You adopt life roles, because they are neat and ready – and because you have no clue what else you could be doing. Roles offer to answer the pesky questions of life. They offer definition and goals: the two things you should find for yourself.
But they are hard work, no one tells you how it’s done. So you accept roles for relief. In fact, there would be backlash if you didn’t. But roles don’t allow you to think for yourself and form your own identity.
Once you’ve adopted them, you’ll be busy adjusting your behaviour according to the role.
- Are you a Christian? What would Jesus do?
- Are your neighbours loud? How would a cool guy react?
- Are you engaged? What do engaged people aspire to?
- Did your boyfriend sleep with someone else? How should a girlfriend react?
- Economic news on your FB feed? What is a person of your ideology supposed to think about it?
What is left if you stop playing all these roles and decide what you are, what you think, and what you aspire to?
And the most penetrating life role of all: gender. When all other roles are given up, people still cling to this last role. This was the first installed on them when they were born – it will be the last one to go when they die. What is left if we stop playing the gender roles?
Can you even think of a person without gender? Can you tell whether they are nice, without knowing their sex? Whether they look good? Whether you like them?
What is love and friendship, if you approve of different sexes for different reasons. Would you still love your loved ones if they would swap gender tomorrow? What would be left from your love? Would you keep loving your mother if she became a man? Isn’t that the same person? How much of your appreciation was dedicated to her person and how much to her being good at her gender role?
What is beauty, if your yardstick is mere adherence to gender standards? Your idea of proper behaviour is also dependent on gender. You even know which ice cream flavours are masculine or feminine.
Roles are not mere actions
Stop fooling yourself, you cannot just act them out and keep your life to yourself. These roles require more than just superficial committal.
You live and breathe them. You think the way they want you to. You learn to adapt the role-dictated opinions. You internalise their logic, the way they see the world, and their premises. You know their perspective more than your own. Because you don’t have a perspective of your own, just an amalgamation of all the above. Once you agreed to play them, you cannot uphold beliefs that question them.
And they are designed to suck in 150% of your energy and attention. You run faster, they give you more to do. They are the perfect distraction.
Distraction from what?
What you don’t do is figuring out your own opinion, your own actions, and your own aspirations. What you should be doing. What you would feel like doing. What you would aspire to if your bandwidth wasn’t jammed with adherence to roles.
Who are you?
A man (to a woman), a boy (to your father), a father (to a child), an accountant (to a company), an introvert (to a friend), a Russian (to your country), a body-builder (to your club), and a Christian (to your church).
What do you want?
Being a real man, a good boy, a good father, a good accountant, a proud Russian, a good Christian. Isn’t that enough hard work?
It is mindless work. And it is the easy way out. If you think that following roles is hard work, try not to do so.
No one will blame you for adopting these life roles, but they make your life miserable if you don’t. A fine human resource like yourself cannot walk around untapped. So you get all the back-patting and encouragement to play roles and all the disapproval and unpleasantness if you try to skip. There is no one to enforce your own identity. But everyone is enforcing roles. And you don’t want to swim against the current because you are, in fact, lazy. You didn’t do the real work.
The really sad thing about you acting all your life is what you are not doing in the meantime. Skipping the painful act of individuation, asking the hard questions that have no easy answers.
Who knows? Maybe people stop learning when they reach the limits of their intelligence. The convenient limits, that is. We think and change as long as it is safe and comfortable, then we rush to optimise everything and settle down with it. Settle into roles.
But all roles come with ageing and dying built in
Roles limit the scope of change in your life. In other words, they limit your life. A human mind is a powerful thing and it would not accept the complete lack of change, so the roles supply that too. In their own, sick and debilitating way: the change you’re allowed according to your roles is eventual deterioration.
All roles come with a time element. You can change, after all. There are new realities to get used to. But neither of these are positive. They don’t encourage you that change is good. They are not a result of your own doing – making your more ambitious and thirsting more. They deny that change could be improvement, let alone self-made.
They channel your genuine human desire for change into the only change that doesn’t make you more ambitious: ageing. Deterioration is part of life because your roles require it from you.
Every role supplies the same track for change: ageing. Girl becomes woman, mother and grandmother – and those are also signifiers of age. Dentist becomes senior and then retired dentist. Your roles age. And you do so with them. Because you don’t just act them, you live them.
It doesn’t sound so harmless anymore to save yourself all that thinking, does it?
If there’s one thing that is easy to understand about Aspirants, is that they see through these life roles. They analyse them, they question them. And they don’t consider them unavoidable.
An Aspirant would look at a role, see what purpose it serves (and to whom) and conclude that it is wrong. An Aspirant doesn’t want to “be done” with life and choices. Doesn’t want his identity be supplied from the outside. Doesn’t take the easy route and doesn’t expect anyone to approve. Approval is always expensive – and completely worthless.
Your own self doesn’t age. But you never figured it out. You never had an aspiration of your own, and those of your life roles run out after a while. No wonder you imagine immortality to be boring.
This is how these roles keep you from becoming an Aspirant. But skipping your roles is just the beginning. You don’t stop ageing just because you distanced yourself from all your roles. It’s just necessary.
Art: Papilarnie 4 by Janusz Jurek