As Odds we have been confronted with the accusation of being “insane” probably before we could toddle.
But we’re not really insane. We’re not that out of it. We are aware of what reality is and its limitations. In some ways we might be hyper aware. Because we have to reality-check our positions more or less constantly, so as to avoid falling off the edge. We don’t have the herd to hem us in and tell us acceptable from unacceptable. Living outside the overton window means you have to figure out not only what’s real, but also what will cause the band to kill you in an awful way should you fail to rub blue mud on your belly button.
You know exactly what I mean. There’s gradations to these things. Most of us, the Oddness not withstanding have managed to live pretty average lives, at least from the outside. We have jobs and families and are generally — or were generally — productive members of society. We just stand outside and look at things the herd is doing and go “uh, that’s… why? Why do they do that?” which makes us Odds.
It also means we can see when the band as a whole is tilting from weird to completely pants-on-head insane.
Look, in a way we live in the best times ever to be an Odd in any time in human history. Because no matter how tiny a percentage of the population we are (and we are) we can find each other and talk, and form little bands of our own. Not that we ever fully belong to any bands, of course, since our curse is to stand outside and watch.
And our glory too, if you think about it.
To the extent Odds have a value — besides our intrinsic value as human beings which we’re at least supposed to have in this society — it is that standing apart. That watching. That refusing to rub our belly with blue mud just because the rest of them do, or refusing to believe it matters, at the very least.
I bet this was really important in the times of isolated bands of hominids roaming the Savannah. After all, if the entire tribe becomes convinced the only thing to do is eat a particularly poisonous berry and trip away the days, it is important someone is there to remind them they still need to eat and also that being stoned when the lion comes is not brilliant.
I suspect this led to most of our predecessors being stoned, in the not fun way. Which is why — or part of the reason why — we’re such a small component of the human race. BUT there were probably those of us with cunning and finesse enough to at least peel some of the kids away from the suicidal band. Or, all else failing, to at least save themselves.
The fact that the Bible and even older writings are full of situations in which the whole tribe/band/city/nation/world was doing something fricking crazy and then one man realized it was wrong (or got a message from the gods. Whatever. Hey, I’m not sure we don’t periodically get strange calls from above.) and did something to save at least some of the population means there were instances like this. Instances when the odd man out said “Oh, heck no.” And his actions were the salvation of the tribe.
Knowing us — Oh, my people! — there were probably a lot more occasions when the Odd Man Out, being isolated and without a reality check became convinced if he jumped off a cliff he could fly. Or that fire was his best friend and he must step into it. Or whatever. Those aren’t usually recorded because that’s just Odds going insane, which, as isolated social apes is kind of a normal occurrence. Also they’re not much help to the species except in the sense of “Ogg did that and died. Don’t be Ogg.”
But we live in weird times, in which communities of Odds are not just possible, but happening all over, partly because — of course — we can. Partly because we need people as much as anyone else.
And communities of Odds can go one of two ways. Towards reality or away from it.
Because I am a depressive and very aware of what I put in my head, I try to steer us towards reality. Because I’ve lost at least three communities in my life time, I no longer care if the direction of reality is not the approved one.
Which is valuable. And weird. And dangerous. And requiring continuous work.
Because we live in Odd times. Note the capital O.
You see, the world has been invaded by story. We can’t go anywhere or do anything without a story being told, a narrative being wrapped around our existence; without being bombarded with stories of all kinds.
Which would be fine. In some ways story is what makes us human, what allowed our species to live everywhere and “cover the surface of the Earth.”
Only the stories used to be: don’t go into the woods, they’re dangerous. If you give cookies to the guy who wants to kill you, he’ll eat the cookies and still kill you. It’s better to die defending your city than to live under the boot of those who hate you.
They were survival enhancing stories.
The problem is that story became prevalent at the same time that a narrative profoundly inimical to the west and — must be said — to civilization and even to humanity itself was being deployed in the service of Russian (The Soviet Union was always a Russian vehicle) hegemonic ambitions. And that artists, like all Odds, are very prone to crazy narrative. And that these people got to select those who followed them through the power of gatekeeping and mass media.
That power is winding down now. Maybe, perhaps, just barely in time to save us.
Because a narrative that wants all humanity to go back to the bronze age, if not to outright extinction to appease climate events that are AT BEST completely independent of humans, and at worst a function of narrative and manipulated statistics (aka non existent) is a very dangerous one. And it needs all the work of the Odds to keep us from the abyss.
We used to be afraid the herd would run and jump off the cliff of nuclear destruction. But it it turns out it’s much worse than that. In the name of story, they’ll cripple and destroy the very thing that has allowed us to survive.
Are we enough? Enough to bring a maleducated, story-indoctrinated generation back from the abyss.
I don’t know. I know we need to try. Otherwise, what are we for?
We need to relearn and teach The Gods of The Copybook Headings. By story and deed, by example, by laughter if needed.
Before it is too late.