“Everybody Is Different,” but the free individual is more different than most and his differences are frequently characterized as eccentric, odd, or even rebellious. The exceptionalism of a free independent individual is actually none of those things, because every free individual is a unique human being, defying any classification or categorization.
Individualism and Eccentricity
To the world of the socially accepted the free independent individual will always be considered an “eccentric.” The individualist is always a non-comformist—freedom and individualism require going in the opposite direction of the mass of human society which is rushing headlong into totalitarian uniformity and oppression.
Not all eccentrics are individualists, however. It is interesting that the only formal study of eccentricity by the clinical psychologist, David Weeks, when describing eccentrics is actually describing characteristics of individualists who just live their lives differently, that is independently. In an interview he did, “Eccentrics: they live longer, happier and are odd!,” he said: “The eccentric is very creative and curious and has vivid visual imagination in the daytime and vivid dreams at night. Eccentrics are intelligent, opinionated, and frequently have a mischievous sense of humor. Many of them are loners, and they often have unorthodox living arrangements.” Looks as though he is describing people who pretty much live their lives as they choose. They only seem “odd” to people who don’t live independent lives, that is, the mass of conforming collectivized unfree.
In his 1995 book, Eccentrics: A Study of Sanity and Strangeness, Weeks describes twenty five distinct characteristics he discovered in most of those identified as eccentrics:
- Enduring non-conformity
- Strong curiosity and exploratory
- A distinct feeling of differentness from others (often from childhood)
- Happily obsessed with long-lasting preoccupations (usually about five or six)
- Intelligent (in the upper fifteen per cent of the population)
- Opinionated and outspoken (convinced of being right, certain the rest of the of the world is out of step with them)
- Not needing either reassurance or reinforcement from others
- Unusual eating habits and living arrangements
- Not particularly interested in the opinions or company of others
- Possessed of a mischievous sense of humor, charm, whimsy, and wit
- Most frequently an eldest or an only child
- Eccentricity observed in at least 36% of detailed family histories
- Prefer to talk about their thoughts rather than their feelings.
- Slightly abrasive
- Midlife changes in career or lifestyle
- Feelings of “invisibility”—certain others do not hear them or take them seriously
- Certain others can only take them in small doses
- Convinced others have stolen, or would like to steal, their ideas. (In some cases, this is well-founded.)
- Dislike small talk or apparently inconsequential conversation
- A degree of social awkwardness
- More likely to be single, separated, or divorced, or multiply separated or divorced
- Poor spellers, relative to their above average general intellect
The Attributes Of Free Individuals
The list of twenty five distinct characteristics compiled by Weeks, of course, are based on a psychologist’s view of behavior, which has the disadvantage of being slanted by the views of psychological determinism. [See, “Untrue Things People Believe—Psychology,” and, “Dr. Edith Packer’s, Lectures on Psychology—The “Subconscious” Fallacy.”]
The psychological mistake is the unstated assumption that something makes individuals eccentric. There are certainly some individuals whose behavior is odd enough to be called eccentric due to neurological anomalies, but the seeming eccentricity of free individuals is because they exercise their own volitional choice to think and choose for themselves. Nothing, “makes,” them different but what their own best reason leads them to choose and do.
Characteristics, “14. Most frequently an eldest or an only child,” and “15. Eccentricity observed in at least 36% of detailed family histories,” for example are not typical characteristics of free individuals. The free individual’s choices are not determined by any inherited traits or relationships with others. What makes the free individual unusual is the fact that all his behavior is determined by his own reason and choice, often in defiance of all other influence, both biological and external.
Characteristic, “7. Intelligent (in the upper fifteen per cent of the population),” is not so much a characteristic as a consequence of one’s individual effort to learn and think.
Characteristics, “11. Unusual eating habits and living arrangements,” “17. Slightly abrasive,” and “23. A degree of social awkwardness.” are more about how free individuals appear or are evaluated by others than actual attributes of the individuals. The behavior of those who think and choose how to live for themselves will, of course, seem unusual, even awkward and abrasive to those whose whole live’s are lived in conformity to rules and, “accepted,” social standards.
