So far I have spent most of the week playing catch-up after my long weekend while Ani has been playing catch with anything she can thrust in my hand to throw… and there have been some odd moves on that score! She loves being with her friends while I am away, but generally penalises me for my absence, as if she is keeping a secret tally. I scored points for picking her up with pig’s ears in the car and for my clothes smelling of strange creatures and landscapes, but inevitably lost them for not having taken her with me. But in all honesty, the idea of Ani loose in a county full of unpenned sheep, chickens and occasional llamas is just not feasible…
I came downstairs to mayhem this morning … the sofa denuded of all cushions, her bed dismembered and her toys across the room… I assume there was a fly or a spider or something… she just grinned, pleased with herself. She sees it as simply doing her chosen duty, regardless of the element of fun involved.
Me, I’m rather jealous of her apparent freedom to act without constraint. Of course we ‘had words’ about the sofa… there are rules and she knows she has to acknowledge them, even if she chooses to break them. She knows, too, which ones she can break with impunity, which invite mild censure and which she really, really cannot break without consequences. Not always the obvious ones either. She learned early on, for instance, that any attempt on books and shoes would get the true shock/horror tone that makes her slink off into a corner with her ears down… whereas the kidnapping of, say, my lunch would invite something that sounded similar but actually didn’t go anywhere near as deep and was generally shadowed by laughter.
Some would see her as badly trained and disobedient. To me, she is a laughing free-spirit, who knows what must not be done in order to live peaceably in her environment and knows, too, where the boundaries lie between necessity and choice.
…Which I suppose is pretty much the same for all of us.
To live within a society means following its rules. Yet we can be like the proverbial sheep and follow them slavishly, conforming to expected ideas and behaviours, or we can use a little common sense and learn which ones are necessities and which are open to choice or interpretation. Don’t misunderstand me, I like sheep….yet if you have ever watched a collie at work you will know how easy it is to engage the herd mind and manoeuvre them, using, of all things, a dog that is trained absolutely to care for their wellbeing… and the sheep respond as if through fear, yet seemingly without it, conditioned simply to react.
The basic rules of any society are designed to protect the wellbeing of the populace… and these we follow for very good reason. Yet we have so many superficial ‘rules’ that regulate not only our behaviour but our self-confidence and our perceptions of each other and ourselves. Most of the time they are so deeply ingrained we don’t even notice them, but we feel their effects and sleepwalk through their consequences, blind to what we are allowing ourselves to do to ourselves.
Does it really matter if we don’t know which fork to use at a dinner table? A simple example, perhaps, yet the fear and sense of inferiority that brings to some people are very real. The minute we set foot outside our own safe pasture the unfamiliar territory can make our confidence drop and our perception of self suffers at the raised eyebrow of a society lost in its own constraints. Were we simply observing from a distance, we would see how little importance these apparent ‘rules’ have, yet caught within their mesh we can suffer. To choose politeness and dance to the local tune is one thing, to allow it to rob you of your own song is a different matter.
Yet we do it all the time with thoughts and actions, not because we choose or even because we can see a reason, but simply because we have not taken a moment to look… and judge ourselves often as lacking in comparison to the mirrored perception of others, wanting to see ourselves ‘as good as’ others.
It isn’t whether or not we fit the accepted mould that matters… but why. Whenever we bow down unthinking we are submitting to the herd mind and both abrogating the responsibility of our individuality and failing to celebrate our own uniqueness.
To rebel just for the sake of it is equally a conforming… an acceptance of the importance of the ‘rules’, even while admitting their fallibility. To dare to be different because we are, that is a different story. Why should we even have to ‘dare’? We are ourselves… each of us…utterly and absolutely unique… and that should be enough.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to have a talk with my dog….