In defense of honest expression

We have passed the era where a man is measured by the contents of his wallet, or his financial net worth. Today, you are measured by your ability to acquire, whether it’s really yours or not. Nobody has money in their wallet. The hobos have the highest financial worth on the block. Gradually, it became not enough to spend the money you have earned already, but to an increasing extent we started spending the money we hoped we’d earn later.

But it’s peculiar that either of these should be the measure of a man: How much stuff he can amass, or how much he owns. Can you imagine a society that were focused on honest expression rather than money and dead items? This may be a flight of impossible utopian fancy, but let’s indulge it for a brief moment.

You see, we all modify our behavior and our personality to fit into society. Anyone not doing this would be eradicated swiftly. Most of us don’t go around inflicting violence on those we dislike, or sex on strangers we do like. We let it slide when our parents say something unintentionally offensive, and we keep our mouths shut when a stranger’s child hurls obscenities at us.

Freud would have split us into three parts: Our ID, which houses our animal wants and desires, our carnal urges and all base needs; the Superego, or society at large, with it’s expectations to conform and behave in an acceptable manner; and lastly the Ego, which bridges the gap. The ego represents our perceived status in society, helps us negotiate through it and attempts to sublimate the urges of the ID, giving us a way to express them in a way that matches the expectations of the Superego.

But all this work towards “fitting in” is taxing. There is a tension that builds. If you pay attention you can sometimes feel the sensation of an over-inflated balloon. The air needs to come out somehow and this is what honest expression is all about. We need a respite from the superego, a vacation for the ego, and to just express ourselves from the ID. And we all already do this to some extent.

Some of us do this through writing, playing music or painting. But for those that never found themselves in artistic endeavors, there are other ways. Partying, smoking or even masturbating can bring about the same tension relief.

You know you’ve found an activity that works for you if, while engaging in it, you forget all about the things you “should” do, if you forget about how to be proper and respectable and do it because something in you yearns for it to happen. You know it’s an honest expression of yourself if you feel that the tension of living in a society has been lifted, perhaps just incrementally. If a little air has been released from the balloon when you are done.

Be advised though, that the form of expression you may be using now can be bad for you in other ways. Is this why you still smoke? Or why you overeat? If it’s something you have been trying to cut down on, replace it with something more wholesome. You can indeed teach an old dog to sit, and you can learn new activities with ease, as long as you focus on the expression they allow, rather than becoming “good” at them.

And why do we do this? So that we can throw ourselves at that nebulous challenge called “life” again with full vigor, safe in the knowledge that our individuality will be preserved, even if we need to make compromises with it occasionally. So that we know we have a safe haven, in the midst of life’s uncertainty. Without the mundane and painful parts of life, this expression is meaningless. Without this expression, we get no respite from the pain and uncertainty.

“Life isn’t a support system for art. It’s the other way around.”
― Stephen King


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