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Once upon a time, in a land far away which has nothing at all in common with the world we humans inhabit, a horse was running free in the plain. He longed to climb up the mountains and see the world from a near-divine height, but no matter how long he walked, the mountains seemed always just as far away. Sometimes he would reach what was just a foothill, and he would fall over and over again, trying in vain to reach just the summit of the foothill. Still, he did not give up his dream, and continued to exercise so that he might eventually climb a mountain and see the world from its height.

Wherever he went, he saw just the far away mountains, the wonderful blue grass he liked to eat, and many many donkeys. In fact, though he was well past puberty, he had almost never -- if ever -- seen a mare, although he met what he took to be an occasional stallion. He felt the course of hormones in his veins and fancied a female. But what females had he seen? He came to fancy female donkeys a lot, in spite of their differences from him. Quite often, in fact, he forgot entirely that these females were not mares. Somehow too, the ones he liked had absolutely no interest in him, and those that did like him invariably were those that he didn't like, or who already had a mate, or who had been brought from a distant land to graze for a weekend, or were psychotic.

Nevertheless, among the female donkeys he made a few good platonic friends, as well as among other males. He saw male after male mate, have colts, race, and even age. Somehow he stayed in better health than most of them, but life seemed to be passing him by. Sometimes, he would complain to his friends about how he can find no one, and they would tell him proudly about their mates and their success in donkey-life. But then, afterwards, when alone, he reflected that these male friends of his were mostly donkeys. No wonder they had no trouble finding company -- the plain was full of donkeys! Who knows? Were any of the sane animals actually horses?

His friends became worried, as he became more and more discouraged, as female donkeys continued to reject him. Sometimes he would lose several hopeful new acquaintances within a few days. "You lack self-confidence," opined some friends, forgetting that he was a horse, whilst the females he was meeting, donkeys. Others said that he did not go to the right places. For how could he not meet a suitable mate, when they had no trouble at all? "Your approach must be all wrong! Why don't you emphasize your native donkey-ness? And talk about your plans to become a donkey?" He tried a little of this, but a voice inside him rebelled. "I don't want to be a donkey, don't plan to become one, and don't see why I should apologize for being a horse!"

Eventually, so as not to become prematurely attached, he started telling new acquaintances more directly about himself. Some of the donkeys ran away immediately, astonished. For they had thought he was just a magnificent donkey -- not a horse! "I just want a kind, reliable, handsome donkey who is a good provider -- or who at least can keep up with me in earning a respectable place in donkey-society. Why should I waste my time with some HORSE who has vain dreams of climbing a mountain!" Some misunderstood him to be someone with a naturally melancholy disposition. "Who wants to be around someone who merely complains all the time?" they thought to themselves. Those that were left still viewed him critically. "How come he cannot complete his task of climbing a mountain, which is what he always talks about? I can always climb any mound that comes MY way!" In fact, the donkeys never had any ambition of climbing a serious mountain at all, and only a few of them had climbed a foothill, and then after that had given up altogether any ideas of mountain-climbing. Most of them had not raised their heads high enough even to see the distant mountains, so busy were they with their competition to graze and mate. There were more important things for a donkey to do, after all, than chase after mountains!

Gradually, he came to feel that the more open about himself he was with others, the more they would reject him; or when he was accepted, it would be with an unspoken complacent indulgence similar to that of parents for small children. He witnessed many remarkable things accomplished by the donkeys -- indeed they carried their masters and their sticks wherever they were ordered in a remarkably industrious manner. But somehow, for him, a donkey's life was not enough. He withdrew more and more into himself.

He took care of his physique, and stayed in good health. He still might climb a mountain! If only he could, he could then tell the others what the world looks like from high above the plain! Even the donkeys would enjoy retelling his story, since the retelling would require no self-sacrifice, and it really wouldn't matter what his life would become thereafter. Perhaps then, he fantasized, the horses he had heard about would not be too busy to tell him of their travels. Perhaps then he would find a mare. But even if not, he would feel fulfilled.

