At this stage in life, we often define and construct ourselves in a way that is overly matter-of-fact. We live in our intellectual bubbles filled with familiar contexts and people which are further supported by the echo chambers and information silos that permeate our society. An unintentional process of reification occurs, making our lives more concrete, our identities more salient and our knowledge less penetrable. Emerson’s quote from the essay “Politics” comes to mind when he said:
“Society is an illusion to the young citizen. It lies before him in rigid repose, with certain names, men and institutions rooted like oak-trees to the centre, round which all arrange themselves the best they can.”
The danger in thinking of these societal constructions as immutable threatens our agency and critical capacities. This experience has been one of deconstruction for me. With each lecture, conversation, reading and observation, I find myself challenged by the counter-narratives to my “truth” on a variety of topics. Our last Peace Seminar discussed this phenomenon of not having a “monopoly on the truth.” It is a powerful exercise to consider how much time we spend analyzing and giving meaning to the world within our own minds. Cultural maturity is the process of having a multiplicity of definitions and perspectives to pull from, rather than blindly accepting the most obvious. Both the workshop at the Nansen Center and our time at the International Summer School have provided the ideal environments for this process to occur. By beginning to live with this double consciousness, the formulation of the ‘self’ should no longer be done against an ‘other’.