Artists including painters, musicians, writers, actors/directors, photographers, and others (including some scientists) who apply their artistic perspective or highly focused talents and perspectives to the work or the vocation they love, often spend much of their lives as what we could call liminal persons. They might feel or be perceived as “outside” the norms of society, either by happenstance or by design.
As Outsiders, liminal persons can develop a point of view or vantage point at odds with normal convention; it is often this very ‘oddity’ about them that allows them to contribute original or even revolutionary ideas. They can help a culture or a community to bend and flex in ways otherwise less likely and can help a society to adjust more quickly to new conditions.
The Beatles when they first erupted upon the musical scene in the ‘60s were one such liminal group. They broke up thought forms by what at the time was considered even radical hair styles, musical beats, and ideology as represented in their lyrics. Mostly they sang about love, but the love they celebrated was broader and deeper. They wrote of world peace and love as a generational construct at odds with their own society’s post WWII and more recent Korean War global conflicts and the controversial war in Viet Nam. It was important for the Beatles to stand outside conservative norms in order to move society forward, even bringing non-Western spirituality to the fore in their later songs and lives.
Socrates in classical Greek times was likewise viewed as an Outsider to the established order. He went about encouraging free thinking in public arenas through his method of philosophical questioning. Socrates’ decision not to escape his sentence of drinking hemlock for the crime of “corrupting” traditional Greek thought of the time was in itself a violation of norms, forcing people to think about his premise of the immortality of Soul.
Let’s list some more names of historically well-known liminal persons whose departures from norms helped humanity to be more open to new ideas or even to revolutionary change: Amelia Earhart, Albert Einstein, Rumi, Gertrude Stein, Frida Kahlo, Emily Dickenson, William Butler Yeats, Lord Byron, Albert Camus, Immanuel Velikovsky, Nelson Mandela, Andy Warhol, Vincent Van Gogh, Oscar Wilde, Michelangelo. You can add to this list to form a litany of change agents who in the times they lived were relative loners or outcasts.
images are gratefully from pixabay.com
So we see the genius of Life inflecting in such broad strokes of diversity–often accompanied by intense sacrifice or by long-term personal isolation and hardship–so as to illuminate and break through boundaries of perspective and limitations of human consciousness in ways that have allowed our species not only to survive but to thrive.
Vive la difference! as the French might say. Or, as Lennon and McCartney contributed: “Imagine!”
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