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Cultivating Eccentricity In Your Daily Life

When most people think of an eccentric, they quite frequently get it mixed up with plain old ‘weird’. They usually picture a person with spiky rainbow hair, multiple tattoos and piercings, Gothic makeup and clothing, and some techno train-wreck music blasting through permanently worn earphones.

Alas- that poor young soul is but an amateur, and however head-turning he, she, or it may be in appearance, discerning folks can usually tell that it is all surface cover. In ten years, this paean to fashion extremes might well hire a lawyer to hunt down and destroy all photographs of them in their strange stage, so they can land the respectable job in the respectable company for the respectable wage.

No, dear seeker, genuine eccentricity begins within, and is subtle, rather than overt. It is cultivated like fine wine, carefully tended and weeded, delicately balanced on the sheer edge of cool, but always, always out of the craven grasp of the so-called ‘cool-hunter’. Eccentric is having no tattoos or piercings when everyone else you know does. Or never wearing shorts in public no matter how damn hot it gets. Eccentric is giving the external image of extreme conservatism, while having a free-ranging intellect that would put a liberal to shame. True eccentrics eschew things like soda, and make holy sacraments out of their daily enjoyment of two pieces of Dove Dark Chocolate. (The heart-shaped ones fit in the mouth so nicely- they ought to make them year round instead just at Valentines Day…sigh.)

One is sometimes born with an ace up their sleeve in the strangeness department. Albinos and other people with extreme physical features fall into this category. This can sometimes become a troubling trap for the poor soul if their physical feature is too overwhelming for normal living. But often, corrective surgery removes the weird feature before the child is old enough to notice, or be tormented by his or her peers. Is this odd little scar on my right hand the legacy of a long-gone sixth finger, or a long-forgotten bicycle accident like my parents told me? I’ll never know… Left-handedness is the most common eccentric trait to escape revision to normalcy. So, most of the time, a potentially eccentric person is quite ordinary in appearance. This can be useful, and at certain points in life, even life-saving.

For odd people, childhood is often an interminable decade of sheer torture at the hands of so-called ‘normal’ peers who sense the innate difference, and react like primitive savages to its early blossoming. Brilliant young eccentrics are seen as awkward ugly ducklings in the lock-step, high-vacuum conformity of school, and are treated as outcasts. They suffer greatly at the hands of peers, although quite frequently their more insightful teachers can see them as the brilliant adult to come. Tragically, we lose many of our brightest lights during these traumatic teen years, because the torment and their own realization of their innate oddness is unbearable.

If our young oddball survives high school, he or she has an excellent chance of going on and blossoming into the full-blown eccentric they were born to become. Once they leave the social prison of youth, they usually find each other, and the presence of Others Like Them catalyzes their blossoming into full-fledged brilliance. True eccentricity requires high intelligence, eclectic tastes, burning curiosity, deep insight, and especially a highly developed and sublime sense of humor. Without this final ingredient, the eccentric may degenerate into a misanthropic curmudgeon. There are far too many of these poor, bitter, shriveled souls in this world, and many of them inhabit high places. Beware of them- if they can’t laugh, you can’t either.

Genuine eccentrics are very often late bloomers. It takes a certain number of years and hard knocks to cultivate the self-confidence to blithely fly in the face of convention. That is why youngsters who pretend to be eccentric often come off only as fashion victims. They may have the surface decorations down, but the inner light has not yet been lit. Don’t discourage these kids, though, some of them mature into fine upstanding geeks of their own accord. Encourage them to make a plaid case for their Palm Pilot- perhaps they might get rich off the idea and share their loot and stock options with you.

Never hesitate to adopt and nurture a young eccentric when you find one. They often only lack encouragement and a good example to send them kiting off into their own blissful indifference to convention. They need a successful role model to show them that it is OK to flaunt their oddness, and be themselves. The US Constitution’s preamble gives us the unalienable right to pursue happiness. Permitting the full flowering of one’s eccentric traits is practicing that pursuit. Be a mentor and adopt a baby geek. Show them the wonders of Dobbs, how to talk to cats, and the high art of Freaking the Mundanes. Show them the hidden doorways to your secret internal worlds, and encourage your young apprentice to create their own.

