Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Sitting with the cool kids

It's Grade 10 and you walk into the cafeteria. You stop just inside the doors and scan the room. You pick out the table where the cool kids are sitting and you wonder if you have what it takes to go sit with them. Perhaps you have no trouble answering that in the affirmative. Or maybe you worry a little. Maybe you think you have zero chance of being accepted and go sit somewhere else.

I think most people know that experience. I think it's a pretty good metaphor for how we choose our moral views all our lives.

It's worth remembering that not everyone is going to agree about who the cool kids are. One person might think it's the jocks, another might think it's the mean girls, someone else will pick the smart kids and some will pick the table where the dope smokers sit. Some will lie to themselves and believe they don't want to sit at a table they clearly do want to sit at.

Underlying this choice (or lack of choice) is a sense that you're going to half to earn it. Sitting at any particular table requires buy in on certain values. It's not enough that you agree with the values shared by the group, you'll be expected to embody them. You can't sit with the jocks unless you are athletic, you can't sit with the brainy kids unless you can keep up with them.

The temptation is to dismiss this as shallow. "I am my own person!" But you're not. No one is. Where shallowness enters the picture is when we choose the table. Or when we reject certain tables.

The problem is not being wrong. You can pick the wrong table. I think just about everyone does in high school. It's the reason for the choice that can be shallow.

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