Stuart's Blog

Appropriate Behaviour

The more I study life and the more I study the 'Matrix' the more I realise how we're all winging it all of the time.

Look at the concept of 'appropriate behaviour'.

There is nothing absolute about the idea of appropriate behaviour, it is simply a collection of ideas related to the time and place that you happen to be in, where 'time' and 'place' apply on a large and small scale.

Some examples... it is 'appropriate behaviour' to go to the shops in jeans and a t-shirt, however to go to a wedding in the building that you passed on your way to the shops it would be inappropriate if you wore your jeans and t-shirt.

If you're a woman wearing jeans and a t-shirt that is fine in the Western world, but travel to the Middle East and you suddenly find your life at risk.

Drinking alcohol is appropriate after... well, what time of day? 7pm? Noon? The moment you wake up? And as a friend once pointed out to me if you're up at 4am to watch the summer solstice sunrise there may be people who have stayed up all night and are quite reasonable to still be drinking, but if you got up extra early to watch the spectacle it would be wholly wrong for you to crack open a beer.

Let's go back to the Middle East where alcohol is never appropriate.

And what about differences over large-scale time. I don't have to go into what Romans thought was appropriate to do with prisoners (thrown them to lions for entertainment) or young boys at their feasts (the less said the better).

And what of the revolutionaries who were criminals in their day, but heroes in retrospect.

And so we have a problem... step outside of the 'norms' of appropriate behaviour and you become the weirdo. But stick rigidly to the unwritten, messy, fuzzy-logic of the norms and nothing ever changes.

Unwritten. That's another big problem. Because it's so complex, we can't codify 'appropriate behaviour'. Sure, people have attempted to write etiquette guides, but they're simply making their best guesses from what they've observed.

Is etiquette prescriptive or descriptive? Do we see what's going on in all its mess and flux and evolution and write it down, or do we write down how we think people should behave?

I guess the answer is to unapologetically lean on the edges of what's acceptable in directions that matter to you and then let go of the outcome... be comfortable being perceived as the weirdo and who knows, you might see the change in the world that you would like to see.

I have generally stopped worrying what people think of me, but there's still a whole slew of guilt, shame and embarrassment around any actions I take that are outside the huge set of limitations I have put on myself – a set of limitations that were developed over time to attempt to not upset anyone.

That's the worst crime we can commit... to do nothing around the edges of appropriate behaviour for fear of upsetting someone.

I think my philosophy runs somewhere along the lines of "intend no harm, but enjoy my life". It is—as with everything in my exploration of life—a work in progress.


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