Pissing off the Traditionalists

The guitarist, singer, and songwriter Ben Harper once said: “If you are not pissing off the traditionalists then you are not doing anything interesting.” Mr. Harper was speaking about music but his words reach far beyond the confines of music and art. They reach far beyond the world of commerce, government, law, legislation and the existing order.

 When we look back at any great world changer; be they artist, writer, thinker, scientist, inventor, civic leader or spiritual teacher we see an interesting pattern emerge. Those who have effected lasting, positive change in the world were not the ones to have towed the line. They were not the ones who followed the letter of law nor did what they were told. They were all, every single one of them, visionaries who pushed the boundaries of traditional thought. They were the ones who broke the rules.

For some the rebelliousness was minute, almost imperceptible to all but those who chose to see. Yet their actions caused a ripple that would eventually reach the shores of every continent. Some were outright rebels and enemies of the state. John Steinbeck defied the accepted morality of his time by refusing to change the controversial ending to his novel The Grapes of Wrath. His stubbornness and conviction produced what is arguably America’s finest literary work. Jesus Christ challenged the accepted system and threatened to replace it with his own progressive belief. Charles Darwin looked well beyond the bounds of his own traditional upbringing. He did not perceive himself as a rebel but his theories challenged the very foundation of traditional thought. Rosa Parks recognized the existence of a greater order and she broke existing law to bring that order into practice. The very constitution of this great country was written not out in the open but in subversive, illegal meetings held in dark corners and behind closed doors.

Positive change has never come, and never will come, from the existing or accepted order. It will not come from the obedient, the peaceful or the meek. It will come from the rebel, the lawbreaker, the outcast, and the cynic. It will always come from the ones who are pissing off the traditionalists.

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