Rollo May, psychologist, thought of conformity as one of the greatest vices of man. “The opposite of courage in our society is not cowardice, it’s conformity,” he asserted repeatedly. You are not fully alive, not even fully human, unless at some point of time you felt that the world around you is wrong and you wanted to scream at it, “This is me and the world be damned.” Isn’t that what Socrates did? Isn’t that what Jesus did?
People love conformity. It makes life much easier. It is easy to swim with the current, to move with the herd, to be a faceless shape in the crowd. It is not just easy, it is beneficial too. Trophies belong to those who abide by the rules of the game. Pain, on the other hand, is the essential companion of the one who chooses to stand out.
No one becomes fully human painlessly, Rollo May quoted Dostoevsky. Pain is what you undergo necessarily when you choose to be what you are rather than what the herd wants you to be.
But why should anyone choose pain? No, you are not choosing pain. It chooses you, in fact, if you are on the road to inner freedom. If you want to live your life as a subject rather than as an object. If you want to be your own master and not a slave of the systems that stultify your very soul.
You don’t seek freedom unless you are a rebel. Civilisation begins with a rebellion. Conformity is savagery. Mass murders have been committed by those who followed leaders blindly.
The rebel, the non-conformist, is a truth-seeker. And truth sets you free. Though painfully. The rebel seeks new frontiers of freedom. “He is drawn to the unquiet minds and spirits, for he shares their everlasting inability to accept stultifying control.” Personal integrity matters more than anything else for the rebel.
The real tragedy of the rebel is not the pain he has to endure endlessly but that he will be made a god after his death. He or his symbols will be used to create thorough conformists.
PS. The above post is inspired by a random reading of Rollo May. May was not really advocating rebellion. One has to go beyond rebellion and achieve creativity if one is to be really successful in life. (Or remain a mediocre conformist who adds more and more to the pollution in the world.) I wrote this, however, seeing the tragic death of rebellion altogether. Conformity has become a serious vice in our world, I think. Too much obsequiousness!