Here are a few Secrets of the Inner Circle of Eccentricity to fine-tune your own brand of nonconformity:

Throw away that Life Script! Most people believe that they have to live their lives according to some cultural ‘Life Script’. This is the cultural imperative to get a certain sort of job, get married, have kids, join certain clubs, churches, and political groups, drive certain cars, make a certain amount of money and live in a certain sort of house, and even get buried in a particular graveyard. If they do not achieve a goal listed in this fictional script, they become frustrated and think that they are failures. Or worse, if the goal in the script is less than satisfying, they are miserable, and end up on the Corrective Medication Life Prescription.

To paraphrase Logan in "Logan’s Run": There is nooooooo life script! It is false, a red herring, an invention of the corporate cowboys which enables them to herd the bleating flocks of sheeple into the pens of commerce, where they are summarily fleeced. The corporate life script is deliberately written so that you will never obtain anything but temporary satisfaction with your life. You are meant to want and buy more and more stuff. You are meant to feel inadequate if you don’t keep up with your peers in all aspects of life.

If you are feeling any way at all dissatisfied with your life, take a good close look at the source of your dissatisfaction. It is often not something within you at all. This is a good indicator that you are being dictated to and guided by some sort of life script that you did not write. Ceremonially shred and burn it. It’s YOUR life, damn it, live it YOUR way!

Eccentrics buck the trend, and write their own scripts, or abandon them entirely. So you want to get your degree at 40? Why not? Never marry or have kids? Don’t! Drive an older car and live in a smaller house? It’s your right! Earn more than you spend? Do it, and you’ll be happier than 98% of the American public.

Ignore the TV! Or, if you are inspired by JR "Bob" Dobbs’ hilariously cockeyed vision, KILL your TV. TV is cultural rat poison. It baits you in with irresistible tidbits- celebrities here, Junkyard Wars there, but seldom, if ever delivers the goods, unless you count those endless "World’s Worst Drivers" or "World’s Dumbest Criminals: Caught in the Act" shows. (Yes, it’s OK to laugh at idiots. It beats throttling them.) Program your own entertainment. Try this: turn off your TV for a week. Then do it for a month. Miss anything? Not really. You know that you are on the road to true eccentric freedom when most of what is on TV makes no sense to you. And think of the stuff you can invest in with the $40 or more you’re saving by killing that cable. (If your internet is hooked up to it, you might want to keep it, though…)

Make friends with animals. Cats, in particular, appreciate the company of eccentrics. If they like you, you’ll know about it, and if they don’t like you, they can be brutally honest about it. But statistically, more eccentric people have cats than have dogs. Maybe it’s because cats are pretty much self-reliant, which can be handy if you are in the heated middle of composing a smashing webpage. But they also serve as a very strident reminder that there is a world out there, and even though most of its inhabitants are normal and boring, it’s your world, too.

Cultivate creative clutter. You can never have too many books, CDs, computer parts, cat fur dustbunnies, ketchup packets, notebooks, pens, pillows, airport runway taxi light covers, bags of discounted Dove Dark Chocolate candies, cats, IT professional magazines, petrified hairballs, pieces of interesting fabric, clothing patterns, incense sticks, Zip disks, old AOL CD-ROMs, cat-shaped candle holders, computer program manuals, half-used bottles of nail polish, copper cookie cutters, quilts, metaphysical books, potatoes, leaves in the back yard, calendars, little lapel pins, logo coffee cups, trade show schwag, German schnapps glasses, Best Employee wall plaques, unique little certificates, teensy inspirational books, free computer scanning hardware, free downloaded software, printed pages of FTP instructions, old bills, empty Crown bottles from former brothers in law to fill with home made cordials, bottles of soy sauce, or items listed in a single sentence.

Wear a uniform wardrobe. Don’t be a fashion victim- create a classic, and easily replaceable wardrobe. This can be everything from jeans and t-shirts to Dockers and polo shirts. If you like a clothing item, and have the money, buy two or three of them, and in all your favorite colors. Do the same with shoes. In the long run, you’ll not only save money, you’ll be true to yourself, too.

Eccentricity is a fine, although under-appreciated art. It isn’t for everyone, but those intrepid souls who do manage to pull it off are probably the happiest people on the planet. I count myself among them, and I don’t mind shouting it from my little webpage. It’s one of the few free, unregulated, untaxed and non-incorporated things left in this world, and I am going to enjoy it thoroughly. If more people were true to themselves and their Inner Eccentric, the drug companies would have to invent a new disease to make up for all the abandoned psyche-fixing drugs no longer taken. In spite of all that TV, the radio, the news and "they" tell you, it’s still your world and your life. At least for now. Inhabit it fully, wisely and humorously.

2001 Sunfell

03.18.2001

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