I was startled to find how often this traditionalist sage was at odds with received opinion. – Gore Vidal, Creation
Longtime readers of mine know the reverence we have for both Gore Vidal and Creation. For our money, Vidal is unsurpassed at cutting to the heart of our human experience and we have yet to read a book that does it like Creation, a historical novel set a few centuries before Christ, mainly in Persia, but also in India and China, among other places. Today’s Thought concerns Confucius, one of several famous people (Buddha, Zoroaster, Lao Tzu, Darius the Great, Democritus and Socrates are others) who appear in the book, though the main character is fictional.
Creation is one of those books that keeps revealing new things with every reading. The last time we read it, for the fourth or fifth time, we added more new quotes to our personal quote book than we had acquired for all previous readings combined.
To get on in this life requires both conformity and deviance and careful measures of both, too, because too much of either prevents us from getting the most out of our time on this planet. To spend our time mindlessly complying or constantly swatting at windmills does not do anybody any good.
Confucius is a good example of this. As a philosopher he was not a revolutionary, emphasizing traditional Chinese tenets like simplicity, sincerity and morality. However, he tended to make a pest of himself and more than once found himself out of favor with the authorities. But not with the common folk who made up his followers, and Confucius’ well-lived life of tradition and deviance has seen him live down the ages like few others.
It’s no different in our lives. We must have a healthy measure of respect for how the world is built. We are all sailing the same seas and we must sail with the prevailing winds otherwise we’ll never get anywhere. However, the vessel we sail with, and the port we choose to go to, are up to us and here it is OK, even necessary, to be at odds with the status quo because conformity seldom leads to innovation.
To be able to balance conformity and deviance requires a full measure of being ourselves, We must have the wisdom that comes knowing the talents we were born with and we must have the courage to go and maximize those talents and the patience to see where those talents will take us. It doesn’t matter what those talents are, either. All that matters is that we have looked inside us to know the life we are meant to live.
Being ourselves, living from the inside out, ensures that while we are sailing the same seas as everyone else, the vessel we use and the port we are heading to are distinctively ours. When we do this, we have balanced the conformity required to get on in this world and the deviance required to be ourselves.
The Thought for the Day runs regularly. Gaylon began stockpiling quotes in 1988.