I spent a large part of my life trying to find “unique” individuals. When I was a teenager I used to think that all those who looked different and followed a different set of rules had to be different as well. I embarked on a journey of finding true individuals; creative souls and seekers of truth, unafraid to voice their opinions, out to make a difference and leading by sheer example. Being a diehard idealist and wanting to see the good in everyone made it fairly easy to find what I thought I was looking for. And so my search brought me to all the different groups and sub-cultures, ranging from the Goths to steampunks, gutter punks, long-haired rock dudes, nerds and finally pagans of all paths, such as Wiccans, ceremonial magicians, kabbalists, witches and warlocks, as well as other religious folks.
I have learned a lot and met some interesting people, listened to some interesting viewpoints and lifestyle choices, and yet predominantly found disappointment. The more “different” a group was, the more they all became the same. Individualism was greatly diminished, once the group – or “the herd,” as I called them – dictated what was cool, acceptable, “normal,” and desirable. In their endeavor to stand out and be different they all became the same to me, shining with intolerance, judgmental and snobbish behaviors, stupidity, catty backstabbing, badmouthing and betraying each other, while singing the praises of their loyalty, open-mindedness and individuality.
Being “different” usually translated into the license to be mean, rude and utterly self-centered, while hiding severe psychological issues under a wide array of costumes, makeup and ceremonies that meant as little to them as to anyone else and had just as little or no effect in their life or anyone else’s. Saddened and severely disappointed I retreated into my own shell and pretty much started avoiding most people from my mid-twenties on. I felt severely wounded and disillusioned by my findings and couldn’t understand how those who should know all about intolerance and superficiality were sporting those exact behaviors, calling it “acceptance” and “open mindedness.” Not giving a damn at all or caring enough to ever really voice an opinion to another’s face, not ever getting involved in another’s life (calling that being neutral and not taking sides) and living existences of mediocrity and small-mindedness, while claiming that they had “stuck it to the man,” and achieved freedom of mind and spirit while getting addicted to substances, sex and alcohol, was the common behavioral patterns I observed. To me, there was nothing liberating or enticing about any of it.
So I moved on to the “enlightened” group of spiritualists, pagans and other religious folks, to find predominantly a bunch of Ren Faire-style hedonists, who used spiritual teachings as a license to manipulate, while appearing as if they were actually doing something of importance. A lot of them claimed in excess of ten years in experience and knowledge, while their lives were falling apart and they had no more or less power than the next person to manifest or cause change. The longer the title, the more experience they claimed, the less I usually found behind the smoking mirror. And yet, the allure all of them had over the “normal” folks was not just astounding, but also puzzling to me. The more bizarre a notion, the more followers one could find, regardless of path or religion.
Now that I am in my 40s I found that the most enlightened, most creative, most interesting individuals are often those you’d never make out in the crowd. They would often show themselves in the most mundane clothing, they wouldn’t always sport a vast amount of tattoos or piercings and they hardly ever claimed a title or specific style. They simply were. They stood out by walking to the beat of their own drum. Sometimes they would dress differently, sometimes they wouldn’t, but they all stood out by not trying to be different or by not trying to really be anything at all besides being true to themselves. They usually would have a tolerance that was inspiring to me and a sense of humor about life, not ever taking themselves or anything all that serious. They never felt a need to preach or push their beliefs on another, and would inspire by the way they lived life and the choices and decisions they made.
I look around me and notice that nothing has changed. People like Lady Gaga stand out by wearing bizarre clothing, just as the Goths did way back when to me when I was a teenager. People appear to be so unique and different and then they speak – and poof, the individuality and “coolness” goes down the drain. But for most it is the exterior that counts, for what appears cool or pretty, must be so by design. And so human beings continue to be fooled by that which seems, versus that which actually is.
We do not see the true leaders and inspirational ones, because the squeaky wheels and those who scream the loudest are still heard the most. The fanatics demonstrate, disturb and smear, while the Dalai Lamas of the world quietly observe and spread peace by action. How we have it all backwards and know so little, while looking in the wrong places for purpose and quality of life? My question to those who still believe that coolness lies with exterior qualities and being passive and indifferent is this: who will remember how you looked, if you never shined with your mere way of being?