A lot of the reason many people struggle is that their very legitimate self is not a strong fit for the world as egos will and have composed it. This is neither society’s nor an individuals fault, it is just a consequence of being. We’re all unique.
We either start from the inside of society’s illusion and we spend our life trying to escape, or we start from outside of that illusion and we spend our lives trying to find ways to accept its boundaries in trade for fellowship.
If society is a conductor, and being in a symphony is our way of being a citizen and person, then there will benefits and gains to our participation in that larger group. We trade some freedom for acceptability, and the latter is important because we are pack animals who do better by cooperating.
It’s critical to note that, to be in each type of group, we must subscribe to certain specific illusions. For ‘society,’ these include concepts like; the maestro having all the power over how the song itself is played; like the board controlling our budget for salaries; and like the orchestra’s manager ability to tell us what we wear at certain times on certain days.
When we feel conflict and suffer in our lives it’s when our larger self experiences the confining rub of constraint brought on by the thought-based pressures and stresses of conformity.
Iconoclasts are people who can’t help but look beyond many of these illusions. Because of that unfettered nature, these people are often more relaxed in life. They are also often the sources of meaningful discoveries or innovations in whatever field they work in, with both Temple Grandin and Alan Turing being excellent famous examples.
Those with rarer, mildly Autistic minds, or ‘Aspergery’ vision –people like Grandin or Turing— can’t/couldn’t even see society’s illusory constructs. There’s a line in the film about Turing where his character states, that it’s like everyone got a code-book that he didn’t get. The closest thing Temple can do is to learn them like stage directions and then perform them. But there is no internal sourcing of the behaviours.
Temple –nor Turing apparently– would ever avoid a thought or idea for fear of not fitting. People who see far enough past these illusions are not even sure what ‘fitting in’ means. For the rest of us, it means aligning ourselves with society’s illusions. So we put on our tux….
By failing to do so, someone like Temple may appear odd to many, but her burst through the illusion of required acceptability is not intentional. She simply sees past those barriers with a vision that allows her to see things that she then must show us, because we will have been blinded by our illusions.
None of this is to denigrate the orchestra. We can still be competent, or even brilliant within the illusion of society. We just can’t cross into genius from there. If being ‘normal’ is being in the orchestra and easier to ‘like,’ then iconoclasts are the truly original soloists that often feel odd or temperamental.
An iconoclast has nothing against the orchestra or the people in it. They can see that the musicians are choosing to function within an illusion, and they can hear the value within a brilliant player within that framework.
In fact, the iconoclast will often admire, and will powerfully feel the sacrifice of not belonging to those larger groups. But in the end the iconoclast can sense no choice in the matter. They can only be who they are, just as is the case with those in the symphony.
The iconoclasts know the illusions are there, so they can and will play with the orchestra –for a while. And when they leave it won’t be because they’re avoiding being in the group. They will be leaving to be thoroughly who they uniquely are, and in this way we enjoy the genius of people like Glenn Gould, or Mozart –famous or otherwise.
Unlike the ego’s pain of never realizing our internal genius, for the iconoclast their existential crisis originates in the idea that a mind, unfettered by illusion, can be filled with so much wonder that it often has little room for others, their social niceties, or the support that goes with honouring them.
Of course, thanks to movies and books, most of us still have romantic fantasies about being an iconoclast. But simple math proves that most of us are likely not. So it is important to note, we cannot achieve a healthy level of awareness if we do not appreciate who we truly are, vs. who we wish we could be. A good life is always built on an authentic basis, no matter what sort of person we are.
It is good for us to gain a level of consciousness over which of these two general groups we lean towards. Each requires different responses to the same types of challenges and each will experience different rates of different forms of suffering.
For the unconscious ego moving about within the illusion, there exists an existential crises over a sense that the most significant part of us is underutilized in our lives. That’s our price.
Our only salvation is through learning to see our illusions and more consciously accept our place within them. Until then, true iconoclasts will often irritate and confuse us by refusing to pay the prices we pay.
If we’re an iconoclast however, we often want space to think and busy egos will irritate and confuse us. To someone who sees through these illusions, everyone feels like they’re binding themselves up by trading their freedom for conformity.
Meanwhile, the iconoclast yearns and suffers in their generally vain attempts to gain access other people’s internal genius.No matter which path we take there is a price.
Each of these ways of being exists on a spectrum, and the battle over what illusions we accept vs what ones we reject is what forms who we live our lives as.
It’s good to more consciously know which prices feel truly worth it to uniquely us. And it’s also good to start to notice which ones feel too high. Because while none of us will choose to remove all of our illusions entirely, everyone can benefit from learning to see them. It is only by doing so that we can more actively choose whether or not we want to continue to live within any particular one.
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.