Monday, January 10, 2011

Passage to Freedom

The culture crisis, when we realize our culture isn't the only choice, is our passage to all true personal freedom and higher development. It's also a test, a filter.

Granted, too many people flunk this test and remain behind. Totalitarians, jingoists, bigots, and idealogues do their best to avoid other cultures or drive them into extinction in a misguided effort to resolve their personal crisis by eliminating from the world any choice but the one they know and trust. After all, if there are no other choices in existence, then we don't have to suffer the anxiety of having to choose.

The rest of us, though, realize that if other people can live and think in different ways, then so can we, that we do not have to remain the person we have been up until now, the person our parents and culture molded us to be, but can instead begin to mold ourselves into whoever we want to become.

That is, we can give up the passivity of our mental and cultural childhood to become active participants in creating our adult selves. We can be more than other people's creations; we can become creators of ourselves.

After all, no one and nothing is perfect; every parent and culture does things right, but we also do things wrong and make mistakes. Until we become co-creators of ourselves, we must passively accept not just the strengths our parents and culture imparted to us but also their weaknesses. If we see ourselves only with the ideas they had, we will usually make the same mistakes they did and overlook and therefore preserve and pass on the same weaknesses.

Our development is limited until we transcend our upbringing. The only chance we have to keep the strengths while repairing the weaknesses is to get involved in the process by learning to think about ourselves in different ways than the ways that produced those weaknesses in the first place.

When we instead begin to use more than one culture at a time to evaluate ourselves and the world, our relationship to our ideas and culture becomes qualitatively different - different in kind - than it was before, and we move into a new stage of human development in which we can finally gain perspective on these things, to understand them more fully than the limited framework of their own self-justifying rationalizations would allow.

Resolving this crisis in a healthy way is the pivotal moment, the most important passage, in any person's life between birth and death. Only through this realization is it possible to become an actual adult instead of just the child in an adult's body that so many "adults" remain. We cannot understand ourselves nor can we create any meaningful personal freedom of action unless and until we can see ourselves with new eyes, to gain a new viewpoint on ourselves and our choices that reveals how much more range of thought and action we have than our culture and upbringing alone would have given us.

After passing through this crisis, everything looks different to us, and we need a new way of relating to ideas and opinions. This new way, the way of personal freedom and responsibility, is very different than the childish opinion-mongering that passes for politics in the modern world.

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