Friday, September 14, 2007

On Being a Contrarian

I have two kinds of friends: those who expect that I will agree with them and those who don't much care if I agree or not.

The former are the closer but more delicate friends. We share a lot, and so they seem to expect that we share more than we do. The latter are friends for other reasons besides agreement and reinforcement. They are more independent sorts, more accustomed to having their own opinions no matter what others think.

Generally, I got a lot of important things in life figured out early on, mostly because I was a contrarian. You've got to go against the grain to find much to be wise about, since the majority are short-sighted middle of the roaders muddling through, keeping the status quo going strong.

And so, to think, one almost certainly IS a contrarian, not just a chooser of sides, like liberal or conservative. Rote liberals are often no more "thinkers" than rote conservatives. Most people think from their lounge chairs, which is not the same as "think on your feet."

And even contrarians had better watch out. Just saying "no" or the opposite of what others are saying is not a sure path to anything, much less wisdom. But bucking trends is helpful, at least. You do sort of have to kick start yourself to be sure you are still a free thinker.

For example, some of my friends have this religious thing for Al Gore and for Toyota and for organic foods and home ownership and for the nominee of the Democratic Party and for AMERICA and America the Good and for "freedom" and for capitalism and the wisdom of the markets and for "green" products and for their own children (if indeed no one else's) and for the future and ffor "technological solutions" and for things "working out" and generally for the ascent of science and culture.

Hmmm, just not sure what to make of that, except to say that hope springs eternal. And let's hope that another things springs eternal to keep hope in check: contrarianism.

Think free. Make that: think freely.


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