The I isn’t lower-cased
We are entering the Age of the Individual. Rejoice in it. Kabir Bedi writes.india Updated: Oct 19, 2011 08:02 IST
Think about this. Around 13 billion years ago, from a micro-point in an endless void, erupted a universe so immense that all the grains of sand on all the beaches of the world don’t equal the hundred billion suns in our galaxy, the Milky Way, just one among a hundred billion galaxies in the vastness of space. If we measured ourselves on a cosmic scale, our egos would be slimmer than a mosquito under a sledgehammer.
But the human mind is another dimension altogether. Within each of us are the seeds of every vice and virtue, every genius, every horror, that ever existed. Not one of us is alike in mind, body or spirit. Every human is a unique experiment in consciousness.
Yet, for many, being different can be a perilous, painful path. From the cradle to grave, we are moulded to conform by family, community, religion and society. We are trained to bow before their norms, rules and beliefs for many historical reasons. Opposing an established belief system has always been a risky business. Hinduism locked professions into a caste system for centuries, woe to him who defied it. Galileo was pounded into submission by the Catholic Church for daring to suggest that, contrary to what they believed, the Earth orbited the sun. Muslims fear the threat of fatwas if they question their religion. Authoritarian regimes wield the same terror: Communists, Nazis, fascists and dictators of every stripe, all make life hell for those who oppose them.
While it’s good to agree to drive on the same side of the road, conformity has rarely created anything revolutionary or progressive. Every inventor of importance had to go beyond conventional wisdom. Even as professors lectured on the impossibility of flight, the Wright Brothers took to the air. Christ, Buddha and Muhammad were all revolutionaries in their times, defying established belief systems. As Albert Camus said, “It is the rebels within society that make it dynamic.” Many contrarians have created new worlds.
Today, being unique is less of a hazard. With the spread of the internet and expanding forums of social media, we are moving beyond the control of monolithic power centres. We are entering the Age of the Individual. No matter how contrarian you are, you’ll find enough like-minded souls to give you the strength to be you. Even if it means moving beyond family, community, politics or religion.
Individuality always doesn’t have to be about big issues or inventions. It can be as simple as having the courage to speak up at a family dinner, even if called ‘outrageous’. What makes us individual are our differences, our idiosyncrasies, our eccentricities. Now there are many who will share your journey, and celebrate your individuality, each at the centre of their intersecting universes.
Kabir Bedi is an actor and a voting member of the Academy Awards. The views expressed by the author are personal.