The Outsider As Visionary

December 16, 2011 § 39 Comments

By Tai Carmen

“In an overstructured world only the misfit is free.” ~ Tom Robbins

“Your visions will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside dreams. Who looks inside, wakens.” ~Carl Jung

“Vision without execution is hallucination.”~ Thomas Edison

[Click here to read Part 1, The Outsider.] The word visionary is a nebulous term, evoking mad bouts of genius or peyote taking shamans, but we shouldn’t be scared off by the word’s exotic implication. In its simplest form, a visionary is one having or marked by foresight and imagination, fresh ideas that push the boundaries of the accepted or the known.

“When you grow up,” remarks Apple computer visionary Steve Jobs, “you tend to get told the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money.

“That’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact, and that is — everything around you that you call life, was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.”

In our last post about The Outsider, we discussed common traits, identifying the outsider as one who, to quote French novelist Henri Barbusse “sees too deep and too much.”

The Outsider is sensitive, often with introverted tendencies, imaginative, many times plagued by a sense of isolation and unreality. He does not identify with the common values of the society around him, rebelling against the role he’s been given, often out of pure necessity. Many don’t rebel, but remain outsiders forever in their hearts. To these I would encourage an outlet of self-expression. The outsider, simply put, is a square peg who finds himself in a world full of round holes.

Of course this, combined with natural sensitivity, will inevitably create some neuroticism in the typical Outsider, for which he is well known.

But, the Outsider need not be tortured by his difference. Rather, he can recognize that within his unique perspective, within his sensitivity and keen ability to “see too deep and too much” — his power of noticing what others miss, of being on the outside looking in at the way the world works — lies the seed of the visionary. This is the true destiny, the true potential, of the Outsider.

“The visionary,” Colin Wilson notes, “is inevitably an outsider.”

Often all it takes is a simple flipping of the coin to gain perspective and begin one’s journey: on the flipside of neuroticism, lies sensitivity, on the flipside of rage, lies passion; with difference comes the insight of unique perception, and within an “overly active” imagination lies boundless possibility.

Without recognition of their own potential gifts, without a constructive outlet for their depth and intensity, the frustrated Outsider can become easily depressed. We’re already sensitive, and once we submit to the pain of our own hearts, often the deluge of the world’s collective suffering rushes in as well. The unexpressed outsider can even pose a  danger to themselves or others. As the great Lebanese American poet Khalil Gibran once observed:

For what is evil but good tortured by its own hunger and thirst? Verily when good is hungry it seeks food even in dark caves, and when it thirsts, it drinks even of dead waters.

Which is why it is essential to push in the direction of our potential. An unexpressed dreamer is like a beautifully made guitar that never gets played, but hangs collecting dust on the wall.

It’s easy to let oneself off the hook with the protest that one doesn’t have any fantastic potential. This is a cop-out. No one just picks up a pen and writes the great American novel; they put years and years into studying the craft of writing. They submit wayward drafts to ruthless revision and often scrap fledgling starts (Flaubert’s first novel was so full of flaws, he ended up burning it at the urging of his friends, after which he wrote  Madam Bovaryconsidered a masterpiece. James Joyce’s first attempt at a novel, Stephen Hero, was rejected by publishers and never saw the light of day, but later became reworked into one of his most influential and critically acclaimed works, Portrait of the Artist As A Young Man.)

It’s a myth that the ‘true genius’ just starts painting and pulls a Picasso out of the essence of his magnificent spirit. Picasso studied formally from the age of seven onward. While Mozart showed extreme aptitude at a young age, it was no less his dedication which brought about the fruits of what is now called his genius.

You don’t have to be naturally brilliant to become a visionary; you just have to follow through and refine your craft.

You don’t have to believe in yourself, so much as believe in the importance of the journey you are on or choosing to embark upon — the innate worth of visioning, of going deeper, of creating something where there was nothing, of giving some kind of insight or inspiration to the world. Believe in the value of adding your voice, however thin and wavering, to the chorus of voices throughout history who have called out: I am here. This is how it feels to be alive, this is how it feels to be me. How does it feel for you? 

“The vitality of the ordinary members of society is dependent on its Outsiders,” notes Colin Wilson. Despite, he might add, messages of conformity to the contrary. “It is their strenuousness that purifies thought and prevents the bourgeois world from foundering under its own dead-weight; they are society’s spiritual dynamos.”

