conformity is intrinsically dishonesty


This is just a quick insight into a little event that happens regularly among people.

Not so long ago, I attended a family wedding. There were many people that I had not seen for many years, in fact some 30 years or more. In passing it is quite something that you meet old acquaintances only at weddings or funerals. Normal, you might say and it happens all the time.

When you arrive and see all these faces and everyone is impeccably dressed for the circumstances, you wonder where you stand and who are all these people. Most of us  in our late  60’s and 70’s.  Even family members seem so distant and you try to put a name or  recollect who they are now. Or rather who they were then.  I  stand for a while a little lost trying to figure out this face or that. But  nothing comes to mind and names are so far away in your memory that all the searching does not bring anything back. Dozens of people are in the same predicament as I am, that is sure. Finding a name or a face or some vague memory of where did I see them last. What do they look like now? Yes, what are they now that is what matters after all.

After re acquainting yourself  with faces of so long ago I hear this sentence frequently: ” Gee you have not changed at all”. Really,  I asked myself, if that were the case why is that I do not recall any of you…but that was an internal remark. Do I play the game and say ;” wow! neither did you” You look exactly the same, you have not changed at all. That would be really telling a fib I say to myself. So I reply;” I don’t think so, surely I am not the same as I was 30 odd years ago…I have more wrinkles, my hair is whiter, I wear glasses I exclaim laughing.”  The other replies:’ yes, it has been quite a while and what have you been up to”. Internally, I muse and say to myself, where do I start? So, I say:” it depends where you want me to start from”? Cheeky, unnerving, puzzling, disrupting the nice flow of the meeting. So what, I don’t really care in the end. Totally unsociable. 

To this, the other person is a little at a loss. A few seconds of silence ensues. Both feeling the awkwardness of the situation. Why is this? Simple when you think of it. Had I answer to the other person who was fat, slumped and white haired: “Gee, you too, you look amazingly the same” which of course that what they wanted to hear also. We would have been both comforted in the notion that we had not aged, we were  both the same spring chickens we were 30 or 40 years ago. We would have both felt elated at this and reassured. So, the original statement that I had  not changed was futile and a conformity that we apply in social settings. In my views this is really dishonest because we are not facing to the fact that we are getting old and all the psychological and physical  problems that old age may bring. Especially at a wedding, where the couple are in their late 20’s or early 30’s. We feel left out, the good old times are gone and so is our youth and glamour and at times our social status with it.

How many times have you found yourself in that same situation? How many times have looked at the exchange with friends and people were you are obliged to reply in a flattering manner to suit you and be nice to the other, just to comply to the social etiquette.  I am not against social etiquette but I am always intrigued at what is BEHIND our simple exchanges. 

Why do we have to ignore the fact that we are ageing? . These polite exchanges are trying to ignore the facts of life. Well, I feel quite confortable where I am and do not wish to play this silly game. It breeds a false sense of security. After all we are mortal, our life has a definite curb, so I’d rather be well in my skin NOW and stop pretending that I am the same as in my 30’s. How hard is it to accept this? It could be, if you are regretting what you were. Why regret? Is there something that we are not accepting now?. That something that we refuse to look at is our mortality. A famous Indian philosopher Krisnamurti, said: “Die now, then you would be able to see and may comprehend what is immortality.”

Maybe the subject for another little writing.

Till next time.

8 thoughts on “conformity is intrinsically dishonesty

  1. Gwinichiko – yes! I knew I was spelling it wrong but couldn’t remember how. I like that it kind of looks Japanese, no? My Japanese online alter-ego 🙂

    Of course no-one I know would ever say that – although I know someone who once had a boyfriend who believed everyone should say exactly what they think, all the time – so he might have! Their relationship didn’t last long as you may imagine.

    My point was not that it was a realistic alternative, on the contrary! I was musing over what the opposite would be of this standard small talk that seems ‘dishonest’ and if, on another planet in another time, people actually said things like that, whether you might prefer it rather than to ‘play the game.’ It would certainly be less boring at times eh?

    I like your story about the moody Nimbin man. How curious people are! Funny and sad and strange aren’t we? He must have a fascinating version of the world going on in his head…

    Can’t wait to get into our long post-dinner talks in person soon…. xxx

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  2. Hello – Gwinikicho here! Just rediscovered your blog…so nice to hear your thoughts and see what’s going on with pictures of Nimbin!

