“Not my circus, not my monkeys” – Polish Proverb
One of the keys to happiness in this life is finding your own circus and accepting the monkeys that keep it going. Hug them. Wrestle them. Laugh with them. Slap them around a little, and let them slap you around a little as well. After all, they are you and you are them. Your circus is a terribly beautiful thing, an appallingly delightful soulcraft. It’s yours to steer. It’s yours to crash and burn and put back together again. Don’t worry, the monkeys will help you. And if not, there is always play and the cultivation of a good sense of humor. Here are four ways to be more interesting.
1. Accentuate Your Eccentricities
“In this age, the mere example of non-conformity, the mere refusal to bend the knee to custom, is itself a service. Precisely because the tyranny of opinion is such as to make eccentricity a reproach, it is desirable, in order to break through that tyranny, that people should be eccentric. Eccentricity has always abounded when and where strength of character has abounded; and the amount of eccentricity in a society has generally been proportional to the amount of genius, mental vigor, and moral courage which it contained. That so few now dare to be eccentric, marks the chief danger of the time.” –John Stuart Mill, On Liberty
Capitalize on your Quirks. Crucify conformity. Staple custom to the wall and throw darts at it. You’ll know when you hit the bull’s-eye because the confederacy of the dunces will quibble and moan, choking on your nonconformist air. Be extravagant. Be boisterous. Be you; just be the full-frontal version of you. What makes you interesting makes you valuable. And what makes you interesting is embracing your own weirdness in a sea of people afraid of being weird.
Like Edith Sittwell said, “I am not eccentric. It’s just that I am more alive than most people. I am an unpopular electric eel set in a pond of catfish.” Only you can express what you know. Embracing your own weirdness gives you the courage to express yourself. And your self-expression is invaluable to the community. And don’t let anybody tell you different.
2. Own Your Oddities
“Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.”
Flaunt your foibles. You’re going to make plenty of mistakes. In fact, if you’re not making plenty of mistakes then you’re not pushing yourself hard enough. Push yourself hard enough. Fail. Fail fast. Then pick yourself up off the floor and learn from your failure. Flaunt your faults. Show off your shortcomings. Get it out there. That way it’s no longer a hurdle for you. It’s not inside you tripping you up anymore.
It’s out there being pointed and laughed at. So what? Laugh and point along with them. If you can’t poke fun at yourself then you have no right to poke fun at all. The strange ways you go about failing and flaunting your failure will be a stepping stone for future versions of yourself, while also setting a damn good example for others. Make mistakes, learn from them, and then become wise.
3. Embrace the Weirdness of Others
“The old ways are dead. And you need people around you who concur. That means hanging out more with the creative people, the freaks, the real visionaries, than you’re already doing. Thinking more about what their needs are, and responding accordingly. Avoid the dullards; avoid the folk who play it safe. They can’t help you anymore. Their stability model no longer offers that much stability. They are extinct, they are extinction.” –Hugh MacLeod
Culture can be a suffocating thing. It’s daunting, looming over us like an invisible pseudo god with its fingers in everyone’s pie. But there are silver linings out there, beautiful flies (gadflies, butterflies) in the toxic ointment, catalyzing everything around them, and they take the form of other eccentric, creative, visionary people. They’re a wonderful shock to an unhealthy culture, slapping the face of that pseudo god and knocking it off of its pretentious high horse.
They poke holes in the hollow narratives of the Powers-that-be, revealing that the wizard is no wizard at all. He’s just a withered, old, insecure man behind a false curtain. Indeed, embracing the weirdness of others is a surefire way to evolve past the rampant devolution of the current unhealthy cultural paradigm, exactly because doing so requires empathy in an otherwise uncompassionate collective, solidarity in an otherwise discordant system, and reveals that not even so-called authority and power is outside the realm of transparency and interrogation.
4. Be Perfectly Imperfect
“Imperfections are not inadequacies; they are reminders that we’re all in this together.”
Nobody is perfect, especially not you. Let perfection go. Embrace your being imperfect. We’re all our own worst critic, but we’re also our own worst cheering section. They are two sides of the same warped coin. They are opposite ends of the spectrum known as the human condition. It’s between these two, right smack in the middle of our weirdness, where the most authentic version of ourselves flourish.
We are never as interesting as when we’re dancing a jig between our notions of perfection and imperfection. So kick up some dust. Blur the mirror. Accept that you are never going to be perfect, while at the same time striving to be the most perfect version of yourself possible. If you fail, so what, at the end of the day there’s always a pint of don’t-take-yourself-too-seriously with a shot of humor on the side. And your circus monkeys will always be around to cheer you up. Cheers!