Islands

In Meditation XVII (1623), John Donne wrote the following:

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main……. any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

Experiential learners are not islands either; their learning does not happen in a vacuum.  The relationship between individuals and groups is complex and far-reaching – one aspect of which was the subject of Rater Or Rating? – but perceived group affiliation, even when other group members are not known personally, can have significant influences.

There is evidence that, if I think you are similar to me and you are behaving poorly, I am more likely to behave poorly.  Further, if I think you are dissimilar to me and you are behaving poorly, I am less likely to behave poorly.  In both these cases, I don’t need to know anything about you other than your level of similarity.  It seems that birds of a feather don’t just flock together, they also flock around or flock up!  There’s no apparent pressure involved, just the tacit permission from your ‘group’ that certain behaviours will be collectively condoned; conversely, when outsiders ‘flock around’, refraining from behaving poorly signals disapproval (perhaps not so much at their actions as at their dissimilarity).

Like beauty, similarity is often in the eye of the beholder; it may be inferred from any number of characteristics.  This means that there is always an excuse available for ‘flocking around’ because you’ll always be able to find similar ‘birds’ in the vicinity.  Availability of ‘birds’ need not dictate the desirability of ‘flocking’, around, up or otherwise.  After all, you’re not a birdbrain.

You might like to do what hands just like yours are doing but, when hands just like yours are doing things that you wouldn’t like to see other hands doing, you can always do one thing:

You can walk away, literally or psychologically, rather than mimic those around you.  And walking away enables you to find your own way.  You may not be an island but neither need you be a dependency.

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