October 05, 2004

The Asinine Expression and Selective Non Conformity

I am still trying to sort out just how much I accept and understand of Emerson’s philosophies. One line that really jumped out at me in “Self-Reliance” was:”We come to wear one cut of face and figure, and acquire by degrees the gentlest asinine expression.” You see this asinine expression everywhere, behind fast food counters, in church, at candle parties and especially school functions and malls. My husband and I have always aspired to non-conformity, (he was once arrested for not paying a .50 cent parking ticket that had escalated to $65.00 on principle. The sheriff actually came to our house with handcuffs. He was so proud. I tend to think of that as just asinine.)

When you are young, it is much easier to embrace this way of living. It gets more challenging once you’ve been out in the world for awhile and life has kicked you in the ass a few times. Emerson asks: “Is it so bad to be misunderstood?” Well, yeah, it can be. People have been fired for being misunderstood. My dad stopped speaking to me for a year. When I spoke out about something at a parents meeting, my son was blacklisted from birthday parties for an entire year. I didn’t feel great I felt awful. As Emerson wrote: “For non-conformity the world whips you with its displeasure.” I guess I have learned to be a selective non-conformist and choose my battles wisely.

Most of us are or will be working drones out of necessity. There will always be some folks that shake things up and question the status quo. Ralph Nader and Michael Moore are examples. Not everyone is suited by nature for that role and I think that’s OK. Society needs the mediocre and the followers too. You have the freedom to choose how to respond to society, either passively or pro-actively, as part of a group or independently

Posted by LindaFondrk at October 5, 2004 10:59 AM


Replying to your previous statement in my blog, do you think we need to perform smaller tasks in order to be true to ourselves? I think we need to perform bigger tasks, so we can accomplish the goal of being true to one's self.

I agree with your statement that you have a choice of how to behave in society. There are so many cases that people have been misunderstood, and had to suffer the consequences. Do you agree with Emerson's statement or do you think that he is not quite accurate in dealing with real life situations?

Posted by: Nabila Uddin at October 5, 2004 12:20 PM

I don't think it much matters whether the tasks are small or large. As Emmerson says, you must act on what feels true to you. It could be as small an act as inviting an upopular child to your house or writing an editorial. Sometimes simply the word "no" is a huge act.

Posted by: Linda Fondrk at October 5, 2004 12:25 PM

And yeah, I do think that Emmerson's philosophy is difficult to apply in our society for the common man who can't piss off too many people so he can hang on to his job. I think the people that have the most lattiutde in speaking are the ones who have less to lose: The very poor and the very rich.

Posted by: Linda Fondrk at October 5, 2004 12:35 PM

Would Emerson's philosophy be more or less noteworthy if he tempered his beliefs with practical considerations such as the ones Linda mentions? Doing the dance between idealism (settling for nothing less than perfection) and pragmatism (settling for what works) is something that philosophers don't have to do, but politicians do. Your anecdote really illustrates the difference.

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz at October 5, 2004 02:32 PM
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