Everyone loves a successful visionary, but while one is still visioning, and brewing one’s ideas, when one is simply on the journey of discovering one’s source of strength and insight, the road of the Outsider who dares to dream is no easy foot trail.

Of course, once you’ve created some kind of product — a book, a technology, an album  — then our consumer-oriented society feels more inclined towards praise, or at least the begrudging admission that perhaps you’re not totally crazy.

Until that time, however, you must be strong. You must be the source of your own illumination; remain tenacious, patient, determined. Some days you won’t be able to summon any of these feelings, and in that case, give yourself the day off. But come morning, rise again.

The visionary is one who is tapped in to the invisible forces inhabiting mankind’s collective imagination. As Jonathan Swift  said,”Vision is the art of seeing the invisible.”  In his Psychology Today article, “Long Fuse, Big Bang,” Eric C. Haseltine, Ph.D elaborates:

“Neuroscientists have learned that the brain is an extremely efficient consumer of energy (calories from food) because it cuts corners and cheats. For example, instead of ingesting and processing all available information — and in the process consuming a tremendous amount of energy — the brain throws away most of what it senses, and frugally focuses only on a tiny percent of information that’s likely to be valuable. Ignorant brains are efficient brains, and efficient brains run cool.

“So what does your brain’s temperature (or lack of it) have to do with becoming a visionary? Everything. Another way of describing your brain’s strategy of willful ignorance is blindness. […]  Becoming a visionary is simply a matter of knowing where your brain’s hard-wired blind spots are, then focusing your mind’s eye into those blind spots.”

In other words, a person who doesn’t see or think like the rest will be all the more likely to have a visionary perspective, and pushing one’s own boundaries of perception will pay off creatively. Open your mind, embrace your own unique perspective, brew it, dream it, study the craft of it, and add your voice to the chorus.



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§ 39 Responses to The Outsider As Visionary

  • karol says:

    Soooo beautifully written. I just loved your examples of great works not flowing effortlessly. What a hopeful, reinforcing piece.

  • abdelwahabelsadek says:

    This essay is interesting and informative. It takes us in a good journey. Yes some of the outsiders are genius inside there selves. Also the philosopher Schopenhauer after creating the will of life his work was ignored. But after his death by about 100 years he became famous. Also Jesus, the official history of his nation considered him as a leader of religious disorder. But later he succeeded and was known. These tangles in the human societies must find a solution by outsiders all over the world. Human kind shouldn’t loose many that can be of benefit to progress us. I told them that the history started with two trees and ended with the UN. They considered me a dreamer. The great Pascal said,” Humanity is like one man that learns from his mistakes and progresses by correcting them.
    P.S: I didn’t get the exact meaning of square holes. Please explain it!!

    • Tai Carmen says:

      Thanks for being part of the conversation🙂

      The “square peg in a round hole” reference is a metaphor for someone who doesn’t fit in, it’s an English expression based on children’s games like this:

      http://www.colourbox.com/media/1468926

      If you look at that image, obviously trying to put a square shape into the triangle shaped hole would not fit.

      So it’s a metaphor for someone trying to fit into a role that does not suit the natural “shape” of their personality.

      Make better sense?

  • themahdiblog says:

    Thank you for sharing, so powerful, but only if the mind is ready to accept.

  • themahdiblog says:

    Reblogged this on REBLOGS OF THE MAHDI and commented:
    Very good article from a Friend.

  • Abigail says:

    Hello Tai! This is such a beautifully-written article, which is so supportive of outsiders/visionaries. Too many people never develop their potential and too many aren’t even aware of it.

    Your writing is beautiful, gentle and nurturing but also powerful. It contributes to a greater awakening of potential, that I hope will happen on a wider scale.

    • taicarmen says:

      Abigail, thank you so much for your thoughtfully articulated encouragement and solidarity. It’s certainly my intention to contribute to a greater awakening of our potential as a race, no mater how small, so your words mean a lot to me!

      *Be well on your journey, fellow seeker*
      Dreamers unite!

      Tai

  • Ingrid says:

    I can’t believe there aren’t more comments to this post yet. Well, here’s one more to add up!

