Following the crowd
When I was in my teens I lived on Merseyside and worked in a bank, and when I didn’t have to work on a Saturday morning I used to go hiking around North Wales with my best friend for the weekend. Catching the ferry across the Mersey at tea-time on Fridays meant wading through a crowd of commuters all going to Birkenhead and beyond. Many of them spent the short time on the ferry walking around the deck in the same direction – clockwise. My friend and I delighted in walking in the opposite direction, just to annoy everyone. We had large rucksacks, so were guaranteed to be a nuisance to the conformist commuters.
This train of thought was prompted by a recent visit to Ipswich during the Christmas shopping frenzy; sheer hell, as far as I’m concerned. I beat a hasty retreat and did the rest of my shopping locally. There’s something about being in close proximity to lots of other bodies and having no personal space that prompts me to try to assert my individuality in some way. I wouldn’t be happy in China; in collectivist societies like that, harmony is considered more important than individualism, so I’d be an embarrassment to my family – who might say I already am.
Humanists are, on the whole, staunchly individualistic. We tend not to follow any crowd, but if we find ourselves in one, we’re likely to ask why? Why are we here? What are we doing? What for?
Take Christmas, for example. Last year I was too busy to post any cards, so hardly anyone I knew got one. I don’t know what possessed me this year; guilt, I think. I was absurdly pleased with myself for ordering charity cards over the internet, then sending them by the last day for 2nd-class post. All that effort, to find that at least half the people I’d sent them to had already crossed me off their list, probably thinking, ‘Thank goodness – that’s another I don’t have to worry about,’ when they didn’t get a card last year.
So I’ve made a resolution. Christmas isn’t compulsory, especially for a heathen like me, so no more Christmas cards – ever. The charities I’d otherwise buy cards from will get a donation instead.
Oh, by the way – Thank you to George and Vicky in Little Bealings, who send me a midsummer card every year. One year it had a picture of Rudolph on his holiday.
Have a happy, non-conformist, healthy and peaceful New Year.