So, a little fun fact about the past century: Though popularity has existed as long as civilization, the adjective Popular really became itself in the last hundred years or so. I think we’ve all seen the movies of the last couple of decades that focused on the pros and cons of being popular or achieving popularity.
There’s nothing wrong with those movies per sec, but I’m beginning to think they’re a little outdated. Although I’m sure popularity is still a big motivator for people, what we’re hearing about now, and being held up to, is Self Expression.
Frank B. Gilbreth once lamented that because kids wanted to be popular so much, they didn’t care about being smart or kind, or anything else. (Cheaper By the Dozen.)
Well, we should be glad that our culture has embraced new values, right?
You all knew that was a trick question. So I’ll say upfront that I don’t at all wish for a return to the obsession with popularity. That always stuck me as shallow, and a lot of movies still clichely make the popular people not at all relatable, or even like real people. (What surprises me is really that only us younger generations seem to think that’s a bad representation of them.) But I wonder, have we really lost our obsession with popularity?
The thing about embracing it, was, that it was honest. One freely admitted that they considered the approval of others the most important factor of life. And whether that was applauded or disdained, we were all on the same page. Now, however, popular ideas, opinions, and styles are no longer seen as what they are.
Let me elucidate. What I mean is, a popular idea is one held by a large portion of your society, maybe the majority, or one of the majorities. It is not usually a political idea, because those are more official, it’s more the background for political ideas. Popular thinking is nearly always framed as being a new way. (Though it used to be the old way was more popular, but that’s another story.)
Okay, so here’s my main point. We, as a people, have not actually ceased to conform to popular ideas. We just call it something else.
If you only casually observed our culture, you might think that our newer generations think more for themselves than the previous ones did. After all, we’re always talking about what our personal beliefs are; making up our own minds; following our own heart, or path, or road. (Pocahontas or Moana anyone?) But I dare to say this is all parrot talk.
There are no new ideas, just new names for them. And we are not making our own way, we’re simply choosing which of the old ways to go. Unless you’ve taken a cue from historical figures like Buddha or Mohammad, you haven’t actually founded your own personal religion. (I’m not disrespecting them or endorsing them, I’m just making a point.)
But that’s what we’re pushing for isn’t it? Everyone needs their own way. And every way is equal, every way is good and bad at the same time. Only it’s really good, or we wouldn’t be advocating it.
There could be a million religions out there, and only one of them would ever be the right one. That’s not because I’m a Christian, but because I think it’s simple logic, there is a Great Truth out there that every religion is searching for and claiming to identify with, one of them must be the closest to it, if they’re all different.
I think we’ve largely forgotten that the purpose of faith is to get closer and closer to the truth. And then to hold on to it.
Self Expression if good, as far as it goes. We need an interesting world. But let’s never forget that the reason we express ourselves is not to benefit ourselves.
We were each given a gift to that will make the world a better place. And it will point other people to the good and beautiful things in Life. If we aren’t doing that then we are misusing our gifts, and if it destroys us, that is why. Yes, Self Expression is good for you also. But only if you’re sharing it. Because otherwise, who will you express it to, and why?
I think that’s a lot to think about, (and this isn’t even a really long post for me,) so I’m going to end it here. Thanks for reading and until next time–Natasha.