    I found what you wrote very interesting to read. A blog post most often need to grab my interest instantly, and this one did. I am a humanistic buddhist practitioner in my first year, and still learning to handle my own caves, hills and rollercoasters in life. Finding your core is a process, a process much longer and time and effort consuming than I previously assumed. What daily meditation has taught me among many things, is that as human beings we need reminders of our own great potential – that we can and will reach out far and catch what we reached for – and to be good to ourselves, because it will also reflect on how people around respont. It is important to try your utmost to be an example of what you envision in the world. Be it a small piece of written text or a published book, or world peace.. the power is in our hands, it just takes a lot of work. Faith can’t move mountains unless there is faith in the man to move them.

    This post nearly made me want to start a blog. Will look out for more from you! Best wishes

    • taicarmen says:

      Dear Ingrid, I’m so gratified to hear you felt enriched by the post. Thank you for letting me know.🙂 Definitely feeds my fire. There’s going to be a part three which deals with, among other things, getting in touch with the core aspect, so be sure to come back! Best of luck in your journey! Tai

  • Ingrid says:

    I can’t believe there aren’t more comments to this post yet. Well, here’s one more to add up! I found what you wrote very interesting to read. A blog post most often need to grab my interest instantly, and this one did. I am a humanistic buddhist practitioner in my first year, and still learning to handle my own caves, hills and rollercoasters in life. Finding your core is a process, a process much longer and time and effort consuming than I previously assumed. What daily meditation has taught me among many things, is that as human beings we need reminders of our own great potential – that we can and will reach out far and catch what we reached for – and to be good to ourselves, because it will also reflect on how people around respont. It is important to try your utmost to be an example of what you envision in the world. Be it a small piece of written text or a published book, or world peace.. the power is in our hands, it just takes a lot of work. Faith can’t move mountains unless there is faith in the man to move them.

    This post nearly made me want to start a blog. Will look out for more from you! Best wishes .

    • Tai Carmen says:

      I’m so sorry I missed this comment when it came through — I usually respond in a much more timely fashion!

      I really appreciate this thoughtful and encouraging feedback, and I completely agree that the Journey is tremendous work — more than one imagines it will be upon embarking upon the path! I also completely agree that reminders of our own potential are so important — we must be on the lookout always for how we can shine a light for others and remind them of their own radiance. I find inspiration and purpose in the importance of being an example and offering whatever I can towards the good, the inspiring, the helpful.

      Your positive words have certainly done that for me. I hope to hear from you again!

      On on! And journey well.
      Happy 2013!

      Tai

  • batgurrl says:

    Look up. If we would just raise our eyes from our feet or worse yet our cell phones and look to the sky, the tree tops to the rooftops we would see a world that is so full of wonder.

    Then the visionary would leap from your heart and grow.

    (of course I look up for my bird friends and especially my crows)

    • taicarmen says:

      Agreed. Looking up can evoke instant wonder! I just did it, in fact. While waiting for a page to load I caught myself waiting passively for the process to complete and then reminded myself to look out the window: there is a beautiful misty sky and pines. Real life! I often see birds from this window. I am a sky scanner, for me, it’s hawks.😉 And I see them with surprising frequency!

      Reminds me of that great quote (not sure its genesis) which has always stuck with me:

      Two men looked out from prison bars
      one saw mud
      the other saw stars

      On on!

      Tai

  • Thank you, I have enjoyed and been inspired and encouraged by this in my own creativity. w

  • solefield says:

    “You don’t have to believe in yourself, so much as believe in the importance of the journey you are on or choosing to embark upon — the innate worth of visioning, of going deeper, of creating something where there was nothing, of giving some kind of insight or inspiration to the world.”

    I love that! Definitely something I try to keep in mind – especially believing in the journey that I am on. Sometimes that’s the only thing that gets me through when I’m struggling… that I Trust my journey.

  • Sounds like me, except that I’ve accepted my place. It helps to have another outsider as a husband though, so we’re not really alone. His music is visionary but he can’t be bothered trying to market it against all the millions of other stuff out there. I love the images here.

  • You're welcome says:

    “In it’s simplest form, a visionary is one having or marked by foresight and imagination..”

    *its

    Please know that you are one of my favorite writers.I hate correcting you, but I simply couldn’t resist.❤

    • taicarmen says:

      No, thank you! I would hate to perpetuate one of my own pet peeves! The internet is awash enough with sloppy grammar. I hope you haven’t lost too much respect for me.😉

      • MewTwo says:

        who is telling you your grammar needs to be a certain way? how visionary are you really if you can’t see hegemony?

