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On Saturday, my husband and I went to the Georgia Tech football game.
Having attended SMU just after it came off the unprecedented “death penalty,” I wasn’t exactly accustomed to big-time college football when I married D. Granted, I got a little exposure while at The University of Texas at Austin, but mostly that was annoyance at not being able to park at the law school on game days.
Georgia Tech football games, as compared to those of other Division I schools, are super-accessible. The stadium is on campus in Midtown Atlanta, with multiple mass transit stations nearby. D and I can leave our house about thirty minutes prior to kickoff and be there in time.
So there we were, on Saturday, parallel parking in Midtown. It was a drizzly day, so D got out of the car to pay the meter and I waited inside. We had parked on a one-way street about twenty yards from a stoplight.
The light was red when we pulled up, and the street was mainly empty. But as I sat there, the light turned to green.
And the weirdest thing happened to me.
My gut really. I felt this visceral urge to “go.”
You’ve felt it, right? When you’ve stopped at a stoplight and the lane next to you gets their left-hand turn green arrow? Sometimes you come off the brake because you feel this primal, instinctive call to “go.”
And because I a) love to deconstruct ideas and b) have our primal foremothers on my mind constantly, I was just struck at how totally, completely and utterly arbitrary it is that my instinctive self would respond so reflexively to a red light changing into a green one.
You see, we concocted that. We have arbitrarily assigned meaning to that color of green**. There’s nothing intrinsic about the color and the way it looks that suggests that it should make people go forward. Nor is there anything essential about the color red that it should make people stop. We gave those colors that meaning and then, because we rely on them so heavily during our day-to-day lives, we’ve internalized those arbitrary meanings.
So what does this mean in the wellness context?
I would submit that there are incalculable ways in which we have arbitrarily assigned a certain meaning to an idea or a representation and ultimately internalized that meaning to the detriment of our own physical and/or emotional health.
I challenge you, next time you feel a visceral urge, really try to unpack that. To what are you reacting? Does the color, picture, or idea really carry the significance that you (or our society) has assigned it? Or, can we think of it in a different way, opening ourselves up to the idea that maybe that thing that causes us to feel something deep may, in fact, just be a neutral? Neither intrinsically good nor bad. Just green.
Check in with me – here, on Facebook, or via Twitter (@kristinerudolph) and let me know what cultural constructs you guys unpack.
(Just to make it abundantly clear, I am not encouraging you to ignore traffic signals! Many of these arbitrary constructs are completely and totally necessary for a proper functioning of society.)
**If thinking about color interests you, check out this review of the book Roy G Biv available[amazon_link id=”1608196135″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ] here[/amazon_link].