Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Abyss of the Average

If there's one thing the crowd enjoys doing it's bashing celebrities, politicians, and business leaders.  Some of the time, it's warranted.  Most of the time, it's not.  This is one side of what I call the Abyss of the Average.  A friend of mine talks about this, sort of, on his blog
Anyone who has decided to strike off the mainstream path has experienced this: Strong admonitions and warnings against what they were doing, and pressures not do it.
It doesn’t really matter what it is you’re trying to change. If you’re trying to become a nondrinker in a drinking culture, if you’re trying to quit eating junk food, if you’re trying to become a vegetarian or otherwise have a different diet, this will have happened to you.
If you decide to pursue a nontraditional career path (artist, entrepreneur, etc), you will have experienced this.
If you try to live a different lifestyle than the people around you – for instance, rising each day at 4:30AM and sleeping early instead of partying, you will have experienced this.
People will pressure and cajole you in many different ways to keep doing it the old way. Almost always, it will be phrased as though they’re looking after your best interest.
I feel this is one reason why so many have trouble beating addiction:  some people are subconsciously rooting for the addiction. 

Because of this phenomenon, there are many people who try to hide the fact that they are trying to excel, or believe something different, or trying to kick a habit.  They hide behind the mask of the average when in public.  Not only does this cause a lot of stress, there is the added risk of becoming the person you are pretending to be.

To paraphrase Nietzsche:
When you stare into the Abyss of the Average, the Abyss stares back into you.


  1. Wow, I have rarely experienced anything but encouragement to go a different route than average. Well, I guess a few times people encouraged me to start drinking, and once it was even phrased as being in my best interest.

    But generally it makes sense to do this, to encourage others to do things however you've been doing them. It's memetic reproduction. We want the successful memes to reproduce, right? It's how memetic evolution happens!

    But the problem is that it stifles memetic variation, which also is how memetic evolution occurs. There's a theory that when a species has too large a population, it somehow stifles variation (part of the punctuated equilibrium theory). Maybe the same applies to cultures.

    Of course the other important factor is 'non-evolutionary', 'internal' forces, like reason and logic. It'd be nice if those sorts of things determined which ideas and habits spread well.

  2. You're a lucky one. The usual advice I get is to simply get on with life: settle down, get a mortgage, work until you retire, retire, and die. And I should do it happily.

    If I went by logic, it would tell me that my best chances are to take 'the road more taken'. After all, it's been proven to 'work'.