Individuality

The writer in western civilization has become not a voice of his tribe, but of his individuality. This is a very narrow-minded situation.

The writer in western civilization has become not a voice of his tribe, but of his individuality. This is a very narrow-minded situation.

Once upon a time, I, Chuang Tzu, dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly. I was conscious only of following my fancies as a butterfly, and was unconscious of my individuality as a man. Suddenly, I awoke, and there I lay, myself again. Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly dreaming I am a man.

Only life can satisfy the demands of life... Don’t be afraid of yourself, live your individuality to the full - but for the good of others. Don’t copy others in order to buy fellowship, or make convention your law instead of living the righteousness.

[Paraphrase] Beauty for the soul are things displaying themselves in their individuality.

Man is responsible for himself, not only for his own individuality but for all men. Man chooses himself, and in choosing for ourselves, we choose for all men.

Whatever crushes individuality is despotism... I am not aware that any community has a right to force another to be civilized.

Customs are made for customary circumstances; even in what people do for pleasure, conformity is the first thing thought of; they live in crowds: they exercise choice only among things commonly done: peculiarity of taste, eccentricity of conduct, are shunned equally with crimes: until by dint of not following their own nature they have not nature to follow. Whatever crushes individuality is despotism. [And] I am not aware that any community has a right to force another to be civilized.

Even despotism does not produce its worst effects, so long as individuality exists under it; and whatever crushes individuality is despotic, by whatever name it may be called, and whether it professes to be enforcing the will of God or the injunctions of men.

In proportion to the development of his individuality, each person becomes more valuable to himself, and is, therefore, capable of being more valuable to others.

What crushes individuality is despotism, by whatever name it may be called and whether it professes to be enforcing the will of God or the injunctions of men.

All faces resemble each other, yet how easily we see in each uniqueness, individuality, an identity. How deeply we value these differences... Life on earth is a whole, yet it expresses itself in unique time-bound bodies, microscopic or visible, plant or animal, extinct or living. So there can be no one place to be. There can be no one way to be, no one way to practice, no one way to learn, no one way to love, no one way to grow or to heal, no one way to live, no one way to feel, no one thing to know or be known.

Perhaps ultimately, spiritual simply means experiencing wholeness and interconnectedness directly, a seeing that individuality and the totality are interwoven, that nothing is separate or extraneous. If you see in this way, then everything becomes spiritual in its deepest sense... Perhaps the most ‘spiritual’ thing any of us can do is simply to look through our own eyes, see with eyes of wholeness, and act with integrity and kindness.

Just as we have learned to separate ourselves from each other and from the environment, we now need to learn how to reunite ourselves with other entities around us without losing our hard-won individuality. The most promising faith for the future might be based on the realization that the entire universe is a system related by common laws and that it makes no sense to impose our dreams and desires on nature without taking them into account. Recognizing the limitations of human will, accepting a cooperative rather than a ruling role in the universe, we should feel the relief of the exile who is finally returning home. The problem of meaning will then be resolved as the individual's purpose merges with the universal flow.

It is a blessed thing that in every age someone has had the individuality enough and courage enough to stand by his own convictions.

Sexual boredom, that predator of marriages, is generally ascribed to overfamiliarity; but I think it mighty more aptly be blamed on the lack or failure of true intimacy... Sex thrives on the dynamics between novelty and intimacy... What is inalienably shared... for brief encounters, in which little is genuinely discovered or given, tend to emphasize people’s sameness rather than their individuality, and hence to obliterate the novelty that is sought. Intimacy, which demands time and trust, is available almost exclusively through marriage and long friendship.

Addictive spirituality creates dependence in the practitioner (frequently to authoritarian leaders and their communities), an avoidance of personal responsibility, and loss of individuality through social controls, such as fear, guilt, or greed for power or bliss. It also tends to suppress rational inquiry into the teachings. Healthy spirituality, on the other hand, supports the practitioner's freedom, autonomy, self-esteem, and social responsibility. It is based on experience, rather than belief or dogma; it does not create idols out of spiritual teachers; and it empowers students by emphasizing democratic forms of learning and teaching, rather than the authoritarian model that has dominated spiritual life for millennia.

If we can get past various fundamentalist attitudes about the spiritual life, such as attachment to a too simple code of morality, fixed interpretations of stories, and a community in which individual thinking is not prized, then many different ways of being spiritual come into view. We may discover that there are ways to be spiritual that do not counter the soul's need for body, individuality, imagination and exploration. Eventually we might find that all emotions, all human activities, and all spheres of life have deep roots in the mysteries of the soul, and therefore are holy.

The soul is more interested in particulars than in generalities. That is true of personal identity as well. Identifying with a group or a syndrome or a diagnosis is giving in to an abstraction. Soul provides a strong sense of individuality - personal destiny, special influences and background, and unique stories. In the face of overwhelming need for both emergency and chronic care, the mental health system labels people schizophrenics, alcoholics, and survivors so that it can bring some order to the chaos of life at home and on the street, but each person has a special story to tell, no matter how many common themes it contains.

Man becomes virtually an automaton in the loss of his individuality and responsibility. He is the harp of a thousand strings played upon by a divine hand, but not a man!