Sunday, January 1, 2012

I Am My Own Best Friend

Tradition is stagnant. It is safe. We are inertial beings. Individuals are dynamic, even volatile. Individuals are dangerous. Individuals are the spring of progress and inspiration.

Yep, I just got sprung.
From W. Bruce Lincoln's Romanovs: Autocrats of All The Russias:

"One of the most dramatic distinctions between these two cultures was that Russia' peasant society was communal, while the world of the nobles was individualistic. The emergence of individualism in Russia was a direct consequence of Peter The Geat's turn to the West for, until his reign, Muscovite noblemen had been governed by group loyalties and clan ties. Long before Peter's time, Europeans had abandoned the medieval ideal of a static world order in which tradition held unchallenged  sway and the notion of progress was virtually nonexistent. The triumph of reason, as expressed in Descartes's axiom, "I think, therefore I am," meant that the individual came to reign supreme in the minds of Europeans. All the achievements of the  Age of Exploration, all the discoveries of science in the seventeenth century, all the new patterns of entrepreneurship established by Europe's industrious and venturesome merchants, all the thought of the Age of Reason and afterward--all were the products of the critically thinking individual's triumph over medieval groups that had functioned according to the dictates of tradition. Peter wanted his nobles to function as individuals and to possess all the characteristics of their individualistic European counterparts: energetic behavior, a belief in progress, and unlimited creativity. Thus he established the principle that men would rise as a result of merit, not birth, and he rewarded men for what they did, not for what family they came from. He decreed that men could gainn noble status through meritorious service to the state. and he institutionalized that principle in the Table of Ranks in 1722. As Marc Raeff once wrote, "The merit clause of the Table of Ranks provided both the stimulus and the foundation for the development of individualism [in Russia]."

When I first read this passage, it rejuvenated my own belief in myself and my ethics. The individual is the greatest achievement of the human race. Its power is eroded and can even be effaced by an indoctrination from society to behave according to certain entrenched mores. Threatened by being declared persona non grata in society, to be ostracized, the individual adopts someone's else vision of reality. One that is an artificial and obliterates their sense of self. Society should NOT be one size fits all.

The Bastion of Change, The Bronze Horseman

My fantasy world is one where individuals reject the seductive notion of collectivism in favor of striking out on their own with "energetic behavior, a belief in progress and unlimited creativity".

We attempt to best respond to one another, but the inherent uncertainty of the other person's decisions introduces risk and fear into our lives. We process each new piece of information to re-evaluate our stance on people and ideas. There are no new pieces to a tradition. It exists in a vacuum as a refuge from critical individual thought. There is no progress in tradition, but there is power. (Hey, I am a Catholic, come on what did you expect me to totally shit on tradition? Awwww Hell no!)

So in this New Year take up the age-old tradition of making a resolution. But I implore do not JUST declare a superficial resolution. Make a resolution to be a critically thinking individual and to constantly perform self-assessment. Ask yourself why you like certain things? Why do you like this person? This particular tradition? This TV show? This music? Assess yourself in different roles in society. How can you improve yourself? Your inner circle of family and friends? Society? What is my belief system? Is it fully integrated?

My truths are an unabashed sense of individualism (from within), a relentless disposition of optimism (from my mother), and a indefatigable resolve to succeed as a positively contributing member of society (from my father).

What are your truths? (Tony Robbins eat your heart out!)

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