The Pillow Book. What’s the big taboo in our lives?
It used to be the custom that Japanese parents gave young people who were about to be married a ‘pillow book’. This was a small volume of wood-block prints, showing all the details of sexual intercourse. It spared parents the embarrassment of having to explain ‘the facts of life’ face-to-face.
Today we can get easy access to such information online, in Cleo or Cosmopolitan magazine, in a sex shop, or in a book shop. The bottom line is that sex is no longer a taboo, like it used to be. And young people these days usually know a lot more about sex that their parents do anyway.
But if sex is no longer the BIG taboo, what is? Surely there is always something taboo, something repressed, something unadmitted. What would be The Book that fathers and mothers might slip to their sons and daughters, without ever admitting it openly?
I reckon The Book would be called ‘The Alien From Inner Space’. This is a book that tells our children how we have forgotten who we really are – the real Brand You – as we live and hide behind a mask; as we never trust our instincts or intuition; as we blindly follow where all others go because we don’t have a sense of our self, or what makes us unique and different.
This is, in my view, the BIG taboo today. The taboo against knowing and being who you really are. We never talk about it. “So, where do you live?” we ask the person we’ve just met at a dinner party. The real, Brand You question would be “So, what do you live for?”, and yet we never go there. It just feels awkward. Unnatural. Pretentious perhaps. Taboo actually.
Who we are becomes alien to us – ‘The Alien From Inner Space’ – as we get nibbled to death by ducks and distracted by tiny [yet seemingly VERY important] sideshows such as looking good, being successful, being popular, being busy, getting ahead, and not missing out on anything.
And suppose you did, for a moment, manage to find the confidence and sense of self to walk the road less travelled – your road – everyone else would immediately stick a label on your back that says different, or weird, or radical, even fanatical. And before long you’ll start being like everyone else again, because you just can’t bear being so different.
Jim Morrison said it like this:
The most important kind of freedom is to be what you really are. You trade in your reality for a role. You trade in your sense for an act. You give up your ability to feel, and in exchange, put on a mask. There can’t be any large-scale revolution until there’s a personal revolution, on an individual level. It’s got to happen inside first.
Now Jim may have been messed up in some ways, and his flame did burn out at a young age. That was Jim. But the taboo against knowing and being who you are sure wasn’t one of Jim’s problems.
Like Jim, the book I pass on to my children – ‘The Alien From Inner Space’ – contains no sermons, no shoulds and no oughts. Instead it reminds them to feel, encourages them to look on the inside before the outside, and prompts them to trust and put store in their own experiences as the basis for living their life.