Lessons on the Freeway

So there I was, cruising along the freeway at 110 kph (70mph) on my big, comfortable Suzuki, complete with the electric (up/down) screen to deflect wind and rain, full-face helmet (which covers the entire head, including face), waterproof jacket (with body-armour inserts) and waterproof gloves, when a guy on a Harley passes me doing around 120 kph (75 mph). Gotta say, he looked much cooler than me. Complete with open-face helmet (no face protection), a pair of teeny tiny sunglasses, no gloves, no screen (to deflect wind), some ripped jeans and an old leather jacket (not waterproof) with his gang symbol on the back. He probably thought I was just another big tosser on a Japanese bike. He may have been right.

Commitment to the Cause

With the wind nearly blasting his head off (courtesy of his open-face helmet) , the cold giving him frostbite on his fingers, face and knees and the combined noise of a Harley with shotgun exhaust pipes (that means loud!!) and an open-face helmet at 120 kph deafening him, I had to respect his commitment to his gang, the uniform and the code.

The code that says: no synthetic blue jackets with body armour (they are for sissies like me), no full-face helmets (also for girly-men) and gloves are only to be worn in snowstorms. The code that says, ‘this is our uniform’. Looking at his contorted face (courtesy of the wind) as he flew by, I began to think about the way we humans love to belong and the price we’re prepared to pay for that membership. To our gang. Our group. Our church. Our click. Our team. To something bigger than us.

The Cost of Membership

But what I really pondered as I cruised along (it was a long ride) was whether belonging was more likely to be a positive or a negative in our lives over the long term. Is it always good to belong? When isn’t it? What compels so many of us to ‘join’?

Part of it is that we’re social creatures, and on a level, we love being in a ‘family’. However, sometimes in our efforts to belong, we compromise our values and beliefs, we lie to ourselves and we do anything we can to be accepted. Belonging (to something) can make us feel better about ourselves. If only for a while. It can also make us feel trapped.

Sometimes being a member of a group means security. Sometimes it means pressure. Sometimes it means ‘keeping up’, conforming and ticking the boxes. Sometimes belonging to a group can define us. It can also be where we lose ourselves. Sometimes in an effort to find ourselves we actually become a clone of others.

Many people want to belong to something, no matter what. The thought of not belonging terrifies them. Somewhere and somehow they have learned that they’re not good enough, worthy enough or valuable enough on their own. They’re deficient unless they’re part of a collective.

I’m not against belonging to a group (I’ve been involved in many) but I think once we all start to look, sound, walk and talk the same, alarm bells should ring. I don’t think my purpose is to be a replica, cyborg or mouthpiece for someone else’s ideas, message or mission. I think my purpose is to live a life in alignment with my core values. Whatever that means and whatever that requires.

If you belong to a group and you can honestly say that your life is better for the ‘membership’, then my advice would be to stay. If your membership (involvement in, or obligation to, the group) means something not quite so positive, then maybe it’s time for you to discover who you are beyond the group identity, the collective mindset, the gang rules and the weight of expectation.

It might just be the most liberating and empowering thing you ever do.

You’re welcome. =)

Some Discussion Questions:

1. Have you ever ‘lost yourself’ in a gang?
2. Have you ever lost a friend or family member? (no naming of specific groups please)
3. Are you a member of a gang that makes your world a better place?
4. What should we consider when we’re thinking of joining a gang?
5. What advice do you have for people who feel stuck (trapped) in a gang (situation, group, organisation)?

* Feel free to answer as many or as few as you like. Or… just add your general thoughts on the post.  :)

Image: f650biker

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