Unconventional thinking can be seductive. It can be alluring to gain more knowledge than another has. To those that fall prey to this conceit, I have a warning. Quantity does not always equal quality. There is only so much conventional information available, but there are numerous avenues for those seeking unconventional answers to explore. Most of these avenues contain information that conventional thinkers have never considered before. Some of the times, those arguments place the subject matter, at hand, in a different light that should be considered, but in my experience most of these arguments provide nothing more than provocative distractions and obfuscations from the central argument.
One of the universal truths I’ve discovered about unconventional thoughts is that they are not always true. This may seem like such an obvious truth that it’s a discussion hardly worth having, but how many people put so much stock into unconventional thinking that they consider conventional thinkers naïve for believing everything they tell us? They believe the truth is out there.
Police officers, working a beat, have a modus operandi (M.O.) to their job: “Believe none of what you hear and half of what you see.” This is the ideal mindset for a police officer to have. Is it ideal, however, for a casual consumer of news, an employee with regard to their employer, or a friend listening to friends telling a story?
A top shelf reporter suggested that skepticism of the press undermines their authority, but when the press exhibits behavior that warrants skepticism, it should be undermined. The members of the media should conduct themselves in a manner that welcomes skepticism from their audience and defeats it with performance. Wouldn’t the members of the media say the same thing of those they cover?
There is a point, however, when a healthy sense of skepticism creeps into a form of cynicism that believes “none of what I hear and half of what I see.” Such cynicism breeds holes in people that allow “other” information to fill it.
As an individual that has an insatiable curiosity for unconventional thinking, specific to human behavior, I’ve had friends introduce me a wide array of alternative information outlets. They introduced me to everything from the definitions of human psychology through astrology, numerology, and witchcraft. I also had one friend introduce me to the idea, by way of a book he read and loved, that suggested that aliens from other planets could teach us a lot about ourselves.
Within the transmitted messages, aliens from another planet send to Earth, is a common subtext that suggests that the tenets of my political ideology are wrong, but who am I to question the superior intellect of an alien species? The first question this skeptic asks the author of human psychology by way of alien scripture is why do we assume that they are of a superior intellect? The collective thought, among certain corners of human authority, suggests that not only is there intelligent life out there, but it’s more intelligent than anything we meager humans can conceive. Sort of like the unlimited omniscience that the religious assign to their deity of choice. It would be just as foolish as those that suggest that there are no superior intellects out there, as it is to suggest that all other entities are of a superior intellect, but those that suggest the latter often have an agenda for doing so.
What would be the point of worshiping a deity that had as much intelligence as we do, and what would be the point of reporting on the transmissions from space if the aliens were not of a superior intellect that could teach us a lot about human psychology? We should note that most alien transmissions align suspiciously with the author’s agenda and ideology.
The next time an alien transmits a message that has something to do with humans being of superior intellect (“We are in awe of the capabilities of the new iPhone seven plus, and we have not found a way to duplicate that technology in our labs”), will be the first time I take an alien transmission seriously. The next time an alien transmits a message that has something to do with a compliment regarding human technology in agricultural techniques (“We find the techniques developed by Monsanto Co., to be awe-inspiring”) will be the first time I re-read an author’s interpretation of their message. For some reason, most aliens want us to know that the author of the piece, that characterizes their message, is correct about the dystopian nature of human beings.
Too much reliance on alternative sources of information leads us to be vulnerable to half-truths that cause us to put too much stock in the more unconventional beliefs. Many unconventional thinkers now consider themselves more knowledgeable than those that ascribe to truths that are more conventional, because they have different knowledge that they believe equals more knowledge. I would have no problem with the purveyors of unconventional information if their consumers sought results. How many outlets, of this nature, provide straight verifiable points that pass peer review? How many of their messages devolve into motives and round about speculation that no one can refute? It’s that kind of information, in my opinion, that leads to so much confusion.
Those of us that ascribed to unconventional thoughts at one point in our lives began to see them for what they were, and we discovered that just because a thought is unconventional does not mean it’s correct. We enjoyed the offspring of the counterculture for what it was. We all thought they were so hip that our interest in their thoughts led some TV programmers to identify and capitalize on the purveyors of unconventional thinking, until those thoughts seduced us into incorporating them into our conventional thinking on some matters.
Whether it is political, social, or any other venue of thought, some people derive definition by fighting against the status quo, but we could say that the status quo is an ever-shifting focus that can lead to so many beginning to convert to such thoughts that they become status quo, conventional thoughts.
I no longer buy a book of unconventional thinking, or befriend an unconventional thinker, with the hope of having my mind changed on a subject. If their ideas do change my mind, that’s gravy, but I have learned that such thoughts, are often best used as a challenge to my current worldview, and/or to bolster to my current view, as I attempt to defeat it. I do not then write of this discovery with the intent of changing anyone else’s mind. I do enjoy, however, taking the conventional standpoint and melding it with unconventional thinking to arrive at what I consider a truth that neither party might have considered before.
