Free to Be You & We – The Arts as Binding Agent

Our culture spends so much energy encouraging individuality. Freedom to be whoever we want to be. Be unique! Be special! Don’t be a follower!

I think all that messaging misdirects people away from the greatest sources of health and happiness available to us. As humans we are built to be in community. Every cell in our bodies is on high alert looking for opportunities to align with those around us. We look for clues, for agreement. We unconsciously mirror each others’ posture and rhythms. When we feel really seen by someone else, it’s like a bit of a happy dance inside. A renewal and regeneration.

(That reaching out and reaching back is what Art in Real Life is all about. My Manifesto outlines its roots.)


We each have our own unique recipe, our own amalgam, of the groups with which we identify. Our starter kits include our race & ethnicity, our sex, our family’s faith and the status into which we were born. Each of these cultural identities comes with carefully defined membership expectations – how to dress, the music we listen to, the language we use. In Status & Class, I explore some of the ways status and class are communicated. You can explore the other groups as well.

Over time we accent some aspects of our identity over others or we replant ourselves into entirely new groups. For example, I may be a Mainer born and raised, but a new part of me came alive the first time I donned a cowboy hat. Who knew?!

Our creativity shows up everyday in the picture we paint for the world to see. We tell the story of who we are and who we aspire to be – by the clothes we wear. The attitude we present. The language we use. The rituals we choose to follow. And, if we choose, we can reduce our involvement in elements of our past and hook up to entirely new cultural journeys.

What kind of hat will you put on next?

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