When would it all end, he wondered? Would he finally just lie down to die, defeated, when the day came when he no longer had the strength to keep trying to climb? Would he keep trying until death finally claimed him in a paroxysm of pain? Would he finally prance with a true mare who could open up new plains to discover, who would bring back the joy he still remembered from his first semi-delusional experience with a female, who would give him strength to try yet again?

How would it all end?

He did not know, but resolved to keep struggling at least one more day.


Original posting by manydimensional on Jun 14, 2011 at http://www.braincrave.com/viewblog.php?id=578

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Introduction to discussion on June 20, 2011:

In Maxims for Revolutionists, George Bernard Shaw wrote about reason: "The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man."

They're sometimes called the "fringe element" - those who think and act outside the boundaries of the status quo. They are negatively referred to as extremists, radicals, unusual, or wackos. They are not the mainstream. They are generally outspoken, but not always. They often complain a lot about the current state of affairs, but there are also those who stay quiet, avoid conflict, and just do what seems best. They don't "go along to get along." They typically don't apologize for who they are. They continue thinking and doing as they feel best, regardless of what others think.

They are judged low on the social totem pole. People shy away from having relationships with them. People don't take them seriously. They are slandered. They don't "fit in." And most don't want to. They have big dreams from something different.

Contrast them with "normal" society. People who are considered normal generally don't deviate from the authoritative standard or conventional wisdom. (And if they do deviate, it's generally only in minor ways or within pre-approved limits.) They conform, getting into a regular pattern with others. They have similar values. They compromise. They reject extremes.

It is the normal people that marginalize the fringe. Why? Perhaps it's due to a rigid adherence to a petrified conventional wisdom. Perhaps it's a lack of imagination in receiving revolutionary new ideas.

Having said that, consider the world in its current state: war, corruption, economic disaster, corporations in bed with politicians, minimal civil liberties, educational progress stagnant or negative, and all of it getting worse. It's the "new normal." In many respects, our quality of life is going backwards. This state of affairs is not the result of the fringe element or revolutionary ideas. We are where we are specifically because the majority - the normal - supports it all.

Perhaps the fringe are onto something. Perhaps it's time to re-evaluate their positions.

Of course, novel ideas and outside-the-box thinking aren't limited to politics. Although the fringe element is often used within the realm of politics, the term applies in most (if not all) fields of human knowledge, such as science ("fringe scientists doing frontier science don't get a lot of respect until their data - and cause - are taken up by the mainstream"), mathematics, economics, and even art.

For example, take research. There's an adage that goes: if you know what you're doing, it isn't research. Research behaviors that often lead to being considered fringe include:

  1. Announcing results contradicting conventional wisdom or results

  2. Using methods not generally accepted as giving reliable evidence

  3. Working on matters considered of little interest

  4. Not having those credentials that result in one's work being taken more seriously

  5. Showing that one is unfamiliar with the methods and results of the relevant field, through sloppy or ignorant writing or research

  6. Announcing false results, constantly changing one's assertions, or showing a vested interest in a particular outcome, which suggests a lack of interest in the truth.

In research, exhibit these behaviors and consider yourself unfunded. Perhaps sometimes that's warranted, but is it always? Not all of these people are self-promoters or genuine quacks - some are genuine seekers.

Make no mistake: it is a daunting challenge to develop and implement new ideas outside the generally familiar which solve large problems and achieve real progress for humanity. It is a path ripe with constant failures. As Thomas Edison noted: "I speak without exaggeration when I say that I have constructed 3,000 different theories in connection with the electric light, each one of them reasonable and apparently likely to be true. Yet only in two cases did my experiments prove the truth of my theory."

As if thinking outside-the-box isn't hard enough, it becomes even more difficult and frustrating for those who go against the mainstream. In a world where majority rules, cultural values lead us to frown upon independent thought. Braincraver manydimensional has written a parable about how our cultural values have led to misinterpreting or ignoring the fringe and what it takes to struggle for another day in a spirit of defiance.

Are we misunderstanding what these "unreasonable men" want? Is the majority equipped with the proper knowledge and experience to evaluate the characteristics and values the fringe has to offer? What do you see as wrong with fringe groups? What values do the fringe bring to the table that we are missing? In what areas are you an outsider from the mainstream?

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