Thursday, 16 March 2017

Conforming to Non-Conformity

Through my life I have gained a reputation among some as being non-conformist. More often than not I don’t intend to be unconventional, but I have at times felt rebellious towards tradition. My drive to break free from mainstream modes of thought has largely been motivated by existential questions, but I have wondered if I am just making things difficult for myself.

Image by André Koekemoer
At times I have looked for connection among the marginal, hoping to find some freedom to express myself there. What I have discovered is that there are expectations even among the peripheral. In very liberal company I have felt hesitant to admit my thoughts and feelings as much as in conservative company. If one has to conform to a new set of rules within a given paradigm, one does not escape the restrictions of social order, no matter how non-conformist it may be.

My search has led me to the insight that structure is valuable. Even when I don’t always like the notions on which it is built, there is a price to pay for leaving it behind. All traditions have their pros and cons, much like all kinds of freedom have benefits and disadvantages. In fighting paradigms that are perceived as a hindrance to freedom, a new kind of expectation can arise of conforming to non-conformity.

The best way for me to reconcile myself with tradition is to recognise the humanity in it. The rigidity I feel subversive towards comes from a need for security which I also share. I comply with many standards even though it might not stand out as much as the ways in which I don’t conform. Likewise, people with a more traditional mind-set certainly have many ways in which they don’t follow the rules. We all have things to learn from one another.