The best illustration of this M.O., exists in a piece I wrote called He Used to Have a Mohawk. In this piece, I documented the conventional thinking regarding an individual that would decide to have their hair cut in a thin strip upon their head. If that person grows the Mohawk to eighteen inches, and dyes it blue, conventional thinking would lead one to believe that that person deserves any ostracizing they might receive. Unconventional thinking suggests that there’s nothing wrong with a person that decides to shave their head in such a manner. This mode of thought suggests that it’s on the observer to accept the Mohawk wearer for who he or she is as a person. They also suggest that the observer might discover the limits of their preconceived notions or conventional thoughts of a person, by finding out that a person that leaves a thin strip of hair on their head, grows it eighteen inches, and dyes it blue is actually a beautiful person. The approach I took, with this piece, combined the two modes of thought and examined them through the prism of an individual that used to have such a Mohawk.
What kind of person asks a hair stylist to cut their hair into a Mohawk? What happens to them when they grow older, and they go back to having a more sensible haircut? Do they change as others’ perceptions of them alter? Do they miss the altered perceptions they used to experience when they had the haircut? Do they regret getting the haircut in the first place?
One of my favorite critiques of this piece stated that the immediate components of this story could lead a reader to be offended, until they read the piece carefully to understand the complex subtext of the piece through deep analysis. “I like the way you take a Mohawk and turn it into something greater than just a simple hairstyle. You give it character that I feel not many others could appreciate,” Amanda Akers stated.
No matter where the reader stands on the conventional fulcrum with this subject, they must acknowledge that an individual that asks that their hair to be cut into a Mohawk does so to generate reactions, or different reactions, than a person with a more sensible haircut could procure on any given day. Some would say that Mohawk wearers generate unwanted attention for themselves by wearing such a haircut, but others could say that no attention is unwanted for some.
If a Mohawk wearer detested those that judged him for such a haircut, he or she could allow the hair to lay flat. They don’t, I pose, because they enjoy detesting straight-laced people that will never try to understand them as a person, they enjoy the bond they have with those that sympathize with their plight, and they bathe in the sheer number of reactions they’ve received since they made the decision to wear a Mohawk.
The people at this wedding party stated that they wanted to get to know the groom that used to have a Mohawk, when he had the Mohawk. As they learned more about him, to their apparent dismay, they discovered that he was a nice man. As an uninformed bystander, I considered the shock they displayed that a man with a Mohawk could be nice, a little condescending. I considered it odd that one man would say that he wanted to get to know a man that wears a Mohawk better –based solely on that man’s haircut– a little condescending. This groom, his name was Mark, appeared to bathe in all of it. I watched this man react to these statements, and I couldn’t tell if he considered it a mark of his character that he had befriended people regardless of the haircut, or if he missed all of the reactions that haircut used to generate for him. My money was on the latter.
No one cares that a man with a sensible haircut is nice. A nice man with a sensible haircut fades in the background, unless he has remarkable characteristics that make him stand out. My guess, watching this groom emcee the various events of his wedding, was that this man did not have such characteristics, and that he probably faded into the background. The man was not very funny. He was not the type that an observer would say was overly entertaining. He seemed like a shy, normal man that was as uncomfortable in his own skin as the rest of us are. I wondered, watching him bomb on stage, if our reactions to his antics would’ve been different if he said all that he said, and did all that he did, with an eight-inch high, blue Mohawk, and I wondered if he wondered the same? Say what you want about a person that wears a Mohawk, that is blue, but he does generate expectations. When a man with an eight-inch, blue Mohawk shatter expectations by doing silly things, or being nice, those actions stand in stark contrast to what we expected of such a man, and that leads an otherwise normal and probably relatively boring man, to stand out in our memory.
The crux of the argument, as I see it, is that conventional thinking may have some potholes, and we should remain skeptical of everything we see and hear, but some put so much energy into unconventional thoughts that they end up more confused on a given subject than enlightened. Forming a hybrid of sorts, is the ideal plane for one to reach as it suggests that while we should remain skeptical in nature, we should maintain an equal amount of skepticism for unconventional thoughts. Yet, the seductive nature of unconventional thinking rarely calls for a ledger on which one can tabulate how often they have been wrong. Most people hate being wrong, and for unconventional thinkers one would think it incumbent on unconventional thinkers to prove their bona fides on an issue. What often happens is that either the unconventional thinkers adapt a linier adjustment to their way of thinking on the issue, or they move on. The very nature of unconventional thinking lends itself to invulnerability, for few in their audience are comfortable enough with their knowledge on issues to call them out on their record. It’s been my experience that if an unconventional thinker would chart and graph their thoughts on matters, as opposed to focusing so much energy on excuses, they would find that more often than not, conventional, generalized thought patterns on a given idea are generally true.