As products of a well established society, we follow certain norms. We make sure we complete our education by a certain age, take up a job by a certain age, marry or settle down,(as it’s popularly termed) by a certain age and our final destination- that of parenthood, the inevitable and the predictable next step. After all procreation is our purpose in life- we live for our children, who live for their children…and the cycle of life goes. The human race flourishes and the society thrives!
As long as we fit in with this pattern of life, we are termed as ‘normal’, our individual suffering within this cycle notwithstanding. And yet how normal is this ‘one size fits all’ way of life? The educationists are trained to cater to the learning pace of each child, the parents are forbidden to compare the siblings and the society is expected to be tolerant of all kinds that make the world, as long as they fall within their parameter of ‘normal’.
But when it comes to individual choices, why is it that anyone who chooses ‘the road less travelled’ is frowned upon. Just as one man’s trash is another one’s treasure, what is fulfilling for one person may not be something that the other can endure. Life is an individual journey and the subjective world of each individual is unique and beyond the grasp or understanding of another’s.
While one person may use his/her time to make money, for another to have money is to have time. Time to explore the outer world or delve into their inner world. This may seem to them more enriching than using their time to make more money. It’s an individual approach and choice.
Likewise, when it comes to relationships, especially of the matrimonial kind, a life partner and child/children may be a source of contentment for some, but for some, the same might seem like an encroachment on their individual space and an encumbrance on their sense of freedom, perhaps even their identity.
The remarkable aspect of these choices is that there is no right or wrong here, it’s purely need based. What makes it wrong is when the so called ‘normal’ is imposed upon individuals. The society which is the microcosm of our global world is not static by nature. It needs to evolve as per the individual need. To expect individuals to conform to the established order at the cost of their individuality is to give rise to hostility. As long as the social stability is not compromised, individual variations must be accepted. Otherwise we’ll have a bitter lot to deal with, of people who were made victims of conditioned responses. People, who in hindsight feel that their life was set on auto pilot and they were programmed into living the life that was expected out of them.
What they had expected from their life seems so remote and far fetched. All that can be done now is to wish that they could turn back the clock and travel back in time, to live the life they wanted to, to breathe easy, to do things their way…as Frank Sinatra’s haunting lyrics say:
‘I’ve loved, I’ve laughed and cried.
I’ve had my fill my share of losing….
And may I say, not in a shy way-
oh no, not me, I did it my way.’
The old order must give way to new ideals, new set up. We need to make room for new demands. As we evolve, our understanding changes as do our values, standards and judgements. A new age ushers new needs and the society must recognise it. As individuals however, we have to earn this privilege, this freedom, if we really want the society to comply. We need to practice one moral lesson, the most fundamental one, as the French philosopher Rousseau calls it-‘Never hurt Anybody’.