I have been growing the neck beard out lately, much to the chagrin of people who know me. I must confess it does look awful, all scraggly and unkempt. Some people grow nice full beards, but all mine ever seems to do is grow down, not out. Still, I have got to make out for my losses up top somehow. I do this about once a year, partly to see if it looks better (it never does), but mostly just to prove a point to myself: that I still am myself and not what others want me to be.

To be a part of a society is to conform to that society. To uphold a common set of rules and standards. In many ways this is a good thing, you probably would not like to live next to someone who thought arson was ok. This gives rise to the good side of society: our laws. There is an inverse side though, an insidious side: the drive to create automata. Automata (singular automaton), as Wikipedia defines, is "a self-operating machine, or a machine or control mechanism designed to follow automatically a predetermined sequence of operations, or respond to predetermined instructions". What is an automaton as it relates to a person though? It is a person who has lost their identity, who has become what society expects of them. It is a person who gets married, has 2.5 kids while working 60 hours a week. It is a person who works 40 years and retires at 67, who owns a house, likes football, and vacations once a year. Yet, despite how negative I have made this all sound, there is nothing wrong with this if that is what you want. Not surprisingly, If you were to look at the things I like (football), and the the things I want (a house), you would see the automaton reflected in me. Is that what I want or am I just playing along because that is what everyone wants for me?

This is the the little death. It is the slow subjugation of yourself as you integrate into a society. Each time you think to yourself, "Well, it is just what people do." or "That is what everyone else is doing." a little part of yourself dies. A unique piece of the multifaceted color of you goes gray. Make no mistake, this is what some people who know you want. They want you to be like them, they want you to like the things they like, to have the same goals, the same aspirations. They are not evil for trying to do this, it is just their nature. If that is what you to want, great, but if not, do not suffer that little death.

So too do I often wonder if the things I like and want our my own wishes or simply my desire to be part of society. How can I prove otherwise? How can I prove I am my own man. Simple, do the things society shuns, do those things that are frowned upon, relish the embarrassed laugh you get when you surprise a person. Cherish that look of disgust and disappointment. This is not an excuse to be a bad person, but an excuse to be you. So yes, my neck beard is awful, but it proves I am me.