. The authentic nature of an individual lies in the ability to express one’s unique ideas to the fullest. These ideas are not as concrete because it is dependant on the individual to define and create one’s own goals for an ideal life. Expression of these ideas might be something as small as an idea to help promote a better and more efficient workflow on a project or as big as a goal that has a significant impact on one’s life.
The reason for choosing a lifestyle of authenticity over one that is sequestrative lies in how clearly one sees the depth and richness each lifestyle holds. A lifestyle that deals mainly in forms of sequestration can be satisfying and quite enjoyable, but the opportunities and possibilities are much shallower than what can be found in a lifestyle where one truly knows oneself and has the audacity to boldly pursue the goals one would set for oneself. In a sequestrative lifestyle one is essentially limited to what is already present, but an authentic lifestyle is rich with infinite possibilities and opportunities that spring from the creative source of the individual.
The actualization of ideas that come from the authentic nature of the individual is the highest form of expression one can achieve. Expressing an ideal that exclusively comes from outside one’s authentic nature, outside of one’s imagination and creativity, like taking part in an extravagant get-away that is advertised to the individual is less of an expression of one’s own nature, but rather an expression of those who have handed that idea to an individual. A pure expression of one’s authentic nature is a result of deliberate effort and concrete reason behind one’s action.
Those who have ideas and spend days coming up with ideas that can better their own lives and the lives of others are often called idealists or even dreamers. Those with a pessimistic view might dismiss these people and label them as idle dreamers who do nothing but speak of how great things might be. These people might say that it is better to be a practical achiever, one who is grounded in the reality of the way things are and strives to accomplish only what can truly be accomplished. Their viewpoint of idealists is true only to a degree. An idealist is only an idle dreamer when one doesn’t have foresight or put forth the energy to make those ideas a reality.
There is a downside in being too much on one side of this spectrum. A practical achiever who ignores idealists and dismisses them overlooks the opportunities and possibilities of a better life for themselves and for the world simply because of the pessimistic view that their ideas can never be achieved to the fullest. The idealist who spends all day coming up with ideas, but never takes the time or put forth the effort to translate them into reality never achieves anything great for themselves or for the world. The key is balancing the two personalities into one. Creating ideals and finding ways to achieve them, expressing one’s authentic nature, is not only the highest form of expression one can hope to achieve, but is also the liberating path an individual takes in achieving wholeness.
eligo – from the Latin [to pick out, select, choose].
“The solution is to gradually become free of societal rewards and learn how to substitute for the rewards that are under one's own powers. This is not to say that we should abandon every goal endorsed by society; rather, it means that, in addition to or instead of the goals others use to bribe us with, we develop a set of our own.“
-Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, 1990