For as long as I can remember I have been keenly aware of two worlds: my world, and the ‘secular’ world. Even as a child, whether it was cartoons and certain TV shows, or (as I got older) movie theatres and Saturday parties, I knew that some activities were a part of that world, and I needed to manage my priorities as a member of this world.
My world was inside. It was safe, orderly, clean, godly and concerned with the will of god. My world functioned via protective rules, and there was a hierarchical structure of people I could count on to interpret those rules. The secular world was outside. It was dangerous, chaotic, dirty, and hedonistic. It functioned according to the dictates of power and the almighty dollar, and everyone had their own personal rules, which were ultimately only a disgraced shadow of godly morality.
The problem with dividing the world into ‘inside’ and ‘outside,’ ‘us’ and ‘them’ is that it teaches people to stop seeing individuals, and instead see simple units of black or white according to membership within a particular community. As soon as people assume they are a part of an exclusive community of light, their own arrogance blinds them to the contributions of others. Every community has deficiencies and strengths. Logically speaking, some of my community’s weaknesses will coincide with the strengths of another community. Recognizing this, and borrowing the innovations of others depends upon my acknowledging that people, and the communities they form, are complex.
As an adolescent I began understand the two words differently. The outside became increasingly exciting, and wouldn’t it? Science, technology, and literature had long been portrayed as its minions. The more I was exposed to new ideas the more I realized that thoughtful ‘outsiders’ could also offer valuable moral and philosophical insight. The world needed my community, but my community also needed the world.
Now instead of seeing ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ or ‘us’ and ‘them,’ I see two communities, cultures, and way of seeing the world that nurture parts of my soul, but neither of which quite feel like home. That’s the peril of living on the apex: you don’t have a home. My sense of security has instead been replaced by a sense of profound ideological loneliness as I realize neither of the communities I know can offer me all I need. Which begs the question: what now?