23 Apr Pulled In All Directions
I was talking with a friend the other day and she explained that her daughter had dyed her hair pink – the unwritten etiquette of her workplace might have frowned on that under normal circumstances but under lockdown, she was uninhibited. My friend was someone with whom I studied English Literature and our conversation then turned to my secret admiration for Malvolio in Shakespeare’s ‘Twelfth Night’ : Malvolio is, on the surface at least, a priggish, puritanical figure who suddenly undergoes a change and dances around in yellow stockings in the deluded belief that he will win the heart of the beautiful Olivia. He is, of course, a more complex character than that, but for this introvert, his inhibition was admirable.
There is a saying in Japan, that conveys an opposite line of thought – ‘the nail that stands up has to be hammered down.’ In many ways that reflects a culture that is highly regulated and conformist; the extreme courtesy and dignified behaviour of people in public belies a view, that customs and manners are less about your regard for the other person and more about your view of yourself. The pressure to conform often inhibits a sense of community and warm relationships and promotes a striving towards an unattainable sense of self-respect and perfection ; it is little wonder that there is a high incidence of mental health issues among the Japanese people.
As we go through life we can be pulled in all directions, envying others or trying to earn acceptance. I love the perspective that David conveys in Psalm 139 :
..you shaped me first inside and then out;
you formed me in my mother’s womb
O thank you, High God- you’re breathtaking!
Body and soul, I am marvellously made!
I worship in adoration
Your thoughts – how rare, how beautiful God.
I’ll never comprehend them –
Oh, let me rise in the morning and live always with you.
I also pray with the Psalmist :
Investigate my life, O God. Cross-examine me and test me ..
Then guide me on the road to eternal life
Deputy Clerk of Session