Characteristics, “18. Midlife changes in career or lifestyle,” and “24. More likely to be single, separated, or divorced, or multiply separated or divorced,” are consequences of a free individual’s independence and continuous growth in knowledge and intellectual achievement. Relationships with others who are not able or willing to grow themselves, and, “keep up,” will be abandoned when they inhibit one’s own progress. Past choices do not determine future choices, because everything changes and the free individual is always learning and growing.
Characteristic, “25. Poor spellers, relative to their above average general intellect,” is no surprise at all. Good spellers are good at memorization. Independent thinkers may or may not be good at memorizing things, but their primary way of developing knowledge is not memorization, but understanding. They can never be satisfied with simply remembering things, they must know why a thing is true and how it relates to everything else. Spelling phonetically enables them to spell anything according to how a word sounds or is pronounced. It is those words which are not spelled phonetically, that is, which cannot be spelled using phonetic principles, independent thinkers will always have problems with.
The remaining sixteen characteristics are truly typical of free independent individuals. They are not merely characteristics, or attributes, however, they are, in fact, the virtues that make free individuals the most important of human beings.
The Virtues Of Free Individuals
The peculiarities of the free individuals are often put down by the world of conformists, the academics, politicians, popular authorities, the media and intellectuals as odd, peculiar, and eccentric, as though those characteristics were, “defects,” or, “character flaws.” It is, in fact, those very differences, as intolerable as they are to the world, that are the free individual’s virtues springing from their indomitable character and integrity.
Enduring non-conformity It is neither rebellion or resistance. The free individual simply lives his life by means of his own knowledge and choice and would live the same whether everyone else lived that same way or differently. How others think, choose, and live is irrelevant to the free individual because his life and choices come from within his own consciousness. He neither thinks or does anything because it is what anyone else thinks or does, and he takes full responsibility for all his choices, because they are his own.
Creativity As I wrote in, “Against The Flow,” “Because he is a creator, what he does is often what no one else does, and what he thinks is often what no one else thinks, and what he chooses is often what no one else chooses. If he were only doing what others were already doing, thinking what others had already thought, and choosing only what others had chosen, he would not be a creator at all.” The free individual’s creativity is the expression of his non-conformity.
Strong curiosity and exploratory It is the free individual’s insatiable desire for knowledge that is described as, “curiosity.” If he is to succeed in this world he must know as much about it as he possibly can and he wants to explore and know everything he can about it, in order to know every choice he makes and everything he does conforms to the nature of reality.
A distinct feeling of differentness from others (often from childhood) No one is born a, “free individual.” One must choose to be free and then must pursue that choice with all their might. Whatever an individual is, what kind of person they are, is determined by the sum of all the choices they have made and what they have done and made of themselves. No one can say when the choice is made, but most free individuals make the choice to live their lives for their own sake and be all they can be very early in life, and become aware, that choice will be a life-long struggle against a world that will insist he surrender his own will and mind to some collective will and purpose—at first his family, then his friend and neighbors, then something called society or, “his country,” and eventually to, “mankind,” or, “humanity.”
The free individual very consciously refuses to sacrifice any part of his life to the claims of any other individual or individuals, and refuses to accept the sacrifice of any other individual of their life to his own.
Idealism No one can be more than they aspire to be, and the free individual aspires to be and achieve all he possibly can as a human being. Nothing but the best in all things, material and intellectual, can satisfy the soul’s desire of the free individual.
The free individual is an idealist, but his ideal is to fully embrace reality for what it is and to use it to achieve all it makes possible.
Happily obsessed with long-lasting preoccupations (usually about five or six) Free independent individuals are all auto-didacts and polymaths (because of their insatiable desire for knowledge). It is not possible for those with fully active minds not to become intensely interested in those aspects of reality and truth that are most important to the individual’s own life and purposes.
