Which Are You: Nonconformist or Conformist?


This excerpt from my book went viral last week on FB. You might dig it.

Nonconformist or Conformist?

An artist can be either. There is no written rule that says you have to be radically dressed, tattooed and pierced to dwell in the arts. All you have to be is open-minded. If you can’t be that, at least be bloody good at what you do. Chances are though, if you were born an artist you were also born a nonconformist. This is something you won’t be able to help and shouldn’t want to. In fact you should be proud of it.

Grandma Moses, in her quiet way, was a nonconformist. So was Whistler—God rest his turbulent soul. So were Martin Luther King, Jr., Henry Miller and Simone du Beauvoir. Nonconformists play an important role in our world, forcing conformist society—which also has its place—to question itself, its direction, and purpose. Nonconformists succeeded at this during the McCarthy era, the Civil Rights era, the Vietnam War, and gradually during the escalation of the Iraq War. Conformist society always attacks nonconformists for this, resisting humane change until finally, when outnumbered by voices of reason, they’re forced to acquiesce.

As I often discuss in my lectures, if it wasn’t for nonconformity, we’d still have slavery.

Personally I feel obligated to question society, although that has a tendency to cast me beyond the pale. Fine. The artist normally lives beyond the pale, and is often something of an outcast anyway. At first this may anger you. But later you may see the need for it and the anger will slip away. Let it, although there’s nothing wrong with letting it slip back in now and then. Good work can come from that emotion if taken in doses, but self-destruction is more likely if it isn’t accompanied by self-control.

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