Back when I was still teaching, I’d sometimes tell my students about one of my favorite books, The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. I’d read a few excerpts to them and together we’d talk about the ideas presented, consider them, agree or disagree with them. One idea Don Miguel presents at the beginning of his book is what he calls The Domestication of Humans: He writes,
through this domestication we learn how to live and how to dream…creating our whole belief system…Day by day, at home, at school, at church, and from television, we are told how to live, what kind of behavior is acceptable…Children are domesticated the same way that we domesticate a dog, a cat, or any other animal. (6)
I’d start pointing out those things we had no control over. We didn’t pick our parents. We didn’t pick our names. We didn’t choose the country or city we were born in. We didn’t pick our language, etc.,. These are some things we had to accept as “that’s just how it is.” But how many other things in our lives do we accept without question? We’re taught how to act and speak, why we can run in the park but not at home, to distinguish between kind speech and unacceptable words, what is beauty and what is ugliness, what’s cool and what’s not cool, and, you get it, by the time we’re adults we are really just a product of everything that’s been forced upon us.
“So you,” I’d say to them, “the person in this class right now, sitting in that seat, who are you?” Then I’d pause for effect.
“Do you care what people think of you? Do you consider yourself a unique person, an individual?”
The answers were always the same, no matter the group. No, Mr. John, I don’t care what people think of me, and yes I do consider myself a unique individual.
“How many of you have an iphone?” Half the class would raise their hands.
And you, Jose, those are nice sneakers. Are those Air Force One’s? Uptowns? I have a pair. They’re pretty popular. Are they comfortable? Are they the most comfortable sneakers you’ve ever owned? No? Why not? Shouldn’t that have been a factor when deciding to buy them? I mean, we walk on our feet all day.
I’d divert the topic, start asking what they think about the class, maybe get them talking about food, a topic I love and it always seemed to draw most students in. A few minutes later, when I feel they’ve moved on in their minds from The Four Agreements, I’d ask them, “If you can be anywhere, doing anything, five years from now, if you can shape your life exactly the way you want, what would your life look like?”
The answers were always pretty similar: Married, a big house, a nice car, a good job. Why are all of our answers so similar, I’d ask them. Why do we desire the same things? Is it just a coincidence, or are we trained to want the same things? Aren’t we taught from the time we’re born to blend in, to be like others? Do we really have choices in our lives?
The domestication is so strong that at a certain point in our lives we no longer need anyone to domesticate us. We don’t need Mom or Dad, the school or the church to domesticate us. We are so well trained that we are our own domesticator. We are an autodomesticated animal. We can now domesticate ourselves according to the same belief system we were given, and using the same system of punishment and reward.(8,9)
Are we truly living our lives as individuals? Or do we care so much about the opinions of others that we suppress our own individuality? I’m reminded of a quote by Benjamin Franklin: “The eyes of other people are the eyes that ruin us. If all but myself were blind, I should want neither fine clothes, fine houses, nor fine furniture.”
Can you trust yourself? Can you trust all that you’ve learned? What if you woke up tomorrow morning and realized that everything you know, everything you ever learned, is a lie?
P.S. If you’re an ex-felon reading this, you’re lucky because society isn’t going to pressure you to blend in. To be totally honest, they’re not going to let you in the club. And I say you’re lucky because being ostracized from this world of clones only gives you more room to be who you were created to be.
God Bless You.