I follow a number of interesting blogs, among them that of TK Coleman, a self-described philosopher whose blog tagline reads: “Ideas are my intoxication. Philosophy is my psychedelic.”
In a recent post, titled “Escape,” Coleman discusses the nature of “personality:” what it is, how it’s formed, how we and others experience our own.
He begins by sharing the “conventional wisdom,” that we:
“can’t escape the reality of who we are by changing the location of our physical environment,”
In other words, wherever you go, you’ll still be you; you can run, but you can’t hide (from yourself); your issues are your issues and they remain with you unless and until you address them; etc.
It’s a paradigm to which Colemen says he previously subscribed, and from which he now finds himself distancing in favour of one that gives at least equal weight (perhaps more) to the potential of our external environment to shape our personal identity.
We are, Coleman writes:
“significantly shaped by the architectural structures we inhabit, the topographical qualities of the landscapes we navigate, the manner in which we see and sense surrounding space, the social networks in which we consciously and unconsciously participate, the frequency with which we are exposed to various elements within nature, and a host of other factors…”
Yes, we are.
Coleman then suggests:
“That is, we are not separate, discrete, isolated individuals. We are communal beings who exists as part of a vast ecological network.”
Like the nature virtue versus nurture debate, this one is unlikely to be resolved by espousing the virtues of one possibility over the other in a dichotomy that ignores additional possibilities, the most obvious of which is that we are both separate, discrete, and isolated, AND parts of a vast web of humanity in which we are simply smaller elements comprising a communal whole the vastness of which any single individual can scarcely imagine.
A taster from the post:
You are a unique and amazing part of creation, you are an original. There is not other individual quite like you. (More here)
You are like a grain of sand. You are part of a huge, ever-changing creative process that includes millions of grains of sand, strong swirling winds and refreshing ocean waves that sometimes wash over and connect the sand particles. (More here)
I know both these realities to be true as I witnessed my own capacity, in my own small ways, to impact the world around me. I have also experienced my core self being shaped by the environment and/or the space I inhabit at any given point in time. The sublime beauty of sunrise, sunset, nature in all its forms, light, shadow, weather — all have the potential to transform if we truly see them and allow them into the be-ing which is our self. So do the challenges we overcome, or to which we surrender, or both.
Like the worlds around and within us, our selves are dynamic, constantly evolving physical and spiritual entities the reality of which we may choose to escape or embrace.
Or not. Or both.