Sunday, February 10, 2008

Moving East While Heading West

It should not be denied...that being footloose has always exhilarated us. It is associated in our minds with escape from history and oppression and law and irksome obligations, with absolute freedom, and the road has always led west. -- Wallace Stegner

Interesting how the US has a unique fascination with the concept of heading West. Since colonization of the continent, the western frontier wilderness was a place to test one's mettle. It is the symbol of freedom and independence with the American notion of returning to our roots. Rugged individualism has been vaulted to near mythic proportions, yet when individual expression deviates from our conservative notions it is quickly branded as incendiary and dangerous. I laugh sometimes at how quickly we reject the odd ball idea or subversive invention, yet on the other hand pretend to value the iconoclast

Maybe as a western society without the roots of eastern philosophy that has long recognized the balance of the yin and yang we seek a counter balance ideas which appear to threaten the status quo. It is as if without a cultural framework to understand why both liberal and conservative notions can be equally valued, we resort to demonizing the different. Slash and burn, act first, appreciate the aggressive quality of a young society that always acts first and makes sense of those actions later. We trust in the notion that a "good" society only acts in the overall best interests of humanity. In some ways, we have become so indoctrinated with this idea that any action we take as a society must be altruistic to the world that we have allowed ourselves to be blinded by "higher purpose". Can't we see that every country, society, tribe, nation feels they are acting the same way?

Similarly, as individuals we value freedom, revel in the fancy of the footloose wanderer who seeks out his adventure and fortune. We value the movement westward, the conquering of lands of if conquering ourselves in the process. In many ways we are the adolescents of the world and of ourselves. We have yet to see the maturity of conquering the inner world while we seek to prove ourselves in the outer. It is an expression of novelity as well as a symbol of the amount of growth still required, both personally and as a society.

You Might Also Like:

The Trouble with Being Right
Just Say When
Making Happy Bhutan-eers
Looking Through the Window
Moral Absolut Best Served on the Rocks
The Failure of Wisdom
Do You See as I See?

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