Sunday, March 13, 2016

Individuality Or Insanity?

“Genius must ever border on madness. It must see things as no one else does, must come from a viewpoint different than the world’s. Both must separate themselves from the world, to believe that what others accept as obvious is wrong, to confidently disagree with the commonly held beliefs. Both are a step away from being thought the other, sometimes depending on little strokes of luck.”

If you talk to yourself and nobody is there does it mean you’re crazy? Perhaps not, but if you write day after day and nobody reads what you have written, it’s only natural to question your sanity.

I mean, at some point someone is going to catch on to what you’re doing, and if you’re halfway decent at it you’re going to attract an audience eventually. Right? Well no, not if you’re insane. Not if you’re deluding yourself so badly that you don’t realize that what you write is completely unappealing to the ordinary reader.

It’s hard being out there completely on your own, hard knocking on doors day after day without ever managing to get your foot in any of them. The further you go the more you have to choose between either believing further in what it is you’re doing or beginning to believe that you are losing it. In other words, you eventually have to believe you’re either a genius or a madman. And in that position, you’ll likely vacillate between the two from one day to the next.

I read a quote once from a man in a mental institution that read something like this: “They told me I was crazy and I told them no, they were the ones who were crazy. But they outvoted me.” It’s hard being on the edge, hard being so distant from what people consider normal. Madmen and geniuses are similar in that they believe themselves right and the greater part of society to be wrong. Sometimes I think the difference between normal society and those who are considered insane or genius is that normal people prefer to conform to the accepted way of thinking because they are afraid to be alone, to be thought different. It is a choice we make. It takes courage to look beyond the status quo. It takes faith both in yourself and the greater world at large to believe you can wander so far from the safety of the herd and not fall off the edge of the world or be eaten by whatever lurks in the darkness.

It’s even harder when you’re teetering on the edge to try to encourage others to your point of view. The mainstream does not like to leave their position of comfort. They do not want to leave home even if the house is on fire. The multitude, though we find it unpleasant to admit, like a strong leader. How else does one explain a Donald Trump, Adolph Hitler, or Jim Jones? People like someone to tell them what to do so that they won’t have to choose for themselves, won’t have to be responsible for their own lives.

I suppose a madman is not afraid to assume that type of leadership position. Perhaps it speaks for my sanity that I have no desire to rule others or convince them through inordinate confidence that I have the truth on my side. I want people to think for themselves, choose the best options for them based on the evidence at hand. But perhaps that is only a subtler form of persuasion, a passive-aggressive sort of means of coercion.

Perhaps commitment is the best path to take. Anyone working day after day on something, even if he IS crazy, will eventually draw the attention of others. People like oddities, people appreciate dedication and commitment. It takes patience, and confidence, or at least conviction, to walk that road. It is a long lonely road, and yet there is an appeal to it. It appeals to me precisely because I choose it, and I choose it because it has not been laid out by others. It is a trail I blaze, though where it leads I do not know.

And while I think I’m going where no one else has gone before I know that is not true. I have been influenced by a thousand different people, and their pursuit leads me on, perhaps to go just a shade further than they were able to. And if I can happen to illuminate a further section for others, well perhaps that is not genius but for me it would be enough.

And if that sounds crazy to others, so be it.

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