Saturday, January 16, 2016

In defense of not being different

'Think Different', the advertisement advises.
Those who do think differently (in the mode that the advertisement is hinting at) are considered to be cool, inspiring and worth emulating (ironically enough!)
Those who aren't different are denigrated, even if it is of their own volition. Their disgrace is in simply being a part of the crowd.

This is not unlike society in general. I find that this is a strange situation. Why is this the case? Why do people feel the need to be different? Alternately, why is it bad to be a part of the crowd, regardless of whether it is of free choice or not?

Now, I can understand the value proposition of being different, purely from a utilitarian perspective. Those who think differently can innovate and create value that did not exist before they thought differently. But, as is often the case with innovation, breaking an existing mould implies the creation of a new one. Of what use is the trailblazing leader without inspired followers? Do we not rely on a certain degree of sameness to enforce laws, to ensure order and economize and scale? It seems evidently true to me that any difference that adds value requires large amounts of sameness to achieve greatness.

So, to hell with the arrogance of the different. To hell with being different for the sake of it. If it is true (and seems to me that it is) that there is no purpose to life except that which we arbitrarily assign to it, why dogmatically assume that difference is inherently more valuable than sameness?

The impetus for writing this post was provided by this interview - Irfan interviews Varun Grover (whose work I greatly admire) in this video. Here, Varun Grover explains why he chose creative pursuits in spite of having a  conventionally stable/successful job. His logic was that he felt small by being same.

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