A Facebook friend posted this meme last week. I confess for a trivial meme it has occupied an inordinate amount of my head space over the last few days.
What struck me most forcibly in the moments after I first saw it was the trajectory of my thoughts. Almost immediately I began ‘Yes, but….’ followed by an litany of sections of chemistry that I feel I should understand better.
For those who haven’t quite registered this – I teach organic chemistry at a very well respected university in South Africa.
My reaction was interesting to me: Whichever way you configure the statistics, few would argue I understand more chemistry than most people (unless you want to take a very small sample size of professional chemists!). But what was immediately foremost in my mind was the areas of understanding that I lack!
Now, the enneagram savvy may recognise a compulsed 5 in operation. (The 5 on the enneagram is the personality who gains a sense security through having knowledge). That may well be true.
But it alerted to me to a much bigger social problem – my compulsion to shore up my security through knowledge doesn’t appear to hurt anyone, but what if I found my security in financial resources? What if I found my security in being able to identify those who don’t belong? What if I found my security in owning firearms? What if I found my security in being found likeable by others? What if I found my security in being seen to be successful?
Suddenly my kneejerk response is far more sinister. I cannot claim a greater morality because my response is apparently less harmful. It is simply the way we are wired.
In unveiling my own compulsion I am both deeply grateful it is relatively neutral (at least as far as I can see), and I see those whose compulsions are necessarily potentially more destructive with far less judgement. It isn’t my path, but the reason it isn’t is not because I am fundamentally a better person, it is just because I am wired to be soothed by a different stimulus.