– – Apple Computers – –
As I look back on my early life, at times, I think I grew up in a world of conformity. The Pleasant Valley Sunday syndrome (my favorite 1967 hit single by the Monkees) described my neighborhood. Rows of houses that were all the same lined my street. Most – if not all folks – were of the same race and religion. Each household had a dog, at least one Schwinn bike, two aluminum trash cans, a front lawn light that was turned on at dusk / off at dawn, a postage stamp sized back yard, and curb-side white and black painted house numbers. A typical week included church on Sunday, school Monday through Friday, and barbeque on Saturday. Dinner time was 5:00 o’clock – for the entire street. School uniforms – the gray plaid wool variety – were the norm. Being the same was in vogue.
In my youth, being the same – having a little bit of conformity –was somewhat comforting. Bedtime – 7:30pm every night. Television’s Wonderful World of Disney – Sunday night. Fish sticks and tater tots for dinner – the Lenten Friday night special. From kindergarten to eighth grade – recess at 2:00p.m. And every weekend, it was radio time:
Here we go with the Top 40 hits of the nation this week on American Top 40, the best-selling and most-played songs from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from Canada to Mexico. This is Casey Kasem in Hollywood, and in the next three hours, we’ll count down the 40 most popular hits in the United States this week, hot off the record charts of Billboard magazine for the week ending . . .
– – Casey Kasem – –
Listening to the American Top Forty fifty two Saturdays out of the year was only one of many rituals. We did many things the same way at the same time with the same people; and, this behavior created more than just a system of status quo. It built a framework of traditions and customs that are still alive and well today. It added significant stability to daily life. It taught me and the world around me a lot about the importance of patterns and the power of expectations. It created a solid level of security.
And through such a cozy life of conformity came the graceful ability to become the ones who saw things differently . . . the misfits . . . the rebels . . . the trouble-makers. Many of us became so rather easily by combining what we knew about conformity with what we didn’t know about being the crazy ones.
Think of Johnny Cash. He only wore one color – his trademark head to toe black. He obviously knew the value of consistency and reliability . . . of conformity. His audience expected him to wear black and he did. But the Man in Black’s career was rebellious for sure. His music spoke to challenging issues within religion, within justice and the prison system, or within human sadness. He sang the tunes of change, but ironically enough, started every performance with the same statement: “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash.”
Think of Harriet Tubman. She was one very rebellious woman during her time of advocating for the end of slavery. Words used to describe her include abolitionist, reformer, activist, and (my favorite) spy – all the language of the crazy ones. Yet, it is interesting (and horrifying) to me to know that she started her early life out as a slave – a life that I am sure required great conformity in order to survive. To be a slave meant holding together the status quo in order to avoid death or near death. But, as the Apple saying goes, she never allowed folks to ignore her. Quite the opposite – for she was a crazy one, the round peg in the square hole calling out and demaning change.
All I can say is . . . here’s to the crazy ones.
Here is to the person with the great idea of painting the house pink in a neighborhood of white frame homes. Here is to the family who didn’t eat dinner at 5:00p.m. sharp. Here is to the folks who look at today’s technology and think of new and different uses with the idea that they may be the ones who harness the power of some type of gizmo to solve challenges like poverty and hunger. Here is to the young women and men who look at the solution to cancer differently than their predecessors in hopes of eradicating suffering and pain for the masses.
And thank goodness the crazy ones won’t let us ignore them.
I thank my lucky stars that the glory of genius allows . . . well . . . geniuses to stand out in a crowd. The more the world sees and hears the mantra of their ideas, the more likely we will listen. And the light should not just be shining on the genius of Apple, Disney, AT40, Cash, or Tubman. It should be burning bright within everyone – within the framework of the conformity that provides stability for the emergence of change.
I only hope and prayer that folks see my children, my spouse, my family members, friends, and myself as part of the crazy crowd. And I am hoping that the lessons taught through moments of conformity translate into strongholds of opportunities to ensure that when faced with a moment to change the world, I can.