As the playwright George Bernard Shaw once put it: “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”
― Malcolm Gladwell, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants
From the time we are born, we are taught to conform and fit in. There is a script in American culture that is already written and success is perceived as following the script. Sit quietly in your big-box education setting where it is teacher and test oriented, as opposed to centered on actual learning and experience. Place your hope in achieving within a numerical grading system so that you can attend the college of your choice in which you hand over the raising of your offspring to a system of big university business that is designed to enslave you to debt for decades to come with no actual guarantee of gainful employment, let alone meaningful work. Our young adults are riddled with quarter-life crises of, “What if’s?,” “How did I get here?” and, “Is this all there is?” We raise a generation of conformists as if our present reality is worth sustaining?
I call B.S. Progress, reformation, change, development, evolution and the dream for a new tomorrow does not come from the center of the box. Everything in the system is designed to sustain the system. It is the free thinkers, the practitioners, the dreamers, the doers, the prophets, the revolutionaries, the starters, the pioneers … the troublemakers and misfits that push ahead into danger and then beckon others to follow. It is the misfits that mark the trees for others to follow their road-maps for creating a new future.
You will not win an award for being a misfit or a free thinker who asks a lot of questions. You will not get a t-shirt or a promotion. You are more likely to be tarred, feathered and drug behind a wagon before anyone throws a parade in your honor. Your reward has to be the wind in your hair, the taste of saltwater at the bow of the ship and the wonder of the unknown and the adventure. Being a misfit is an art and you have to love your art for you, not for others to legitimize it for you. If you are fortunate and blessed, as I have been, you will find other misfits along your journey who will, for at least a fleeting moment, make you think that you are not crazy and it is in that moment that you experience genuine community. Not the corporate buzz-word of contrived and pseudo community, I mean the actual thing. It is a human sense of connection with others that is deeper than corporate buzz-words and t-shirt slogans; it is the cry of the heart for a kind of primal belonging that makes your soul satisfied. The box can’t offer that.
So what is the art of misfitting? It is staying in the game long enough to find your art, ask your questions and push out into the territories you long to explore. If you are disappointing others who find your quest for something real to be unreasonable, well then, welcome to the island of misfit toys. This is where true community begins. Pull up a chair, cheers to your art of misfitting.
Photo (Flickr CC) by Ibia