So You're Different Is That So Bad?
I’m sure everyone has heard this song “Rudolph the red nosed reindeer had a very shiny nose and if you ever saw it you would even say it glows. All of the other reindeer use to laugh and call him names. They never let poor Rudolph play in reindeer games.” Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, a familiar Christmas carol sung by many children is an excellent example of how we tend to treat differences in others. The question we should all ask ourselves is why so many people treat differences in others with such disdain. What did Rudolph’s nose have to do with his ability to play Reindeer games? This simple Christmas carol actually reveals a very fundamental quality that most people have and that is the need for some sort of uniformity and the acceptance of others.
If most of the bullies at school had a chance to make up the status quo what a boring world this would be. We see this in so many movies, stories, poems and even in our own lives, the misfit that finally became a success. Even though most misfits prove others wrong and eventually prove their worthiness, we are all afraid of actually being labeled as such. Despite the fact that no one really is what you would call ‘normal’ and we really all are misfits in one way or another, yet we still let the critics in our lives shape our identities to one degree or another.
About fifteen years ago I saw a movie called Angus, about an overweight boy, who had to deal with a lot of teasing from others in his school. I never forgot Angus’s speech at the school dance where he tells every one that “We are all misfits, some of us are fat, some are skinny, some are short, some of us have ears that stick out” He went on to name many of the insecurities shared by his classmates, only to be challenged by one student, who for some reason thought he fit the definition of normal. Everyone agreed with Angus, and ignored “Mr. Normal” and Angus finally had his moment.
There’s another movie where the main character actually uses being different as a defense. In Martian Child, Dennis pretends to come from Mars in order to cope with abandonment issues he had from his infancy. He purposely chooses to act extremely different from the others. Dennis being a very creative and clever individual could come up with all sorts of ways of being different. Unfortunately, Dennis' originality is not considered to be an advantageous quality, since the authorities at the orphanage wanted Dennis to demonstrate a more conventional type of behavior. They failed to understand that the mind of a child sometimes abandons conventional boundaries in order to cope with certain events, that leave deep emotional scars. Only the love and acceptance of his adoptive father could bring this child back to Earth. Dennis no longer has to hide behind a mask of strange behavior, because true love and acceptance is a great healer.
We equate being different with having some sort of weakness. Even though we are given example, after example of how misfits have been life’s winners in most cases. In Martian Child, Dennis’s stepfather has a talk with a good friend of his about being a little eccentric when they were both growing up, and how people who grew up to be Mozarts, Van Goghs, or any other outstanding individual had to pay a high price while growing up in terms of acceptance. Why should originality be sacrificed for the sake of acceptance? What is wrong with some diversity?
In art history it is not a well known fact by many, but did you know that when impressionistic art first came out it was not widely accepted by the artistic community? At that point in history realistic portrait art was the only truly acceptable form of art. Therefore, when artist like Monet, Renoir, Pissaro, and Sisley began to present their masterpieces, their art was first presented in what was known in French as, "salon des refuses" which means the salon of the refused. It is hard to imagine, that some of the greatest art master pieces of today were once rejected by the artistic community of the past and even considered ugly. As one can see even the artistic community had its prejudices, and wanted to hold on to certain accepted conventions of their craft.
Wouldn’t it be a wonderful world if children chose to learn from those children, who bring something original and special to the table rather than ostracizing them? Diversity makes life more interesting, it’s what makes for great art, music, literature even architecture. Thanks to diversity we have the joy of experiencing the music of great artists like Mozart and Beethoven. Thanks to diversity we have the beautiful paintings of Van Gogh, Monet, Dali, and Picasso, not to mention the beautiful architectural marvels of Guggenheim. So next time you feel different, thank God, because that is what makes you special. Who knows maybe there is a Mozart, Dali, Guggenheim or Vonnegut inside your very soul just waiting to be unleashed. Diversity it is the spice of life.