Whether one believes in past lives that were experienced in other bodies, now gone (reincarnation) or memories of past lives that may have somehow been passed through genes (DNA memories), everyone has his or her own “past life” memories from the current life that have effects, both consciously and unconsciously, upon thoughts and feelings. Sometimes when a connection is made among those memories or experiences, one can experience an epiphany or deja vu moment. Sometimes such “moments” may reveal a pattern. I have recently discovered a pattern that dates back to very early in my life, and I am not sure where the origin of this early feeling/thought/attitude comes from.
Disturbing events in the last 20 months or so have served to remind me (as well as renew in me) of a deep distrust/dislike of mainstream, middle-class, “white” culture. Having recently read about “cultural capital” has served to remind me of this ongoing distaste for the 1950s/1960s style, suburban, mainly white culture in which I grew up. While many others (tea baggers, for example, and those of similar ilk) are bemoaning “what’s happened” to America in the last few decades, my reaction has been frustration at how SLOWLY those changes have been occurring (sometimes it seems one step forward is accompanied by two backward). I am pleased at how diverse our society has become while I am disturbed at how intolerant and ignorant it remains.
Recent events that have really brought that “home” to me include people’s ignorant, racist, and reactionary responses to President Obama and my collision with an uncivil, unprofessional, “old boys” network in my academic environment. Observing and, in the case of the latter, being directly affected by these have served to make me delve deeper to find out why, beyond the obvious reasons, I am so bothered by anachronistic hold-overs from what should be obsolete and gladly forgotten.
Feeling “different” is not new for me. I understand it goes with being both an INTJ personality (Myers-Briggs) and an iconoclast (5 with a 4 wing on the enneagram). But was the formation of that part of me, personality, cause or effect? Probably a combination of both.
Going back to high school, I recall being so put off by a gym of cheering students (getting worked up over an upcoming game and screaming “Go Trojans!” sorts of chants that I shook my head and really felt as if they were a bunch of stupid sheep or lemmings. Not that I have not (even at the time) participated in collective displays of some sentiment. Recently, it was the March for California’s Future event in Sacramento (April 21, 2010) with “They say cut back; we say Fight Back! They say furlough; we say Hell No!” (loved it by the way). At back then in high school, circa 1969-1970 it was anti-war demonstrations.
So it wasn’t the “crowd” mentality so much as it was a judgment of what the crowd was supporting. What was it that bothered me so much about “Go Trojans!”?
It was too “mainstream.” It was crowd mentality that supported mainstream culture (at least in my opinion) at the time which was “majority” culture that offended young, “hippy” types like myself. A quick side note, at this age “hippy” for me did not mean sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Rather it meant a strong rejection of the status quo, a rejection of war, a rejection of tradition, etc.
The time period or my innate tendency toward iconoclasm?
Flashback to sometime around 8 years old when I had a set of paper dolls (cardboard, actually). This was a family: father, mother, and two children (one boy and one girl). Along with this set came a card board “house” (flat, two-dimensional) that was very Brady Bunch in appearance, all very solidly middle-class (or slightly more affluent). I enjoyed my little dolls and their lives for awhile until one day I became so annoyed at what they represented–a sort of idealized, white-middle class, empty, mindless, lemming sort of existence–that I cut off their heads with a pair of scissors. Could be that I was recently reading Alice in Wonderland at the time and was influenced by the Red Queen.
But really, I remember being angry at those stupid dolls, or, rather, at what they symbolized, and rejecting them and it outright: NOOOOOOOOO!
Now, why did I have such strong feelings at around 8 years old? Was I conscious yet of my family’s low economic status? I think not. That came in junior high when the way I dressed was mocked by the other students because it was not enough like them. That was certainly a rather early and ugly confrontation with conformity that affected me. And at this time I was getting out more and personally observing friends’ homes, acutely becoming aware of the material differences.
However, this episode with the paper dolls, I think, came before even that. Or did it? Could I have been in 7th grade at the time, 12, at the time, and this was a reaction to the bullying?
Hmmm…? Either the paper doll episode was earlier and suggested a “past life” (my own, my parents’, or a previous existence?) experience with the dominate culture that may have been causative to the negative junior high experience, OR the paper doll episode occurred at 12, suggesting an effect rather than a cause.
I may never know. However, journaling this has helped me understand the deep level of my anger over the academic bullying. It was a “replay” of seventh grade, the earliest, most painful social experience of my life, one that left its scars and contributed to my opting for more outlier types of attitude and thinking.
Now, even if I had not had the seventh grade experience with social bullying, I would have had outlier thinking since my whole family was outside the box: not religious (father, an atheist; mother, an agnostic), not traditionally employed (father self-employed in publishing science fiction, no less, and mother not even learning how to drive), etc. So the bullying did not “cause” the iconoclast in me. However, perhaps the brush with it and the scars it left from seventh grade were factors in the intensity of the injury and offense that I have taken from the academic bullying.
Perhaps my anger at those people and those complicit with them through silence has been intensified as a result of the earlier incident. In fact, I am almost sure it has. Perhaps the seventh grade incident contributed to me digging my heels in and saying NOOOOOOOOOO again! No, I won’t back down. Gosh, but I love that Tom Petty song, and now I see another reason why that stance is in my nature.
Rejection of mainstream culture was at least intensified by that experience in 7th grade, my “past” life. That rejection contributed to my attraction to and marrying of a black man and having two mixed-race children (my wonderful and dear sons) and many other lifestyle choices such as my pro-union, strong leftist politics and so forth.
In retrospect, what bothers me is that those choices and inclinations I have that I thought were based on deep reasoning and sustained judgment may have had much more emotional origins than I ever suspected. Past lives or past emotional life?
Well, if decapitating those dolls was a reaction at 12 to the bullying (Take that, and that, and THAT), heck it was a much healthier response than what could have been had I been less “civilized.” Certainly, on those levels that matter, iconoclast and all, I have embraced certain social mores.