Welcome to Nebo Literature.

Sayings on Belonging and Individualism

Most emerging societies place a lot of emphasis on tribal unity and conformity, however more mature societies foster the rights of citizens to assert their individuality and distinctiveness.  In today’s western society people have to find a satisfactory balance between being themselves and yet belonging to groups of their choice, a luxury many of our ancestors did not have.

In his book The Rational Optimist, Matt Ridley demonstrates that human progress comes through human interaction. The more humans have come together, the more innovation we've had. That's why the curve has increased so steeply over the last two centuries - and even more dramatically over the last 15 years. It is going to go up even more sharply as billions of people now outside the global economy come into the system.

The nonconformist hero

Who and what, then, was Socrates to Athens? Part of his glory derives from his incorruptibility, his brave non-conformism, his determination to think as an individual not as part of “the herd”. Non-conformism became a heroic value in the Western tradition that Socrates helped to found, especially in societies such as America’s that value individualism.

But nonconformism is not an absolute virtue and easily veers off into sedition, subversion or other actions deemed unpatriotic. Psychologists suggest that people make constant trade-offs in social settings between, on one hand, insisting on their notion of truth and, on the other, the cohesion of a group. Sometimes truth and virtue require dissent and rebellion. Other times the survival or security of the group takes precedence and requires solidarity. If Socrates the free thinker belonged to a team, a club, a firm or a country today, he would never compromise his values, but he might well compromise his group.

Stone concluded that Socrates was on the biggest “ego-trip” in history. He probably was. And yet Athens would soon regret having convicted him. His trial was an overreaction, a betrayal of Athenian values just as torturing terrorist suspects or wiretapping Americans after September 11th were betrayals of American values. Democracies do betray themselves. Challengers such as Socrates exist to test society in its commitment to freedom and, if society fails the test, to remind it of the virtuous path.   The Economist

Solitude, privacy, aloneness, independence:

While we have a need to belong, it is counterpointed by a need for independence, individuality, self reliance and a private identity.  At times in our lives we need introspection - solitude – alone time - to sort out issues, ponder difficult choices or reflect on past crises.  The need for privacy predominates during the pressures of study, illness, grief, or when we contravene society’s restrictions, we tend to be surreptitious or furtive and desire anonymity and seclusion.  Before he started his ministry, Jesus spent a month alone in the desert.  Don Dellio writes: “The true life takes place when we are alone, thinking, feeling, lost in memory, dreamily self-aware...”

Perhaps the most famous hermit was Henry David Thoreau.

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.

Other famous recluses include:  Howard Hughes, Harper Lee, all but vanished from public view after the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird, becoming, with the recently departed J.D.Salinger, one of the most famous intensely private people in the literary world.

Many people are required to spend time on their own due to work or their own choice. Richard Byrd in his book Alone describes spending many months living alone in a shack in Antarctica  manning an outpost.  He described it as “splendid isolation” and concluded that “solitude is an excellent laboratory to observe the extent to which our manners and habits are conditioned by others”.

Another writer, Sara Maitland in A Book of Silence desires a quiet life without the empty chatter of trivial matters which she calls “white noise”.  She has fallen in love with silence. It can be calm or frightening, lonely or joyful, deep or thin.  There is a religious silence; a self-emptying silence, a romantic silence – what Wordsworth would call the “bliss of Solitude”.

Alienation or existential isolation is evocatively created through repetition, the sound effects of awed vowels and the eerie sibilants of Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner:

           Alone, alone, all, all, alone
          Alone, on a wide, wide sea

               And never a saint took pity on
               My soul in agony.

Belonging and Nature:

Jay Griffiths in a book called Kith claims the western World is estranging its children from nature; we are evolving away from the natural world.  No separation is more pervasive than our disconnection from the natural world.

Eccentricities

In this age the mere example of nonconformity, the mere refusal to bend the knee to custom. is a service.

Precisely because a tyranny of opinion is such as to make eccentricity a reproach. it is desirable, in order to break through that tyranny, that people should be eccentric.

Eccentricity has always abounded: and the amount of eccentricity in a society has generally been proportional to the amount of genius, mental vigour and moral courage it contained.

That so few now dare to be eccentric marks the chief danger of the time.

John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, 1859

.................................................................................................................................

Motto of Sorbonne University (Paris)

 

Fluctuate / Nee / Mergitor

-Be individual /but / mingle

-unique / also / adaptable

- Belong but be true to yourself

.................................................................................................................................

