1. an act or instance of oscillating.
2. a single swing or movement in one direction of an oscillating body.
3. fluctuation between beliefs, opinions, conditions, etc.
The goal is to congregate.
In all things, really. Objects move together. Gravity gave us a cue, and everything has followed since, from rocks rolling down a hill, to birds, to people. This is, of course, not the rule of all things, but as one of the directives of everything, it seems to serve well.
We as a society often function best when we move together. I do not mean as a mass, as a crowd, but as a people. Culture and interaction develop in gigantic leaps as necessity and collaboration demand more and more of us. Is it always smooth and good? No, that would be absurd to assume as much. But is it better than the opposite (anti-societal nomads)? Probably.
I am no scientist, but it is obvious this act has, of late, led to the most rapidly developing society ever seen (or rather, experienced). This is to say, more has changed in the last forty years than the forty before that. Probably the hundred before that. Maybe more.
We’re closer than ever. It may not seem like it when one looks at the news, but the fact that this information is there and being digested at insane speeds is a testament to the truth of things.
A week ago a boy was killed in a tragic explosion in Boston. That same week they caught the bombers while we all watched it happen online (or for the less savvy, the news). A week later, we’ve absorbed it and moved on (while many still mourn) because we now know this happens every day, all over. This does not diminish the event, but reveals it as one of many pins on the map of our contemporary timeline.
Had this happened in 1960, it would still be something mentioned as a dark and telling time in American history (which, to be fair, it is), accompanied by grainy black and white photos, and be featured in those “Scenes of the 20th century” movies or scrapbooks.
Today, it is that terrible thing that happened in April. It will hover over Boston, but the congregation of absorption and social media propels us forward. A day later, dozens of people die in Texas. A week later, mass bombings in Syria. We can’t stop for breath, we move. Together, we move. Even the unwilling are dragged in defiant fashion.
Things get bigger, and at the same speed, they become smaller. Tiny bright lights sucked into the greater glow of everything else. Suddenly that thing you thought was yours was also someone else’s. A million someone elses. It is the great and horrible revelation of this stage in the law of congregation.
Where once we were those tiny bright lights, apart yet together like a swath of stars swept over the night sky, we are now bound closer and closer. You had that thought that I thought only I thought. What has really changed? Nothing, really. Simply our awareness of it. We are, and will always be those flickering individual lights. Only now the rule of falling into each other has closed the gaps of sharing and exploring. And, somewhat, the mystery of individualism.
As a society, is this the best place one could be at in the known history of mankind? Probably. Awareness is expanding, as is tolerance (even if it doesn’t seem like it). Is everything great, though? Of course not.
More now than ever, the individual is probably not as individual as they thought. While this brings us together, it does so unintentionally at times.
I wear a red hat, no one else I know does. Oh, person on Facebook, you wear a red hat too? I guess that makes us closer, but you know what? I kind of wanted to be the only guy that wears a red hat. Oh, millions of you wear red hats? Well, I am wearing a blue hat now.
I’ve oscillated from the congregation. But the problem multiplies. Because now I find that this person also wears a blue hat. And so do a million other people. So now I wear a green hat. And then a yellow one. And then I forget why I ever liked the red hat in the first place. So now I am here, lost in that massive glow. I’ve forgotten something important about myself, and now I have way too many hats.
This is our dual nature. We are drawn to congregate (not just physically, but socially), yet many of us are also drawn to be the individual. I am keenly aware of this dilemma on a personal level.
To be clear, I am not an amazingly cool or mysterious person. I am not some renegade poet or unappreciated abstract thinker. I, like many of other, drink Coke, watch Game of Thrones, and have my favourite sites for porn. But at the same time, I can fairly say I mostly exist outside the social congregation. Things that are the norm are alien to me. I am not the guy that goes to the club on Saturday night (no, I write instead), or has a barbeque with the bros, or the kind of guy you picture with grandkids in forty years.
I’ve oscillated so far from where you are (or closer to you perhaps, fellow recluse) in my (somewhat unintentional) journey of individualism, that looking back even two years is like looking at another person (and in a way, it is just that).
Do I regret it? Sometimes. Do I think about somehow trying to ‘integrate’ myself back? Often. Because what are the benefits, really?
I just legitimately sat here a few minutes pondering this. At no time are you assuming what I write is thought out from start to finish, I hope, because this is not the case. This is me working shit out. And this is what I worked out…
There really are no tangible benefits. I could be that person with the girlfriend and the kid and the barbeque and mortgage. The guy that looks level and ahead, not the one who looks down and inside. And it would work, it would totally work, and in that congregation I could be absorbed, find a new place, and be totally happy.
But at that point, I am wearing a green hat. And as happy as I am in that scenario, I am not me anymore. I am that guy. And while that guy seems alright, he’s not me. He’s just some guy that gave up his red hat. That guy can go fuck himself.
Oscillation is the shifting of beliefs or conditions. In the rule of the congregation, it becomes the great temptation. Do I want the great glow, or to be that tiny light? Do I even know which I am?
Here is the secret, so many paragraphs later. We all have red hats. Maybe yours is green now, but you still have the red one. We’ll always be the individuals, to whatever degree. Sure, you have a mortgage and the kids and the marriage could be better, and you have no idea how you’re going to make that car payment…
But once upon a time you painted a picture of trees in the eighth grade. Or played a recorder, albeit terribly. Maybe you used to dance. You played soccer. You wanted to own a store. You always had a dream to work with animals. You wrote three chapters of a novel. Before Saturday night at the club, you wanted to live in a cabin. You thought about owning a restaurant. You wrote a song.
You’re somewhere in the glow. And really, it doesn’t matter where you are in there.
Just remember which colour hat your were wearing when you got there.