How much crackpot is too much crackpot?
That’s a question I ask myself everyday. I have put my smarts and my energy into saying what I know to be important in the world, but I know that the value of what I offer goes virtually unseen, unheard.
While my crackpot pedigree is impeccable, with decades spent battling with a valiant crackpot engineer who had valuable insights but no sense whatsoever of being a team player, struggling to help him be heard by trying to help him understand his audience, nobody grows up wanting to be a crackpot.
As a crackpot, I am off the grid, without connection to mainstream thinking. I am an eccentric iconoclast who can be written off simply because of their lack of influence and following. Who needs to engage me when I am so clearly out of touch with what normal people think, feel and believe? I am simply irrelevant.
My history, though, has trained me to endure the price of crackpot from a very, very young age. Even my parents decided to call me “stupid” for not going along with their ideas while I knew that I had to stand for something more than their twists. Knowledge of my trans nature, the clarity of echoes inside and the need to analyze the world to stay safe even as others came from emotion all added to the training I got in an Aspergers home.
I cherish the role of crackpots in society. Someone has to be willing to say the unthinkable, the outrageous, the queer, even at the cost of being isolated and ostracized. If no one ever challenges the mainstream, how will we claim better and bolder? Someone, it seems, has to be the prophet.
There is a balance to be struck, of course. Too far out means you can get lost in your own delusions and even if you avoid that trap, not participating in the mainstream means your vision never has any influence on the course of human events, never makes the impact which can create constructive change.
When I ponder how much crackpot is too much crackpot, I come back to connection. Instead of going into full Unabomber manifesto, running off the rails, I work hard to stay grounded in the work others are doing. I connect back to current thought, judging my own ideas against the evidence and ideas which form the larger conversation.
If I am not a crackpot, not an observer & proclaimer of deeper patterns, then who am I? What is my calling, my purpose, my life’s work? At what point do you lose your integrity & clarity when trying to satisfy and comfort other people? How much playing along is too much, sacrificing your own vision?
Learning not to call out everything I see has been crucial. The profound lesson that everyone heals in their own time and in their own way, even me, has been hard to internalize, but I have done my best. Wrapping my visions in wit and compassion took developing a strong tool kit, but mirroring others is always much more powerful than just preaching at someone. I start by understanding, agreeing and affirming what I can of them before I might reveal places where more healing can happen, encouraging rather than criticizing.
Still, there often comes in my writing that horrible moment where, as Performance Guy noted, after explaining the power of good in the world, I explain why what I suggest won’t work for me. When my writing turns personal it always turns to lessons hard learned, to scars and limits, to pain and failure.
This is the legacy of a wounded healer. Wisdom never comes from ease & comfort, rather it comes from battles & travails. Until we fail we have no need to struggle to understand better, to do better.
The profound challenge of the crackpot, speaking the truth without fear or favour, is getting over the simple human desire to be liked. You have to want to be respected more than you are liked, have to value your relationship with clarity more than you value your relationship with the gang.
This tension runs through all of the work of Kate Bornstein, the powerful need to embody her truth even at the cost of being seen as a freak living alongside the powerful need to be seen as pretty, attractive, sweet.
No one chooses to be unlikable. We just choose something that we value more than being liked. Sometimes that is being defended, walling off people before they hurt us, and sometimes that is being true to our own vision, vulnerable but powerfully honest.
Finding a way to live with the effects of needing to be crackpot is hard. How do we get the connection and love that we need while being true to our vision? What do we hide? How do we attenuate? Can we stop our vision from creeping out and challenging those who just need to stay in their comfort zone?
My response, every time I see how few people engage me is the phrase “Nobody cares. Nobody loves me, and that’s okay.” It’s okay because I know that I live in the love of creation, know that I love other people and I love my work, always working very hard to share in a loving way that offers the best I can muster to the wider world, even if they aren’t yet ready to engage it.
Like and love are two different things, I know, but does anyone really not want all she can get of both? Still, priorities must be set and held if discipline & practice are to mean anything at all.
The other phrase that often crosses my mind is “I’ll give you twenty seven dollars to…” Those are the moments when the cumulative cost of being a crackpot weighs heavily on me, when I acknowledge that there is no simple path to finding a place of value, respect and love in society for someone like me. Sure, I can take care of people in a way they already value, but only at the cost of silencing my dammed gift of a voice and a vision.
How much crackpot is too much crackpot? When is the price of crackpot just too much to bear?
It’s clear to me that there is no way I can stop being a crackpot. The only question is if I can modulate my own nature enough to fit in any place in the world, holding down my own sharp vision and my own history of isolation that built along with it.
Imagining a place, a venue, an audience that will embrace my vision, want more of it, engaging my crackpot mix of history, thought and feminine emotion is a lovely notion, but at this point, that kind of possibility is beyond my frame of dreams.
I have the pride of a true crackpot, no doubt.
Sometimes, though, I just don’t have the heart for it.