Eccentricity is something that should be encouraged. Odd, unconventional, unusual, even peculiar behaviour should be supported and promoted, otherwise we will put ourselves in very great danger of becoming a world of mindless drones, which let’s face it, according to David Icke, is what governments want, and he might just be right.
Eccentricity is regarded as a mental condition by psychologists; this is because eccentric behaviour does not conform to the general pattern. History is littered with people who could quite rightly be described as eccentric. Admiral Lord Nelson displayed certain eccentricities – he wore a diamond encrusted mechanical brooch in his hat which bobbed back and forth like a pendulum, presented to him by the Sultan of Turkey (it can be seen on nearly all his portraits.) General Picton rode into battle at Waterloo, not in uniform, but in a plain frock coat and top hat. General Hill, another member of Wellington’s staff, always carried an umbrella into battle; asked why, he answered “in case it rains.” Jesus Christ himself was undoubtedly eccentric and was even thought to be so at the time, even by his own family. Salvador Dali was definitely eccentric and the present Marquis of Bath is a very visible eccentric with his flamboyant dress sense, seventy-odd wifelets and his own private safari park full of wild animals.
We all know someone who we consider to be a little eccentric and we tolerate their eccentricities because they are usually mildly amusing. On the other hand, people who claim to be eccentric usually aren’t. The true eccentric is the individual who genuinely doesn’t think they’re eccentric. Of course there’s always the double bluffer, the would-be eccentric who wants or needs to be thought of as eccentric, yet denies it all the same. Is a wish to be eccentric, an eccentricity in itself for that matter.
The really exciting thing about genuine eccentrics is that they have an ability to think outside the box. They find solutions to problems where no solution is apparent to the rest of us. They are inventive, imaginative and above all, original. In short, they are creative, which is probably why so many of them are artists and composers… and inventors. They are also great thinkers. Einstein is widely held to have been an eccentric. If it were not for the great eccentrics of history, half the things we take for granted would never have been invented. Pottering about for hours on end in a workshop may seem eccentric, but all thoughts of oddness evaporate when something of wonder is produced at the end of it.
In Britain, we love our eccentrics and their eccentricities and eccentricity often goes hand in hand with aristocracy. An aristocrat (or these days a celebrity) who is eccentric is regarded as… er… well, eccentric. An ordinary soul who is eccentric is regarded as someone who is in urgent need of psychiatric intervention. This view is not only biased, it is prejudiced and also dangerous.
In the United States, Michael Jackson’s eccentricities caused only mild amusement and pretty much ignored, until that is, it became known that those eccentricities extended to an urge to share his bed with young boys. We were then treated to the old ‘tortured genius’ defence. Michael Jackson was then found guilty of being a mega-celebrity, and therefore innocent.
Freud believed that eccentricity was merely a “looseness of repression” which as it happens is almost right. It is a casualness, or carelessness for social strictures and convention. In a world where we are all exhorted to conformity, eccentricity comes as a refreshing breath of fresh air. Sometimes eccentrics are simply ahead of their time and there are obvious examples of this in the fashion industry and in the arts. Great artists are forgiven their eccentricities because it is generally accepted that their behaviour is merely the outward expression of their creative impulses. And so it should be, so long as that expression does not spill over into antisocial or criminal behaviour, such as trashing hotel rooms or getting too touchy-feely with little boys (or girls for that matter.)
Eccentrics also have the ability to focus on their work to the exclusion of everything else. The great comic genius Spike Milligan would lock himself away for days at a time, writing, creating. So did composer Gustav Mahler and a host of others too numerous to mention. The ability to get ‘lost’ in one’s creativity is one of the things that is supposed to make a good hypnotic subject. The truth of the matter however, is that eccentrics don’t normally go in for hypnotism because they already understand the principle without any outside prompting or tuition.
It comes as no surprise to find that eccentrics also tend to be exceptionally healthy, unencumbered as they are by the same social responsibilities as members of more mainstream society. Dr. David Weeks, a clinical neurophysiologist at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital has studied thousands of eccentric personalities over a ten year period and discovered that they consult their doctors twenty times less than the rest of the population. Dr. Weeks suggests that there is a neurological (and therefore chemical and electrical) reason for this. Because eccentrics are not concerned about conformity and social convention, they are naturally much less prone to stress.
Weeks has confirmed what I always suspected to be the case; eccentrics are self-opinionated, intelligent, questioning, non-conforming, outspoken, have a tendency to become obsessed with one or more hobby-horses, are convinced beyond any shadow of a doubt that they are always right about any topic that takes their fancy and universally disinterested in the opinions of others.
From an early age, eccentrics somehow know that they are different. They stand out from their peers as early as in primary school. They are scruffy, are impossible to embarrass and have a mischievous sense of humour, something which is often misinterpreted by others, especially people who do not know them well! In fact the compulsion to wisecrack and make surreal jokes, even during times of intense seriousness, is something which can often get them into trouble. Subtle jokes are often missed or misinterpreted by the hoi-polloi as they [the jokes that is] sail over their heads.
The true eccentric finds it almost impossible to compromise and is wholly unconcerned, that is presuming that they were even aware of it in the first place, with any disapproval society may offer. To this end, they often amuse themselves by pretending to extreme right-wing views in a deliberate attempt to shock while by the same token they can also lose themselves in comparatively innocuous though unusual pursuits like knitting or playing the xylophone. Their individual contributions to humanity, whether that contribution is in the field of science or the arts, are worth more and have made a bigger difference than most of the rest of us put together.
Sadly eccentrics don’t multiply very well, as the other thing they have in common is an inability to hold down serious or long-term relationships. Nonetheless, I have nothing but admiration and respect for them. They are more vital for the survival of the human species than any of the rest of us. May they all live long and prosper.
Einstein said “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honours the servant and has forgotten the gift.”
For more information about odd and unusual behaviour, read All in the Mind – Hypnosis, Suggestion and the New Mesmerists. Available fro this website as an Instant PDF Download.
Copyright Andrew Newton 2013. All rights reserved.