Wednesday, February 19, 2014

What Faction Will You Choose?

I'm Divergent. What about you?

Yes, I'm now reading the teen fic novel reflecting life choices in another post-Armageddon society. I've already delved through three of these, captivated by the words and images presented in The Hunger Games, Selection and Delirium series. Now I'm exploring another writer's view of our future. 

Admitting I'm concerned about the number of writers who forecast for our youth a bleak future with our cities bordered by fences might be an understatement. I'm consistently learning that society's projected future seems to begin with Conflict, move into Control and end in Combat ... I assume since this occurs at the end of these trilogies that all is well after that. But earth's post-apocalyptic future seems to result in dramatic and varying decisions that will keep us safe:

  1. Eliminate Love from the equation and all is good. 
  2. Hold an annual Fight to the death using children and our cities will tow the line. 
  3. Mandate girls of a certain age apply and compete in a contest for the Prince's hand.
  4. Segregate our diverse personalities into five defined Groupings and the world will run with efficiency.
What is it I'm hearing? Choice creates conflict and pain. Remove choice. Life is good ... for awhile. For a few. Yep. All these work ... until they don't. And then we're back to more fighting and more divisiveness. And in all these stories, our future world will divide us into levels and classes and specific sects as the solution to the violence prevalent in earth's past ... well, er, life's "Now."

In the book Divergent by Veronica Roth there are five factions in society ... Abnegation which embraces total selflessness; Candor which takes honesty to the extreme; Erudite which is dedicated to knowledge, intelligence, curiosity, and astuteness; Amity which advocates peacefulness, kindness, forgiveness, trust, self-sufficiency, and neutrality; and Dauntless -- which I would define as descendants of the James Dean film Rebel Without A Cause -- but in terms this generation would better understand is generally noted for the intense way they explore and demonstrate courage, bravery, and fearlessness.

But there is another segment of this new societal order .... those that are Divergent. If you are divergent, you "diverge" from the norm ... In other words, you dance to your own beat or march to the rhythm of a different drummer or don't play by the typical rules. In the novel, being Divergent is considered dangerous. A Divergent mind is open, not closed, and willing to explore ideas not typically embraced. To me that means that a Divergent mind sees beyond societal expectations and norms, recognizes rules and accepted ideas but chooses its own path, asks questions, loves authentically, shows compassion to itself, looks through limited belief systems to find its own truths and refute absolutes and ... most importantly ... thinks for itself.

In the many versions of this story that I've read, the simpler path is to just play the game. Follow the rules. Don't fight back. Accept the face value of what appears before you. Don't challenge the status quo. If you do, pain and trial and death and loss and divisiveness results. Just smile and go with the flow. Don't color outside the lines. The status quo is fine ... Don't question. Don't be curious and take no chances. Accept. Don't wonder what is beyond the fences, which are placed there for your good.  

If you do, pain will be the result.

So I wonder, as I read, about Eve and the proverbial Apple. Besides the obvious fact that great designers like Valentino and Calvin Klein would have never risen to their current status, without the Apple we wouldn't experience all the death, loss and drama that mankind has undergone for centuries. We couldn't miss what we didn't know. We would be blissfully unawakened and unelightened. We would be peaceful and hanging out in the garden of life unconcerned about designer fashion and thoughts of pleasure related to long, deep slow wet kisses. We would be content and not distracted by passion or the knowledge it takes to challenge the status quo.

Would that be better, in the long run? To remain in the dark and ignorant of what you might be missing. By choosing a Faction or staying in your District or accepting a collaborative relationship selected for you by others, would we be better off?

After all, Knowledge got us tossed from the Garden. And Passion can lead to Pain. 

But, on the other hand -- and since I'm Divergent you know I'm gonna throw this "other perspective" out there -- passion can also lead us to incredible discoveries, exceptional love stories and terrifying feats of brilliance. Without Passion, the Bronte sisters would have left Heathcliff and Mr. Rochester somewhere in a journal, lost in time and dust. Without Passion, Van Gogh would be long forgotten since the intricacies of his works would have paled over time. Without Passion, man would never have reached the Moon or climbed Mt Everest. Without passion, Beethoven would have given up when deafness began to take its toll. 

Without passion, where would You be?

I guess I've come to terms with the fact that I'm Divergent. It's not the easy path ... It's Robert Frost's Road Not Taken. And it's not the path for everyone. We all make choices. But me, I could never choose one faction for my life. I see beyond limits in Technicolor. My dreams challenge rules. Maybe it's a year of yoga talking, but I have learned to embrace and celebrate my own uniqueness. I experience extraordinary highs and fathomless lows. I loathe and suffer under rejection. I dream and cry and scream and laugh. I'm not Dopey ... I'm Sleepy, Doc, Grumpy, Happy, Sneezy, and Bashful too. I will love deeply. Challenge myself and others. Make friends and lose them. I will live out loud, choosing to be passionate or be dead.

You may choose a Faction if you like. Play it safe. Retreat when conflict comes. Embrace the code. You may choose Passion. You may opt for a blend. The thing about being Divergent .... it's totally up to you how you play this pre-Apocalypic game .... 

"Two roads diverged into a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
to where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
and having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I --
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference."
                                     Robert Frost, 1874-1963
                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                        -- Jenni