The Tension of Carnival: Conformity vs. Unpredictability

web_Chris YoderThe Carnival came to town flying on elephant wings and hopping on kangaroo limbs. Not really. They did come to town, however, to help break trends of conformity and societal patterns that place us in lives of linear thinking. It is a good message, one we need to hear, and one which is good to strive for.

But there are problems. Thinking linearly puts us where we are right now. I am in college to receive a degree, to graduate, to find a job, to have kids, to be a parent, to grow up.

Thinking linearly is a cause and effect type of thinking, one such that we tend to know the outcomes, or the effects, of our causes. Our lives, including our lives in the future, have order. Go to college, graduate, etc. There is a certain amount of predictability.

The people who came riding on elephant wings were assumed by many to be anti-order, anti-predictability, and altogether anti-institution. Institution is a vague term in this sense, but I will use it from this point on to refer to the over-arching societal structure to which people feel obliged to conform.

At this point, I wonder how many people can honestly say they feel stuck, stuck living for attempts at non-conformity under the blanket of an institution. And the elephant riders are these people who have a life completely devoid of predictability and linear thinking, or so it seems. There is a clash here, a clash not necessarily of values, because many people within the institution long for a life without deadlines and due dates. I would argue that it is a clash of cultures.

Many people at EMU have had cross-cultural experience. Think back to that time, when every interaction you had with someone was difficult. You second-guessed your words. You had to work to relate to people. As a result, the body is physically drained and emotionally depleted. Or rather, emotions run the gauntlet from lack of restraint. For example, how many people find themselves in a romantic relationship during or immediately following their cross cultural experience? And how many of those relationships have flourished? Regardless, at the time when you are in a situation where your core cultural values become a commodity, you start to realize who you are as a person, and how culture affects who a person is. Maybe it is a result of the emotional insecurity: yes, you did have emotional insecurity to some degree while overseas, do not deny it.

Well I have news for everyone: The institution is part of us, part of our culture. There is really no way around it. We think linearly, no matter how hard we try not to, because that is how we were raised. And I am sorry, something such as the institution, which is bred into our beings by our ancestors, not to mention infused into our psyche since the moment we popped out of the womb into a room with flashing lights and doctors in scrubs, does not leave easily, or at all.

So we are stuck living, breathing, and thinking linearly despite our best efforts to trump the system. Personally, I would love to knock the cause and effect thinking over the left field wall where fans can scramble for the right to hold it high above their heads while I trot the base path rejoicing in my home run. But I am only just learning how to make contact with the ball. Sure, I have hit some singles and doubles, and maybe even a triple. I have tasted, at times, the sweet pungency of freedom from the institution. But it only lingers, and never lasts. I come back to what I know, and I know the institution well.

The people that come flying on elephant wings and hopping on kangaroo limbs spark within me a desire to show them that I do not like the institution, I do not like conformity, and I do not like predictability. But it is just out of reach. They are sporting their cut-off, paint covered clothes that say, “I do not like what society tells me to do,” and I am sporting my jeans with a paint mark that I purposely left there which says, “I am trying, but it does not quite fit me.” It is a culture clash, between the institution and lack thereof. So how do we break the trend, or more importantly, should we?

-Chris Yoder, Staff Writer


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