In a previous post, I referred to every blogger’s dream: a growing, interactive, receptive audience. This subject also came up in a recent conversation with a good friend—one of those intense dialogues where hours pass in what feels like maybe ten or fifteen minutes. She asked who I saw as my audience. Good question, I said. What’s my niche? Who am I trying to reach? Who’d want to read what I have to say when I’m talking about what matters to me?
For the longest time, I’ve seen myself as never quite fitting in. Not isolated by any means, yet almost never adhering to the conventional view on…well, pretty much anything. Politics, religion, education, musical tastes, my idea of what constitutes a good time—cultural checkboxes never seem to apply to me: fortunately, recent years have found me increasingly accepting, even proud, of my “none of the above” nature.
It’s one of the things that most draws me to Zen, in fact: the way this practice blows apart concepts and categories; its insistence on avoiding either/or, neither/nor thinking. And so I cherish opportunities to sit and stare at walls for 35 minutes at a time; I chant and bow (me? embracing ritual??) and let go of worrying that I’ve stumbled upon one more excuse for the world to think I’m…eccentric (such a nicer word than “loony”).
The square-peg/round-hole dynamic stands out even more prominently in the landscape of Sudbury education. After all, political and religious debates are a cakewalk compared to arguments over how we should raise our young. Sudbury supporters find themselves constantly swimming against the mainstream, straying from the herd mentality, coloring outside the cultural lines—and these things are exhausting, if not frightening. Even so, people just discovering Sudbury schools will often say, “I wish there’d been a school like this when I was growing up,” or “I’d like to go to this school!”
I think I understand. Sometimes I feel like a poster child for why even those kids who succeed in conventional schools are often harmed by them. I did extremely well in primary and secondary school without much effort: but then, I had the magic formula—strong verbal and quantitative skills tempered by deference to authority. Even so, my outer success was compromised, subtly yet profoundly, as a childhood of external direction and evaluation caused my self-reliance and self-direction to atrophy. It’s taken years and monumental effort to even approach the person I might have been otherwise.
I believe Sudbury and Zen appeal most to critical thinkers: those who question, who think for themselves, who refuse to accept received wisdom. People who are open to innovation and change. But it’s hard, so very hard, to feel like you have to fight all the time just to be your authentic self. It may be healthy not to fit in, but it can also be very hard and lonely. As Kurt Vonnegut said, “A sane person to an insane society must appear insane.”
Above all, then, this blog is aimed at people who embrace a cutting-edge mentality, yet are seeking the support and solidarity of like-minded others. So welcome, all you square (and rectangular, and spherical, and non-classifiable) pegs, to a page where you are welcome; where you are invited to be not merely an audience, but part of a community—a community of creatively happy, healthy individuals.
Doesn’t that sound a whole lot better than settling for “normal”?