Friday, February 16, 2007

The Great Ones

I recently read a book entitled Makers Of The Modern World, by Louis Untermeyer.

The book recounts the contributions of some of the most influential thinkers, writers, scientists and artists of the past two centuries.

One thing that struck me was that many of them came from broken families, endured early tragedies (which seemed to be the order of the day), and otherwise encountered emotional trauma while growing up. Not all of them did, but most.

Many of them didn't fit in well. Few were strong or attractive - most were neither.

And most were criticized or ridiculed for their expression.

A common thread is that they each had the courage, because of their passion, to express themselves boldly and to stand by their works and their ideas. The fact that almost all of them were harshly condemned for what they said or wrote or created attests to both the challenge each made to convention and their willingness to put their neck out there, to stand up and be heard.

It's easy to present visionary ideas in a covert or allegorical way. To do so is much less challenging to the status quo, and only the most intelligent people will understand it anyway.

But to come right out and state clearly and boldly what you have found to be truth is to charge the conservative lines, to light the torch that will chase a few more shadows from our understanding.

I find myself asking the following question:

Is it possible to present radically different ideas regarding who we are and why we are here in a way that does NOT cause large waves of controversy or offense? Can one create medium size waves instead, with perhaps lots of small ripples?

What good are the large waves, anyway? Do they do more harm than good?

And, perhaps more importantly, do those who put forth such volatile ideas knock themselves overboard with the large waves that they create?

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