“… We were growing up, of course, impatient at times / to grow up more quickly, half to oblige those / who had nothing to show for having grown up. / And yet, when left on our own, what we liked / was what did not change, and there we stood / in the space between world and toy, / a place that had from the beginning / been consecrated for a pure event.
Who shows a child as he really is? Who places / him among the stars and puts the measuring stick of separation / into his hands? … Murderers are / easy to understand. But this, though: death, / all of death, even before life has begun, / to hold it all so gently and without rancor, / this is beyond description.” *
What is it about the human mind that can be so easily manipulated into Conformism?
During the first years of life, the human mind is filled with unbounded curiosity. But this innate capacity begins to be manipulated into conformism under the influence of parental/cultural demands. And then it is further manipulated, oftentimes even to the point of complete obliteration, under the influence of educational systems that demand us to conform to aggressive and destructive economic and socio-political paradigms (consumerism, divisiveness, conflict, gross inequality). The results of conformism to these paradigms is apparent on what we are doing to the earth.
Rebelliousness against the authority of those who curb our curiosity by expecting unquestioning conformism to demands based on boundaries instead of openness, is castigated, oftentimes with levels of cruelty that not only can incite more rebelliousness, but degrees of complacency that lead to cynicism, numbness and the ravages of opioids. There is, without question, the need for guidance in focusing youthful energy within firm yet nurturing discipline. But curiosity’s greatest foe is not rebelliousness, but what lays in the minds of those already in authority; those individuals so conformed to the status quo that they cannot conceive that rebelliousness is an outcome against the irrationality of their actions and demands.
A step in our evolution we have not been able to overcome, is that we continue to perceive Reality exclusively upon the very limitations of our main organic senses (vision, hearing, touch, taste, smell). These senses are, of course, the tools we have developed to perpetuate our survival, but they give us a perception of separation. This sense of separation is an illusion … we are part of Nature and Nature is part of us … this illusion is the cause of our irrational aggressiveness towards the same environment from which we come into existence and on which our survival totally depends. This illusion of separation is strongly reinforced as we guide the infant mind into conformism … Me here – – the world out there to consume and control … and conformism to this illusion of separation is the death of wonder about the primordial continuum of Life throbbing in our veins.
Manipulating an infant mind to fit in … to give in … into conformism, is to chain the boundless curiosity we deem so beautiful in children, is to take away one of the greatest joys of life … this is beyond description.
*Excerpts from Rainer Maria Rilke’s Fourth Elegy. Translation by Galway Kinnell and Hannah Liebmann
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