Better?

I aspire to evolve, to develop myself through my spiritual pursuits.  But this concept isn’t without its problematic aspects.  Exactly what do we envision when we are told to strive to become a higher or better version of ourselves?

Having taken up social justice as a focus, I’ve been having more and more conversations with friends and acquaintances about our own unrecognized biases.  And as I was contemplating a response to a question recently posed by a friend, it became suddenly clear to me how much of our assumptions about what constitutes “bettering oneself” carries the taint of prejudice and privilege.

If you think about the goals to which you aspire, how accessible are those goals to others?  Do you think the skills you aspire to learn are as valuable to and of use to others as you believe them to be?

Of course, many of our goals and aspirations may be entirely private and self-focused, but in the spiritual arena we often hope to make a difference in the world through our own betterment.  But are we called to be heroes and saviors?  Or are we just called to be of aid?  How often have we contemplated the difference?

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Weird and Wild

When I was a kid, what I wanted more than anything was to fit in with the other kids.  I wanted to do what they did, wear the things they wore, be into the things they were into.  It was a common desire, it seems.  So common, in fact, that as an adult it’s tempting to look back and wonder if there has ever been a kid who really, truly, never felt like an outsider.

Does everyone feel different?

I’ve come to the conclusion that we pretty much all do, even as adults.  And for many of us it’s still a source of worry.  Are we too different?  Do the others think we’re odd?  Do they only pretend to accept us?

On the plus side, modern life with its extensive connections and instant access to each other from all over the globe has made it so that it’s easier than ever to find a place where we fit in.  Where there used to be a handful of acceptable archetypal roles to play in society, there are now more than most of us can keep up with.  If you like something, a million others like it, too.  So even if the people around you find you odd, it’s easier than ever before to find that group where you fit right in.

But I think there’s a great deal of value in being that oddity.  Unless you live among a cohesive and homogeneous group of people with which you have much in common, being the weirdo, the outsider, the stand-out actually gives you the opportunity to be an ambassador for those beyond the boundaries of the local community.  Going against the grain gets attention, and that attention can either be negative or positive.  Cultivating the connections and opportunities to educate others about the vast variety of life experiences and cultural differences, even just in terms of different interests, pastimes, and group dynamics, makes humanity better on a large scale.

My personal beliefs center heavily on the idea that we are to elevate or evolve, just as humanity as a whole continues to develop.  And it’s impossible to truly become more than we are if we do not embrace the complexity which enriches human kind.

In these strange times it’s more important than ever to strive to better ourselves and better our species.  We need more ambassadors for the weird and wild, the outcasts and outsiders, to push humanity upward.