The problem with conforming to causes that have become dead to you is that is scatters your energy. It uses up your time and blurs the mark you make on the world.
If you support a dead church, contribute to a dead environmental group, vote for or against the Democrats or Republicans, hold dinner parties like you owned a restaurant—I have no idea, through all these filters, who you are! And of course all that energy is diverted from your true purpose in life.
But do your life's work, and I'll know you.
Do your life's work, and you'll strengthen yourself.
Let's take a look at what a farce this game of conformity is. In the first place, as soon as I know your party, I know your party line!
A preacher announces a sermon on the usefulness of one of the teachings of his church. Don't I know, before he opens his mouth, that he can't possibly say one new or spontaneous word? Don't I know that with all the pretense of examining the soundness of the teaching he will do no such thing? Don't I know that he is committed to look only at one side, the permitted side, not as a man but as a parish minister?
He is the attorney for the defense.
This pretense of being an impartial judge
is the thinnest of facades.
Well, most people have put on one blindfold or another and attached themselves to one or the other of these communities of opinion.
This conformity doesn't just make them phony in a few ways, authors of a few lies, but phony in every way. Their every truth is not quite true. Their two is not the real two, their four not the real four—every word they say frustrates us and we don't know where to begin to set them straight.
Meanwhile, nature wastes no time dressing us in the prison uniform of the party to which we attach ourselves.
We start to walk alike, talk alike,
and gradually acquire
the same sweet asinine expression.
Now there's a mortifying experience that has caused untold ripples in history: "the foolish face of praise"—the forced smile we put on whenever we're in uncomfortable company amid conversation that doesn't interest us. The muscles, not activated by spontaneity but by some overriding compulsion, tighten around the outline of the face, accompanied by a most unpleasant sensation.
Last Edited: May 03, 2000
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© 1997 Richard Brodie. All rights reserved.