      • Tai Carmen says:

        First of all, I may aspire towards the visionary, but I haven’t — and wouldn’t –call myself a visionary. That is something only time can tell, and certainly not a status one can proclaim, any more than a tinfoil tiara would make me a queen. This post explores the visionary potential of those who see the world differently.

        Second — and I think very importantly– grammar is not dogma. If I were writing in first person from a certain character’s perspective, narrative voice would trump grammatical correctness. But this is a personal essay, and acknowledging the rules of the language is part of the craft of writing. It’s part of taking the art of writing seriously, which I do.

        Knowing the rules and breaking them deliberately is one thing: Picasso painted the perfect classical portrait of a child to show he could play by the rules if he chose. e.e. cummings deconstructed language and punctuation in his whimsical poems, but each choice was deliberate, a statement.

        Writing “one’s” instead of “ones” is not a statement, it’s a mistake. Either it means I don’t know what I’m doing, or I missed the error in proofreading. Since I do know the difference between ones and one’s, it was the latter. And I appreciate being given a heads up.

        The English language is deteriorating rapidly; the art of articulation is fast-dying. It matters to me to preserve the art of language, which includes awareness of grammar.

        Saying grammar is a form of hegemony is like saying a sculptor’s tools are tyrannical.

        Obviously there are a number of books written from the first person utilizing colloquial speech and dialect to create a narrative atmosphere and transmit the essence of a culture via language. Wonderful! Language is free. That doesn’t mean the rules don’t matter. They should be known and then, only if it serves the work, set aside.

        Typos don’t serve this work.

        Please forgive my emphasis — it’s passion. I care about language and feel strongly about this point.

        Best!

        Tai

  • You're welcome says:

    Also,

    “Often all it takes is a simple flipping of the coin to gain perspective and begin ones journey”

    *one’s

    Don’t worry, I still love you.🙂

  • Svend says:

    Love it. Great post.

  • Rob Houter says:

    Hi Tai Carmen,
    Keep the good work (play like a child)go strong,
    shine your being all around, thanks for your nice comment on
    my trying, considering that your language is still a mystery to me,
    your words were a nice surprise to a grain of sand from the Dutch
    mountains beneath sea level,
    have faith in your infinite being,
    there are no borders, One Love!
    the Mirror Machine

    • taicarmen says:

      Thank you!! One Love!

      One of my favorite books on the subject of infinite being/no borders/one love was written by Alan Watts and it’s called “The Book About The Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are.” I think you might enjoy it. Also, you might really enjoy Terrence McKenna.

      Be well on your journey,

      Tai

  • Puneesh Suri says:

    Hello Tai,

    What a wonderful piece of writing this is. Such insight. I heartily thank you for sharing it.

    Happy Exploring!

  • What an impressive article! Thank you for posting. BTW, peyote is ingested, not smoked.

    • Tai Carmen says:

      Oh, thank you! For both the positive feedback and the info. I think I just liked the rhythm the words “peyote smoking” made together so much that I didn’t stop to think about its accuracy long enough to remember that — of course! — peyote buttons are ingested. Thank you! Will correct. Of course accuracy trumps rhythm.🙂

      Be well on your journey,

      Tai

  • […] “You must be the source of your own illumination; remain tenacious, patient, determined. Some days you won’t be able to summon any of these feelings, and in that case, give yourself the day off. But come morning, rise again.” – The Outsider as Visionary, Part II […]

  • “You don’t have to be naturally brilliant to become a visionary; you just have to follow through and refine your craft”

    Love that part. Some of us have the passion, but lack the natural talent.

    • Tai Carmen says:

      Talent without commitment languishes. A passionate person who studies their craft with commitment will go further than a talented person who assumes they have the goods and doesn’t work at improving their skills. I’ve seen a lot of talented people fall short because they coasted on their talent.

      So glad you found the post inspiring!

      Travel well, fellow dreamer!

      Tai

  • Molly says:

    Toowdhucn! That’s a really cool way of putting it!

  • Ramya Udaru says:

    This article is one of the senseful article that i hav ever read. Thanks for motivating me. Keep bringing that positive thing. Good luck.

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