It is excruciatingly painful to try and feel inspired to write these days. People tell me I am a positive person, but most do not realise that although I am instinctively so, the negative voice in my head never lets up. For every positive thought that my brain labours to produce, the hooded claw bounces it back with a double whammy of negativity, smashing any hope of gaining ground; of turning a mediocre day into a day fully lived.
The truth is COVID-19 has revealed for many of us an uncomfortable truth: what are we without a purpose? Who are we if not clogs in the economy machine? What is the point of us if not to keep producing, to keep consuming insatiably? Nothing seems to make sense unless we are rushed off our feet working, striving, competing, gaining, comparing ourselves to the next person. On the one hand, COVID-19 is giving us enough time to ponder on the fact that many of us are not truly sure of who we are when you take away our social circles, our jobs, our sustenance, our communities, our freedoms. The hours go slowly and uncomfortably as we have too much time to think and realise that maybe half our life has already been wasted busying ourselves with busyness but not really living, not really being, not really participating in the miracle that our life and life all around us is. On the other hand, we agonize as news of thousands of deaths is hitting us daily; we struggle to comprehend the gargantuan effort it takes for so many to simply keep on living, prospering, growing and yet, the strife, the battle can be snatched out of our hands unexpectedly with one swift final breath, in one achingly solitary instant. What was it all for? Did we really live or was it life itself that went in and through us?
This last year has also acted as a filtering process which has set apart those who like to swim with the current and those who have enough discernment and courage to think for themselves and act accordingly. As a result, so has increased the number of people who appoint themselves as judge and jury; often individuals who lack the initiative, the bravery, and the curiosity to stand up and challenge the status quo. Instead, they sit in judgement of those who do, because it is easier to detract the attention from their own ignorance, cowardice and fear and focus it instead on those who break from the herd and follow their own path at all cost. Much has been discussed about ‘Herd Immunity’. Perhaps the real point of contention here should be ‘Herd Emancipation’.
A few years back my family and I were holidaying in St. Vincent, the Caribbean. A huge storm hit our beach resort which was located in a valley by a river leading to the sea. As the sea surged, the riverbanks overflowed and within a short period of time our resort was almost completely flooded. The resort management instructed everyone to head to the emergency meeting point which happened to be one of the restaurants on the edge of the resort right by the beach, not that much higher up than the rest of the resort. At that point, I suggested to my husband that the sensible thing to do was to go higher up. We discussed it as a family and in that instant, we knew our lives were at risk and keeping with the ‘herd’, obeying instruction was not an option for us.
We sought higher ground and managed to climb various floors within the concrete block of flats where the resort staff lived. From the balcony of the flat where one of the members of staff lived who kindly let us in, we watched in shock and horror as rain continued to pour, the river began to burst its banks, and the beach was rapidly being taken over by the sea. Hours later, a member of the management team came looking for us as we were the only residents of the resort unaccounted for. They took us down to the restaurant and we had a very mixed welcome. Some showed joy and relief when they saw us. They were kind and found us chairs and a blanket to sleep on. Not surprisingly, in stark contrast there were those who frowned and gave us hateful looks for daring to challenge authority and act based on our own judgement. We were being punished for having the audacity to think for ourselves. And so goes the human race.
Whilst we regret enormously having caused concern and worry to those who came looking for us, we will never regret having made that decision in such extreme life-threatening circumstances. As morning came, we saw the devastation caused by the storm and learnt that people had died that night right there in our resort. The restaurant where everyone was gathered was ok, but it could have been very different. They were just incredibly lucky. They could have all been swept away so easily, had the surge been any greater or the storm lasted longer.
That night I went to sleep with a clear conscience. As a parent I took the decision to challenge authority and follow my own judgement and gut instinct to protect myself and my family. If anyone wants to judge us for doing that, it is on them, not me. I would do exactly the same now with hindsight, if a similar situation ever presents itself again. I will do what I have to do to protect myself and those entrusted to me as best as I know how, even if that means breaking from the herd, going against ‘the rules’.
This global pandemic is also pushing people to their limits in more ways than one and it is revealing people’s true character or lack of. Will you be the person that sits in judgement of others’ choices and right to choose or will you be the individual who extends a blanket and tells you they are so glad that you are still alive? I know whom I would rather be and whom I would rather have by my side.
6 thoughts on “Herd Emancipation”
“As a result, so has increased the number of people who appoint themselves as judge and jury; often individuals who lack the initiative, the bravery, and the curiosity to stand up and challenge the status quo. Instead, they sit in judgement of those who do, because it is easier to detract the attention from their own ignorance, cowardice and fear and focus it instead on those who break from the herd and follow their own path at all cost.”
This completely sums up what has happened on social media during the pandemic, the toxicity of some people towards others is sickening. Very well written, good to see you on form. The sunshine is obviously doing you good!
Stay safe, stay well
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Thanks so much Doug! So encouraging to hear you think I’m on form. Writing this is felt like pulling teeth. Your feedback means a lot so thanks for taking the time to read and leave me a comment. Keep well! X
Sounds like you’re trusting your instincts and are confident in doing so, which already frees you from the herd.
Was excited to see your post notification, keep ‘em comin!
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Thank you Rainey! Breaking from the herd is a valiant effort but it does come with much heartache as ‘friends’ fall away when you do and some even turn to fierce enemies. No regrets for me though. I’d also be super excited to see you writing again. I miss ‘your voice’. Hope you and yours are doing well. 🤗
You’re touching a number of subjects in this post, and I appreciate the flow that connects them. As for the choice of the word ‘purpose’ in the beginning, it raised the question if the use of the word ‘meaning’ instead (in the sense of Victor Frankl’s book) would lead to different, more meaningful answers. The word purpose suggests that we choose to derive our value from outside instead of from our core being and the value we attach to us ourselves.
I can see the forces that you must have felt, and given the clearly better survival chances you understandably chose as you felt was in line with your priorities, the safety of your family. It reminded me that, the group vs individual feelings have a deep evolutionary foundation in us. The fact that you chose not to let you guided by them, but instead took them into consideration as an argument, to be weighted against other (in this case more important) arguments is very powerful.
And I agree the company of these free thinkers, who know what they care about but won’t take these priorities lightly, would be a good experience 🙂
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Hi Erik. Thank you once again for your input and interesting ideas. I love how you choose to think of purpose as meaning instead, so that our value is found within rather than dependent on an external factor. You are right of course. I think it’s my religious upbringing perhaps and years of attending an evangelical church in later life (left over 10 years ago) that has ingrained the importance of a purposeful life in order to feel fulfilled. Now I know life is about being not doing.