For not conforming, the world whips you with disapproval. That's why you've got to know how to size up a sour face.
Suppose a bystander looks at you suspiciously on the street or in a friend's house. If this frown originated in contempt and resistance like your own, you might very well go home with a sad expression yourself.
But the sour faces of the multitude,
like their sweet faces,
have no profound meaning:
they're put on and taken off
according to the way the wind blows
and today's headlines.
The disapproval of the masses is worse than that of Congress or the university faculty. It's easy enough for a determined, worldly person to withstand the rage of elitists. Their rage is prim and proper, because they are timid, being very vulnerable themselves. But when you add the indignation of the people, when you arouse the ignorant and the poor, when you make the unthinking brute force that lies at the bottom of society start to growl and hiss, only the pretext of philanthropy and religion is all-powerful enough to treat it as a trifle of no concern.
The other terror that scares us from our self-trust is our consistency: a reverence for our past actions or words. Other people have no other data for computing our orbit than our past actions, and we hate to disappoint them.
But why look back over your shoulder? Why drag around this corpse of your memory, afraid to contradict something you once said in this or that public place?
Suppose you do contradict yourself—so what?
It seems to be common wisdom never to rely on your memory alone, even in acts of pure memory, but to replay the past for renewed judgment by the eyes of the present, always living in a new day.
You say the kingdom of God is within you. Yet when the divinity of your soul tries to emerge, you strangle it rather than let it breathe shape and color so that you may clothe God. Leave your philosophy, as Joseph left his coat of many colors in the land of the harlot, and run away!
Consistency for its own sake is stupidity—
a favorite idiocy of small-minded
politicians, philosophers, and preachers.
A great soul simply has no attachment to consistency. You may as well worry about your shadow on the wall. Speak your mind now in no uncertain terms, and tomorrow speak tomorrow's thoughts just as forcefully, even if it contradicts everything you said today.
Ah, but won't you be sure to be misunderstood? Is it such a big deal to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood. So were Socrates, Jesus, Luther, Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, and every authentic and wise spirit that ever took flesh.
To be great is to be misunderstood.
Last Edited: May 03, 2000
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© 1997 Richard Brodie. All rights reserved.