In this episode, we discuss our desire to fit in, to be part of the 'cool kids' group, to be part of what CS Lewis calls "The Inner Ring". Taimur reads some passages from Lewis’ essay before we each share some instances in our own life when we've succumbed to this desire and discuss whether it's ever acceptable to be exclusivist in our circles.

Key quotes from the essay:

“I believe that in all men’s lives at certain periods, and in many men’s lives at all periods between infancy and extreme old age, one of the most dominant elements is the desire to be inside the local Ring and the terror of being left outside”.
“…this desire is one of the great permanent mainsprings of human action. It is one of the factors which go to make up the world as we know it—this whole pell-mell of struggle, competition, confusion, graft, disappointment and advertisement. Unless you take measures to prevent it, this desire is going to be one of the chief motives of your life, from the first day on which you enter your profession until the day when you are too old to care”.
“To a young person, just entering on adult life, the world seems full of “insides,” full of delightful intimacies and confidentialities, and he desires to enter them. But if he follows that desire he will reach no “inside” that is worth reaching. The true road lies in quite another direction”  

Some of the highlights from our subsequent discussion:

Inner rings develop from school onwards. Perhaps the earliest manifestation of the inner ring was the desire to fit in at primary school and especially at secondary school.

The allure of the inner ring is a constant repetitive desire that you have to actively resist. It’s not something that ends after secondary school – we feel these pressures throughout our lives from university to the work place to social events. Inner rings exist in all parts of our society and their magnetism - drawing us in - does not fade with age and we have to be constantly intentional about recognising when we are being drawn towards such inner rings.

Ring signalling has become more prevalent with the advent of social media. Ali describes his annoyance at people who make a point of mentioning the existence of WhatsApp groups to those who are not part of them and, likewise, posting photos on Facebook of group events could have a similar effect.

But, it can be acceptable at times to be exclusivist. Limited gatherings of like-minded people can be acceptable because, in a sense, there is an impermanence to these gatherings – the concept of the inner ring is a more fundamental, long-term ‘grouping’. In fact, over inclusivity for all events can sometimes kill those spaces where gatherings of like-minded people might be the best option for all parties concerned.

Links

The CW Lewis speech "The Inner Ring" - https://www.lewissociety.org/innerring/


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What is this? Not Overthinking is a podcast about happiness, creativity, and the human condition. We talk about things to help us think, do, and be better. Things like social interaction, lifestyle design, mental models...things that are hard to examine, but important to explore. And hopefully, things that make for a fun and interesting chat every week.


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Who are we?

Ali is a junior doctor and YouTuber working in Cambridge, UK. He makes videos about medicine, technology, productivity and lifestyle design. His links: YouTube, Blog, Newsletter, Instagram

Taimur is a data scientist and writer, working on his own startup Causal. He writes on his blog and as a columnist for Medium. His links: Blog, Twitter, Medium, Instagram