I don't care to belong to any club that will have someone like me as a member.
Groucho Marx

..............................................................................................................

No man is an island

No man is an island.  entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, ....

.....any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.


All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language.

 John Donne Meditation XVII

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

THE DOORS OF PERCEPTION

We live together,, we act on, and react to, one another; but always and in all circumstances we are by ourselves.

 The martyrs go hand in hand into the arena; they are crucified alone.

Embraced, the lovers desperately try to fuse their insulated ecstasies into a single self -transcendence. In vain. By its very nature every embodied spirit is doomed to suffer and enjoy solitude.

Sensations,  feelings,  insights, fancies — all these are private and, except through symbols and at second hand, incommunicable.

 We can pool information about experiences, but never the experiences themselves.

From family to nation, every human group is a society of island universes.

The Doors of Perception  Aldous Huxley

The late Geoffrey Tozer: pianist

Orchestra managers have said  that alcohol was making Tozer so erratic and unreliable that concert standard performances were becoming difficult to arrange.  Tozer, was, by all accounts, lonely and isolated, prone to obsessive infatuation rather than love, and on endless retreat from the world.

The Late Alexander McQueen

Often called an ''enfant terrible'' and yet the hugely influential British designer, aged 40, who was found dead on Thursday, was honoured four times by the British Fashion Council as designer of the year, and was made a CBE in 2003. He was the bad boy of fashion beloved by the establishment.

McQueen's shows were innovative, unexpected and much anticipated.

In 1996 he took up the role of chief designer at the Paris fashion house Givenchy, but his time there was not happy. He said: ''It's been difficult for me because I never learned to arse-lick.'' His first couture collection for the label was not well received, with the designer playing up to his irreverent image by describing the collection to Vogue in October 1997 as ''crap''. However, the money it brought him helped him to build up his own label.

Guardian News & Media

Party of One: The Loner’s Manifesto  by Anneli Rufus

Being alone feels calming, invigorating and normal to me.  We need solitude just the way tuna need the sea.  Here we are not sad or lonely but having the time of our lives.

Awful Togetherness

The subway during evening rush hour. What I see of the people are tired faces and limbs, hatred and anger. I feel someone might at any moment draw a knife — just so. They read, or rather they are soaked in their newspaper or magazine or paperback. And yet, a couple of hours later, the same people, deodorised, washed, dressed—up or down, maybe happy and tender, really smile, and forget (or remember). But most of them will probably have some awful togetherness; or aloneness at home.

from ‘One Dimensional Man’ by Herbert Marcuse, U.S.A. 1960s.

MARRIAGE

I am terrified by the enormous gap between me and every other individual - I hate to think that my mother can’t know my needs without having to tell her or that my father could rape my best friend. I want to set up a home and family with the person I love, but I hate the idea of promising to feel the same way 30 years later, when your proposed partner for life is in effect a complete stranger, as both of you are sure to have changed.

17 year—old girl, in a survey of attitudes to modern Society, England 1970s.

We are products of our Physical Surroundings

For all that the revolution in communications has wrought -- a connectedness that transcends all physical limitations -- we live most of our lives in a small physical world, from childhood on, and in a sense we know each other only to the extent that we know that world and can relate to it.

Annabel Crabb’s profile of Turnbull

The nonconformist hero

Who and what, then, was Socrates to Athens? Part of his glory derives from his incorruptibility, his brave nonconformism, his determination to think as an individual not as part of “the herd”. Nonconformism became a heroic value in the Western tradition that Socrates helped to found, especially in societies such as America’s that value individualism.

But nonconformism is not an absolute virtue and easily veers off into sedition, subversion or other actions deemed unpatriotic. Psychologists suggest that people make constant trade-offs in social settings between, on one hand, insisting on their notion of truth and, on the other, the cohesion of a group. Sometimes truth and virtue require dissent and rebellion. Other times the survival or security of the group takes precedence and requires solidarity. If Socrates the free thinker belonged to a team, a club, a firm or a country today, he would never compromise his values, but he might well compromise his group.

Stone concluded that Socrates was on the biggest “ego-trip” in history. He probably was. And yet Athens would soon regret having convicted him. His trial was an overreaction, a betrayal of Athenian values just as torturing terrorist suspects or wiretapping Americans after September 11th were betrayals of American values. Democracies do betray themselves. Challengers such as Socrates exist to test society in its commitment to freedom and, if society fails the test, to remind it of the virtuous path. 



[Go Back A Page] [Top Of Page]