Changing the way people think isn't always a good thing. Sometimes I try to do it just for fun, only to find out that the common way of thinking is actually the wise way. Other times though, I discover a piece of wisdom that is usually overlooked.
Recently I was walking with some co-workers on our semi-daily afternoon stroll to get our blood pumping. It was a cold winter day, but not so cold for it to affect our common sense. I think the cold did affect my train of thought though, because I decided to do a strange experiment. While the group of about 10 others talked to one another I remained silent through the one-mile walk, to see if they would notice when I did something very out-of-the ordinary even for this already eccentric group of afternoon pedestrians.
Now the route we take is a half-mile one way and a half-mile back through our office park. At the point where we turn around there's a simple, generic fire hydrant. There's good reason for having that check point, because beyond it the road simply heads to the highway and if you cut off the road it goes to swampy woods. Just to be different, while everyone else turned around at that well-known checkpoint, I decided to keep walking past it. As I walked past it, everyone stopped in their tracks and looked at me with deep concern. I was surprised by their reaction, so much so that it was by far the strongest influence on me changing my mind, turning around and following them back the other way. Had I continued on that trek beyond the fire hydrant, my life would probably be very different today. I don't think the experience would have been as valuable as the amount of respect among co-workers I would have lost.
This pointless experiment did get me thinking of other times when I had walked past the fire hydrant, so to speak. There have been times when I've been defiant for absolutely no reason, not even out of curiosity. Defiance has its own charms, I might have thought; after all, it's a way to prove that you are free. Why did I do it? To prove that I can, one might say.
Doesn't this beg another question, though? If we truly do have such "rebels without a cause," is it not possible that we also have conformers without a cause? If there are those who rebel just to be different, for fear of being caged, then what are we to say of those who have no reason for conforming yet do so anyway? While an outcast is shunned by society whether he is of sound mind or not, the one who conforms is accepted whether or not he has any defense for even doing so.
I believe the common way of thinking should always be challenged, even if it's just to make sure that it's still valid and that everyone knows why it is valid. New generations bring new great minds that can see things from different angles. What was an indisputable truth yesterday may just be a piece of the puzzle today.