“Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
During my workout today I was listening to the audio version of the essay ‘Self Reliance’, by Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Even though I would have to be close to reading/listening to this essay around 30 times, it never fails to invoke an avalanche of deep and profound thought as his words take on a deeper meaning with each listen.
And today was no exception, while listening the following passage on conformity really turned a key in my mind and made something ‘click’:
“For nonconformity the world whips you with it’s displeasure. And therefore a man must know how to estimate a sour face.
The by-standers look askance on him in the public street or in the friends parlor.”
What he’s saying here is that whenever an individual displays an act of nonconformity, the masses are quick to disapprove.
However, the Self Reliant man must know how to control his perception of this hostility, because…
“If this aversion had it’s origin in contempt and resistance like his own, he might well go home with a sad countenance; but the sour faces of the multitude, like their sweet faces, have no deep cause, but are put on and off as the wind blows and a newspaper directs.”
If their disapproval came as a result of any valid cause, he may actually become saddened, or in some way affected by the verdict of these people.
However, he knows that their contempt, like their praise, are just surface phenomenon, and are permeable and fluid depending on the current trends of the time.
He takes neither their praise nor criticism to heart.
He then goes on to say:
“Their rage is decorous and prudent, for the are timid as being very vulnerable themselves.”
Meaning that underneath their politically correct condemnation, they themselves are fearful of being judged themselves for similar reasons.
Or envious that they themselves lack the strength to unapologetically do and say what they think is right, unhindered by the judgements others are going to assign to them.
The lesson to be gained from this is this…
Whenever you exhibit actions or express opinions that are Self Reliant in nature, expect to be scorned, and for the masses to send their blind criticism your way.
However, you must not let this affect your strength of conviction, for this is to be expected.
You would be a fool for taking personal offense to a lemon tree producing lemons, so in the same way you cannot expect those ingrained in the masses to do anything other than disapprove of your nonconformity.
It’s as natural and non-personal as the wind, don’t let it break your stride.
All the best,
Ryan “Nonconformist” Kuchel