    Reading this post, you know what I am curious about? What is the purpose of being ‘Cheeky, unnerving, puzzling, disrupting the nice flow of the meeting’? Was the person who asked what you’ve been up to very disagreeable or something? In which case I understand why you wanted to teach them a lesson by creating an awkward situation! Ha! 🙂

    If not, what is the motivation? I’m just wondering because while I agree with you – what they said is very generic – and, as you say – not entirely accurate, it IS what people most say to establish contact and get a conversation going. I’m sure I have done so myself many times! So I’m interested to hear your thoughts on the alternative? If you feel this is dishonest, how would you feel if they said: ‘Hi Gigi! Wow, you look so much older! I’m not that interested in what you’ve been up to all these years but since this is a social occasion you may as well tell me since I don’t know you well enough to tailor a question specific to your life and am too tired to think of something more original to say.’ Would this be better? Or how about not saying saying hello at all rather than coming out with standard small talk? In which case one might not speak to a soul all day at such a function! I’m not being cheeky – I really want to know if you would have preferred it! 🙂

    Maybe we can discuss it, along with life’s other peculiarities, soon in person. So looking forward to it!

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    1. Gwinichiko and not Gwinikicho. You forgot the C. I had to laugh …a new one on me, variation on a theme.

      Hello there, small talks are by no means to be avoided. There are part of the social structure and must remain so. I am only questioning myself and trying to look at what we say and why. The real meaning of what we are really trying to convey. The social norms are surely part of the etiquette. But what is behind all that? Is it a comedy? A drama? A lie? How can we convey meaning without being caught by it? Is it really possible?

      Your example is not real because no one would say such thing. It is not part of the rules of engagements in social settings. Unless you are dealing with antisocial behaviour, no?

      I certainly do not want to stay without talking….I can’t anyway I always talk too much.

      However, there is one guy in Nimbin, whom I see on a very regular basis at the Gallery and he never said ” hi Gigi”not a word… till last week. Surely that is not the norm. Then he had to ask me something…HAD to and suddenly, out comes the conventions. He did not conform till he had to. I meant nothing till he wanted something from me. I just chuckled. If I had taken it seriously and started saying what an idiot he was….I would have bought in to his game. But i just waited to see what was the outcome of all these years of ignoring me. Was fun.

      Now, after having made the first step, he salutes me in a most gracious way I even get a smile….gee I am so lucky.

      Of course, i could have died and so could he…but life is full of surprises and here we are…another observation. I had tried to say hello but, he would look the other way. So, he saw me, I saw him….and not even a smile. We just ignored each other…is this very social? People are funny, weird and so much more… We are a source of perpetual surprises to ourselves.

      Anyway let’s talk about it in a couple of weeks. Better sometimes…tho, I could have gone on writing especially when I am in a mood. I can’t stop at times.

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  3. Ah Peter, I feel exactly as you do! But perhaps we are all focusing too much on the externals after all. No matter what our appearance as we age, it would serve us well to remember that what we see in the mirror is nothing but illusion. Our true natures are radiant and beautiful. And that relative or friend who appears so wrinkly and sagging is beautiful and radiant as well!

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    1. Hi there, Gigi here, even tho we are beautiful and radiant…we are alive after all no? Most people do not know that. They get stuck in one mode and are not aware of their true nature. The other side of the coin is rarely observed or even looked at. Hence the suffering and the lack of understanding. Sometimes, I feel it is easy and sometimes I feel it is hard….But I know where my heart is….and that is the most important. I always like your comments and enjoy reading your writings.

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  4. I felt reading this, how poignant it is when two people meet again, and reassure each other ‘Oh, you haven’t changed one bit.’ Both colluding in the pretence that all is just as it always was. A kind of conspiracy to deny the truth, which is reassuring because it seems to bring at least a moment of solidarity. It leaves me feeling like saying the next time: ‘Yes, for sure. Except for the extra wrinkles, the increased area of bare skin on my head, my slower gait and reduced flexibility in my joints.’ A certain conversation stopper.

    But the funny thing is that, inside my interior self, I don’t feel any different at all. I don’t mean the feeling of my body, I mean my mental state, it is subject to the same way of looking, the same way of reacting and rationalising my reactions, and it seeks the same sort of uneasy middle point between two equally uncomfortable extremes. In other words, the same balancing act on the tight rope that links all the dualities that my mental existence is made of.

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  5. Thanks Jan, I always welcome your comments. I am glad you are having a good read. Have not seen you for yonks and we are leaving soon. Maybe a quick cuppa in town soon.

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  6. Ah Gigi, you make me laugh – I love your perceptions of social norm and society in general – occassionally old friends you see do not age in your eyes as you know them so well – relatives – well, you can pick your friends not your relatives! enjoyed your read, thank you xx jan

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