When we are young and learning to be ourselves, we have a desperate need to blend in but, at the very same time we have the need to stand out. The blending in part caters to our insecurities and buffers the peer pressure, while the standing out part is the core element of our creative life energy. While those two opposites battle against each other in a silent but turbulent fight, we slowly position ourselves in society and life: we try to get an education, or not, we pursue our dreams, or perhaps our parents’ dreams, we try to find a soul mate or a sugar daddy. We try to turn the idea of an adult life that we deem suitable into our reality. Sometimes we get there, sometimes we get lost on the way.
I recently passed by a middle class neighborhood and had a striking realization. Once you strip the houses of their societal attributes they seemed very much like different colored Lego blocks, all made of exactly the same elements, built in a very similar way. It is as if all of their dwellers have bought the same boxes of Legos, the type that gives you the chance to make 3 possible objects out of the same ingredients inside. And, if you are really imaginative, you can have a few intelligent and imaginative modifications and your creation looks spectacularly different. Don’t get me wrong, I think that Legos are the smartest toy ever invented, and I still play with them with my kids. It’s not fun to step on them, though.
All of the houses in the neighborhood had a very similar type of car parked in front, and the mini-gardens were beautifully groomed, with lovely furniture and of course, a grill. As I was looking at them and could not see much difference, questions started pouring out of me: Is it possible that all these people want exactly the same things? If they entered a house three doors down, would they even notice a difference? What happened to standing out, being YOU instead of being like everybody else?
It would be easy to explain it with the fact that we live in an age of consumerism and that people fall prey to the materialistic hypnosis that corporate world is exercising over us via the advertising industry. But this would be an oversimplification. It is highly unlikely that so many people choose to zombie around just purchasing the idea of a happy life from TV commercials.
Walking around the neighborhood, it was obvious that well-being makes you comfortably sleepy in a way. But why? Once we have more than we need, do we stop being hungry for life and our creative drive falls asleep? Even though we can afford to live anywhere, we choose to live in the communities of those similar to us, where it is difficult to truly stand out. Of course many would count having a more expensive version of a grill as standing out, but that is just a surface thing. Do we trade our dreams for social status? Or is it purely biological that, once we have found safety, all that drives us to hunt for more simply slows down and goes into maintenance mode?
I do not think that there are right or wrong answers to those questions. Just like there is no right or wrong way to play with Legos. I am not even trying to find the answers. The realization that it is so easy to fall into that pattern is enough for me.