Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Am I a Follower, or a Free Thinker?

I think that it’s always been hard to say whether the path we follow is truly our own or shaped for us, especially in this modern world of social media and media frenzy. So much of what we do and say is affected by the world around us, from popular posts shared on sites like Facebook, to the daily news. Too many people just follow all the information blindly, without thinking about what lies behind it, where the truth really is. I’ve always believed that, in choosing which information to accept or to investigate further and which to disregard, that I am exercising free thought and not following the crowd. Yet, perhaps out of a need to feel like I belong, I still find myself falling into “group patterns” and following and accepting most of what these groups have to say. Does that make me just another follower, too?

Whilst I can lead, I don’t see myself as a leader. There are times when I don’t mind being in the spotlight, when I feel the need to be visible (and sometimes I’m visible when I’m less inclined to be, simply because of the fact that I don’t care anymore what people think and don’t hide most of who I am). There are other times when I shun the spotlight, hide away indoors, where people can only see or find me if they know where to look. Throughout my life, I’ve adapted my ideas and beliefs as I’ve grown older and have learnt more about the world, change being one of the most inevitable parts of life. In some ways I have become more defined, in others I have simply shifted one niche for another, always going and arriving at where I feel most comfortable. Who I am now has taken years to develop, a lifetime. Yet I still wonder at times whether it was simply an accident that I arrived at where I am now, or how much the outside world has had an influence upon those decisions.

For those that believe in predestiny, we do not make any free choices at all, as everything is already mapped out for us. I do admit that I partly believe in predestiny myself, that we choose before we are born what sort of life we are going to lead, but that not everything is fixed, that we still have some choices along the way in how to reach that final destination. But then I also look at other things in my life, from my fears to my hobbies. I grew up in a family that crafted, so I still craft myself today, even if it’s not always in the same way that I grew up with. I grew up in a menagerie of animals, with the first pets in our household being cats. I have two cats myself today. I shunned Christian beliefs after bad experiences and turned to other beliefs that called more to my soul, yet I still have minor fears now and then today because of some of the things I was taught during the time that my family took me along with them to church. And yet…

And yet, I do not follow the news on a regular basis, as I know how easy it is to get caught up in the fearmongering that is encouraged by all the mostly negative news bulletins. As a teenager, once I broke away from the fold, I started following my own way more, eventually (after a period of stubborn immovability) becoming more accepting and adaptable to the ideas of others. After learning from experience, I try to promote positive ideals more, rather than encouraging the endless stream of negative information that most of us see or hear on a daily basis. I am becoming who I believe I want to be, rather than letting others dictate to me how I should be. And yet…

And yet I still get caught up in the fear from time to time, perhaps out of sheer human weakness. And I still fear that, because of my acceptance and adaptability, no matter how many see me as a unique individual, that the path I’m following isn’t as much my own as I might believe. Whether it be predestiny, or external stimuli from those around us, we are all a product of the world we live in, whether we like it or not. Perhaps, in that respect, whilst those of us with good intentions can’t forgive or excuse, it is possible to understand extremists. For good or bad, those few are still following the voice that shouts the loudest to them, just like the majority of the rest of us, trying to make sense of the chaos that is the world around us.

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