It's all high school
A few weeks ago I finished reading Lilith’s Brood for the second time. And in that book there is the concept of the contradiction. If you don’t know the story, an alien species finds Earth when it’s just had a planet destroying war. The Oankali rescue humans, but note that they contain a contradiction: incredible intelligence along with a need for hierarchy that causes them to eventually destroy themselves.
With that rattling around in my brain last week I read the interview in The Atlantic with President Obama to talk about the first volume of his memoirs. There’s a lot in that interview that made me think but at the very end he says this:
It’s interesting. You’re in high school and you see all the cliques and bullying and unfairness and superficiality, and you think, Once I’m grown up I won’t have to deal with that anymore. And then you get to the state legislature and you see all the nonsense and stupidity and pettiness. And then you get to Congress and then you get to the G20, and at each level you have this expectation that things are going to be more refined, more sophisticated, more thoughtful, rigorous, selfless, and it turns out it’s all still like high school. Human dynamics are surprisingly constant.
I started to see several different situations I’m in through the lens of both of these concepts and it’s helped immensely. At work and in my community, we’re all just playing out the same patterns we’ve been playing out for most of our lives and reacting to them in the same ways. Is this healthy? Not necessarily, but it helps me to understand it, see it clearly, and name it as I make my way through life.