Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

Idiosyncratic Mind

Originally posted on April 17, 2011

Idiosyncrasy is the quality of being one-of-a-kind. In spite of many institutions in the 20th century—school, business, church—treating us as if we were interchangeable units in a big machine, in fact we are quite unique. In this present century we’re only beginning to catch up to the awareness that, first, everything is far more complex than we knew a century ago; and, second, as we appreciate higher degrees of complexity, we become aware that one implication of this fundamental principle in nature is that everything—every blade of grass, every person’s mind, is necessarily different. However we may have submitted to an orthodoxy of religious or political belief, there will be at least certain slight variations among the way, leading to a necessary condition of idiosyncrasy, uniqueness, in the way certain images or ideas are given weight or image. It’s okay.

A few centuries ago it was believed that orthodoxy or common belief could be attained with a little willpower, but it simply wasn’t so. So let’s get used to the idea that people necessarily will entertain different interpretations of their experience, and if closely examined, their experiences cannot be adequately categorized. If this is so, it requires that we become less attached to our own ideas and images about what seems to us to be absolutely so. We may or may not conclude that some re-statement of whatever we believe works for us, but it is also important to allow others the same privilege. In other words, we may become a bit more tolerant, forgiving, because we realize that those who differ with us are not being mean or willful, but that differences are innate. Complete agreement to a perfect degree is impossible. If we relax about this matter, we’ll find that there is more room for more people to disagree and still remain friends than perhaps we had known.

Another implication of the idiosyncrasy of experience is that it suggests that if our differences are cultivated and to some degree integrated creatively, there is room for interesting forms of individual expression, through song-writing, poetry, art, philosophy, and so forth—and this in turn can serve to cross-fertilize the discourse, enrich the spiritual experience of everyone in the community..

I am reminded of a comment in a book by Elaine Pagels, a scholar of comparative religion, writing about the Gnostic communities of the middle East around the first or second century of this era. She noted that people were not considered spiritually mature until they had come up with some fresh way to express their own spiritual understanding. It was the opposite of let’s all believe the same thing. Our differences add to the richness of how we relate to the underlying One-ness of which we are all a part.

Extending this image just a bit further, the late Swami Muktananda (1908-1982) said, “God vibrates through you as you.” My interpretation of this is that the discovery and celebration of individuality, beyond the obligation to ethically harmonize with community, is a holy pursuit. My hope is that this could re-awaken a sense of personal mission in young people today.

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