Sunday, December 27, 2009

Number 12 Looks Just Like You

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away. - Henry David Thoreau

I woke up very early this morning and, after some quiet time, I turned on the television and happened upon an episode of "Twilight Zone" entitled, "Number 12 Looks Just Like You". I am not a science fiction fan, so the ScyFy channel would not be a typical choice, and I didn't even know what I was watching when I landed on this channel and felt drawn to it. At first, my interest was because of the cheesy dramatic dialogue and accompanying music that the old films often had. It was for the humor factor that I watched, but the message ended up being very powerful and deep.

The episode was about a world where science could transform individuals from ordinary to beautiful, each person able to choose their new look from a set of slides showing numbered examples of what their new look would be. This transformation also gave them immunity to disease and created a "perfect" society. After transformation, each individual looked identical to many others...number 12's looked identical to each other...number 13's looked identical to each other. One leader alluded to the year 2000 when science would be able to change the whole world to look perfect, but noted that they were lucky because it was available in the Twilight Zone already.

The conflict of the story was a young girl named Marilyn, age 18, who was about to reach the age where transformations took place. It was assumed that this "plain Jane" would pick a model, then be tranformed to look like that example; but this girl did not want the transformation, wanting instead to be herself even if considered ugly or lacking in beauty. She saw her own beauty in being different and feared losing herself if she received the transformation. She had learned from reading her deceased father's diaries and collection of books (which had banned in their society because of their free-thinking ideas) that he had been very unhappy after his tranformation, and had committed suicide because of it. Those around her could not understand her reasons for not wanting the change, thinking that she must have psychological problems for not wanting to be perfect. Her mother was distraught at the rebellion of her child, consulting experts and trusted friends as to what to do about this problem. A doctor assured her that "improvements" had been made in the process to help people be happier with it...alluding to methods of controlling the mind to make people more content with giving up their own identity in order to meet society's idea of what is best or most desirable.

In the end, the girl was pressured and forced to have the tranformation. As she looked in the mirror, she seemed happy, but it was evident that she had conceded and lost her true self. She had become a cookie-cutter version of everyone else, a numbed personality that smiled on the outside, but was nothingness on the inside. It was no accident that I landed on this channel, not entirely because of the physical conformity issues that most of us struggle with from time to time, but because of the difficulty of choosing to be different in other ways. It was such a parallel to my own life and what I see in so many people. Our lives, in our need to conform to society, have become programmed. We attempt to live a certain way to get on a track that the world has decided is successful or desirable. In that process, we lose ourselves and our individuality, forgetting who we are or what we really came here to do. We do it to our children, expecting them to conform to meet our own needs for fitting in.

The really interesting thing is that this episode came after I had woken up with some momentary anxiety about my own children. They have chosen to go about their lives a little differently in going through school more slowly, while working at other things that they love, not making a lot of money doing it, but enjoying it in the process. Generally, I have celebrated this because I know how important it is to release from conformity and I can see their true and glowing selves emerging again, but I have had brief moments of worrying that they were not on the usual path of finishing school in a certain amount of time, getting a "normal" job, getting on the career track...I have had moments of succumbing to old conditioning. It holds an unbelievable power over us, and takes consistent effort to overcome.

I am grateful that I woke up at 4:44 and turned on the television just after 5am to see this Twilight Zone episode (and that was no accident). It reminded me that conformity is not the answer and that we must be true to who we are, and that those who feel pressured to conform are simply led by Ego - thoughts which want to hold us back from our greatness or our more meaningful purpose - thoughts that confuse us into thinking that we need to be more like everyone else or measure our worth by their standards. When we lose our individuality and fall into the need to be like others, we begin to lose the essence of our souls, which is why we slowly age and die inside. Yet, just like on the Twilight Zone, we don't even realize what we have lost, don't even know that original person, that original soul any longer. It is not through "sin" that we disconnect from God, it is through this conformity. If we lose ourselves, we have lost our connection God.

Think about your life and how you have conformed. Is it through the need to live in a certain kind of house or drive a certain kind of car?...Is it from needing your children to compete with others in their achievement in order to validate you?...Is it by being validated by a certain profession or by outward financial success?...Is it by giving up an individual God for a cookie-cutter version as dictated by religion or the accepted norms?

Get back to yourself by letting go of the attachment to every outward thing that you use to define you. It may take time, as we are so very conditioned and pressured otherwise, but it will be your saving grace.

1 comment:

Marion said...

Thank you, Sherri, for this post. I will think about how I've conformed to what I thought was the "right way" over the coming days. I know there may have been many times where pressure and just my own thoughts made me into someone I did not know.

Happy New Year, Sherri...and thank you for the heads up about guaifenism (sp) helped a lot!