You don’t get harmony when everybody sings the same note. ~Doug Floyd
I have just read Doris Lessing’s Prisons We Choose to Live Inside, and it has caused me to reflect on my relationship to family, community, and groups over the course of my life. “Very few people indeed” Lessing says, “are happy as solitaries, and they tend to be seen by their neighbours as peculiar or selfish or worse.” She concedes that we are group animals, and the problem is not in belonging to groups, but “not understanding the social laws that govern groups and govern us.”
For groups exert pressure to conform. In groups, we believe we are acting as individuals, and can point to our differences of opinion as evidence. But there are underlying assumptions and sacred cows that are never discussed–that are usually not even noticed–by those within the group. Lessing holds that there are very few nonconformists, “original minds,” and that “on them depends the health, the vitality of all our institutions.”
I am in a period of very little interaction with groups but have felt hungry for community. Can I move back into community with an open heart that will also accommodate a cool, self-aware head? One encouraging passage in Lessing reports that “researchers of brain-washing and indoctrination discovered that people who knew how to laugh resisted best.” People who don’t laugh at themselves, she says, include fanatics, bigots, tyrants, and oppressors. “True believers don’t laugh. Their idea of laughter is a satirical cartoon pillorying an opposition person or idea.”
May I embrace my “group animal” nature without succumbing to groupthink. May I laugh open-heartedly and open-mindedly at myself!