Opinionated and outspoken (convinced of being right, certain the rest of the of the world is out of step with them) The fact that the free individual is confident in his own ability to learn, think and reason and understand the truth is often mistaken for being opinionated. The free individual’s knowledge is, “Certain Knowledge.” Though the free individual will unapologetically express his opinion on any subject, it will never be out of obligation to justify or explain his views to anyone else
Non-competitive, Not needing either reassurance or reinforcement from others, and Not particularly interested in the opinions or company of others These are variations of the same virtues of independence fundamental to all free individuals. Life for the free individual is not a contest or a game. The free individual’s entire objective is to be the best human being he can be, his success measured only against what is possible to him, not against what any other individual achieves. Certain of his own integrity and competence, the free individual never needs anyone else’s agreement or approval of any aspect of his life—though he both appreciates and enjoys it when others find value or pleasure in his achievements (a rare thing).
Possessed of a mischievous sense of humor, charm, whimsy, and wit Free individuals, like Voltaire, Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain), Rudyard Kipling, George Bernard Shaw, H.L. Mencken are well-known for their satirical wit and humor. H.L. Mencken said, “Even [life’s] tragedies often seem comic to the spectator, and not infrequently they actually have comic touches to the victim. Happiness probably consists largely in the capacity to detect and relish them.
Mencken did not mean life was a joke, but that evil is. In the, “Commentary on Humor,” in The Autonomist’s Notebook, I wrote: “The highest forms of humor are a kind of human triumph over evil, a declaration that the valueless, the useless, and decadent are not potentials that must be fought against, but a huge con to be exposed by pointing out their absurdity and laughing at them. Humor is the means to human triumph over evil and enjoying that triumph.”
It is the free individual’s ability to discern between what is truly significant and important in the world from the trivial and incidental—that achieving value is important while difficulties and losses are trivial and the achievement of joy is paramount while suffering is only a temporary negative to be endured in that pursuit of those true values that make every cost of achieving them worth it.
Prefer to talk about their thoughts rather than their feelings At the end of the section, “The Tragedy Of Emotional Determinism,” in, “Feelings,” I wrote: “Almost every human mistake in both thought and action is the result of allowing the emotions and desires to affect one’s thinking. Our feelings are our means of experiencing and enjoying life but only reason enables us to think and make correct choices.” The free individual is not interested in other’s subjective non-cognitives feelings and emotions, knowing that reason is the only means to knowledge and truth. [Also see, “Feelings And Emotions—Their Nature, Significance, And Importance.”]
Feelings of “invisibility”—certain others do not hear them or take them seriously Though it will never be a matter of concern to the free individual, he is well aware he will never be generally understood or appreciated and when others do take cognizance of him, he will often be vilified and hated.
Certain others can only take them in small doses Which is the free individualist’s very realistic recognition that in a world which neither understands or is capable of appreciating him, though he is the least harmful and most benevolent of men, others will not be able to tolerate his virtue for long.
Convinced others have stolen, or would like to steal, their ideas. (In some cases, this is well-founded.) I’m reminded of Paul Baran, described in “A Different Life,” and Rosalind Franklin, individualists whose work really was stolen. Unlike the second-handers whose only life is in the praise and accolades of others, the free individual is not looking for recognition, but for achievement. He is aware of the credit others often get for his accomplishments, but also aware that all they have is the empty opinion and praise of others while he has the joy of actually achieving and producing something of value.
Dislike small talk or apparently inconsequential conversation The free individual’s life and interests are too important for his time and resources to be spent on the temporary and the trivial.
The Nature And Virtue Of Free Independence Cannot Be Hidden
Though the psychologists have missed the true nature of those individualists who are identified as, “eccentrics,” because of the obvious differences in how the live their lives, it good to see that they are at least recognized.
I found this interesting quote by William Irvine, from his book, On Desire: Why we want what we want: “Eccentrics, . . . refuse to relinquish sovereignty over themselves. They refuse to live for other people. They have their own vision of what is valuable in life and which lifestyles are worth living. If their vision is at odds with the common view, so much the worse for the common view.”
Eccentricity: Society’s Secret Sauce: The Value of Being Eccentric by Brett Sinclair, builds on the results of David Week’s research with many examples of the unique (eccentric) individuals who are the real contributors to human progress, just as I argued in, “Only Individuals.” They are the most important people in the world.