Thursday, March 22, 2012

Thoughts on Individuality and Honouring Otherness

 Ernest Shackleford later reflected, " The personnel of an expedition of the character I proposed is a factor on which success depends to a very large extent... They must be able to live together in harmony for a long period without outside communication, and it must be remembered that the men whose desires lead them to the untrodden paths of the world have generally marked individuality."

Generally marked individuality... I imagine this is a very diplomatic way of saying these men are not average but rather unique, to say the least.  Different.  Mad scientists.  Crazy inventors.  Awkward social skills. The weird neighbour from whom you shield your children. The one member of the extended family you'd like to disown.  The guy everyone thinks is a lunatic until he discovers uranium... or the adhesive behind post-it-notes... or chocolate molten lava cake. And then, of course, everyone is knocking at his door for book signatures, speaking engagements and the opportunity to name drop ("He's my neighbour!" or "He's my cousin!").

Those of us who come from Western cultures say that we prize individuality, but do we really?  It seems to me that we also hold conformity equally as high.  Be an individual as long as you're like me and I agree with what you're doing.  Be unique as long as it fits within societal norms.  Be daring as long as you don't offend anyone (did you ever consider the impossibility of that?).

Not only does it require courage to be daring; it also requires to accept others who are daring and honour their uniqueness.  

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