Saturday, October 6, 2012

Learning to Decrease: the 2 Desires Revisited (John 3:30)

I recently re-read an old post from January which incidentally features probably my favorite title on the blog thus far: "Souvenirs from Hell and the Altar of Sacrifice (Matthew 5:29-30)." Honestly, reading some of these older posts, as well as older journal entries (lately I've been reading my mission journals again) really causes me to reflect on my growth as well as important lessons I've learned in the past that I sometimes need reminding of in the present! I was actually really taken aback by that post from the beginning of this year. It presents a lot of very complex thoughts and concepts that take several readings to really digest properly. It seemed like I was reading something written by someone else and I guess in a way I was--because we are not static things; we are dynamic, changing beings. I AM in fact a different person than I was in January. And it was fascinating to see the views and mind of this earlier Obadiah. One concept I/he wrote about that I now remember pondering a lot back then was the idea of the two dichotomous desires we struggle with throughout our lives: the desire to "fit in" and blend into our community and the desire to assert our individuality. And now I'm once again thinking a lot about it and hope to add a few new insights on the subject here.

It seems that throughout our lives we oscillate between trying to fill these two desires. We generally devote our time to focusing on whichever one is more lacking at any given time and I think it is generally rare for anyone to go their whole life fixated too predominantly on one or the other, though certainly exceptions exist. We also don't generally consciously think about acting to fill the one or the other. It happens very naturally and subconsciously. In my case, I'd say that I tend to go back and forth every few months between focusing on the one or the other, though I also think that multiple-year segments of my life have tended to skew towards one or the other. For example, in elementary school I desperately wanted to fit in and focused more of my attention on that desire. In college I've experienced basically the opposite: I've given more attention to wanting to assert my individuality. And yet there are clearly exceptions and oscillations within those periods. If I look just at 2012, for example, I'd say most of the year has been focused on my individuality while the last month and a half I've really addressed my "fitting in" needs a lot more closely.

What's really tricky about all of this is that neither desire deserves to be lauded or derided over the other. Both can actually be important and both can be dangerous. For example, regarding the desire to "fit in," feeding this desire can be good if it