Every group has a conscience, but we must ask ourselves whether that conscience aligns with our own.
Some extreme examples notwithstanding, each of us has a conscience, an inner compass if you will, that, if we allow it to, guides our attitudes, outlooks, and decisions. Whenever two or more people gather together for any purpose, a new conscience begins to develop between them. Each person brings his or her own experience, ideas, values, and morals to the group and, as these begin to commingle, something new emerges: a group conscience.
This new group conscience is not necessarily greater or lesser than its individual parts, but it is always different. When the group agrees on core principles, values, and codes of behavior, the group’s conscience becomes a powerful voice that guides the group’s decisions and actions, amplifying the power of the individual members. On the other hand, if the group is divided with regards to the fundamental beliefs that brought and keep it together, the group’s conscience will be confused, conflicted, and muddled, diminishing the collective voice of the group and the individual voices that make it up.
Whether consciously or subconsciously, when we join or start a group, we do so with the hope that there will be an exchange of influence. We hope to have some positive input over the direction of the group’s conscience, that the group will give our values, beliefs, and morality a louder, more powerful voice, but also that the group will give positive guidance and direction to our lives lives as well. When it becomes clear that a group we are a part of has a vastly different conscience than our own, however, when our conscience and the group’s conscience are so out of alignment that there is constant, unhealthy tension, we owe it to ourselves and to the group to go our own way.
Holistic Budo: As it is in budo, so too it is in life. As it is in life, so too it is in budo.
All photos by Robert Van Valkenburgh unless otherwise noted.
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