7 Signs You May Be a Contrarian

“You solitaries today, you who have seceded from society, you shall one day be a people. From you, who have chosen out yourselves, shall a chosen people spring—and from this chosen people, the Overman.” ~ Nietzsche

Contrarianism is an often-misunderstood way of being human in the world. Few choose it. Most are chosen, either by fate or by destiny.

Contrarians tend to be those who get caught in the cruel spokes of the Wheel of Vicissitude, dragged through the muck and mire of unexpected change and instilled with a particular flavor of courage and resilience that causes them to become nonconformists, mavericks, outlaws, rebels, and iconoclasts.

They dare to stare into the abyss, to laugh at demons, to mock devils, and to shame gods, just to see what happens. Their insouciance knows no bounds. They are prepared to fall, and fall hard, knowing it will make them stronger, knowing that the fall is a whetstone they can sharpen their soul against. They rebel so that the human race may exist without shackles.

1.) Comfort makes you uncomfortable.


“To choose the course of honesty is to risk the sacrifice of popularity; to choose adventure is to jeopardize security.” ~ Guy Claxton

For you, security is overrated. So are safety and comfort for that matter. It’s just as well that society is addicted to these, and fearful of adventure. It gives you all the more reason to be maladjusted to the “profoundly sick society” that raised you.

But you are especially averse to too much comfort. You realize that stagnant comfort leads to complacency, malaise, laziness, ennui, nihilism, and an even longer list of anxieties. Worst of all, it propagates and exacerbates tiny comfort zones.

Better to be uncomfortable and stretching your comfort zone than comfortable and clinging to it for dear life. Better to be uncomfortably free than comfortably stuck.

Indeed. Better to choose dangerous adventure over safe routine. It’s not that you are against routine. Not at all. You are simply against any routine that leads to stagnation, laziness, or contentedness. Any routine that becomes a rut must be rerouted. Because you don’t want the journey to end.

For you, the journey truly is the thing. All things in moderation, to include comfort. You understand that living too comfortably tends to lead to living immoderately.

2.) You flip the script through sacred clowning

“The trickster is not a trickster by nature. He is a trickster by necessity.” ~ Malcom Gladwell

Whether you are a modern Heyoka or any other type of sacred clown, contrarianism is foremost within you. You have the advantage of existential masochism, the ability to make difficulty desirable and to transform setbacks into steppingstones. You strategically break rules, relishing in the freedom of having nothing to lose.

You are a reverse-engineering shaman par excellence. Blowing up crossroads. Dancing a jig over God’s grave. Laughing into the abyss. Your contrarianism bridges the gap between opposites, even as it topples thrones, kneecaps high horses, and melts down golden idols into molten puddles of “try again.”

You are a trickster god in training—always in training. One moment you are Loki twisting God’s brains into knots. The next minute you are Hermes slipping the noose. You are Anansi casting gossamer webs of doubt over the certitude of upstart culture. You are Brer rabbit mocking racism and challenging outdated politics. You are Coyote piercing tyranny with the freedom of your howl.

You are Trickster Apocalypse: anti-hero, catalyst, rebel, genius, and not even death can stop your terrible freedom from being unleashed.

3.) You nonconform to yourself

“I ask you: what are you? You don’t know; there is only ‘I don’t know.’ Always keep this don’t-know mind. When this don’t-know mind becomes clear, then you will understand. Keep don’t-know mind always and everywhere. This is the true practice of Zen.” ~ Seung Sahn Sunim

The ‘don’t-know mind’ is strong in you. Especially regarding yourself. You understand more than most that the self is masks all the way down perceiving delusions all the way up. You cannot know all the masks, just as you cannot know all of your delusions.

So as not to get stuck within any particular mask or delusion, you keep aware of your own fallibility, hypocrisy, and naivety. It keeps you open and flexible, and better able to adapt and overcome.

You are adamant about healthy self-overcoming. There is no fixed self. Who you are today must overcome who you were yesterday so that who you become tomorrow can keep the cycle of overcoming going. It keeps you ahead of the curve.

It’s self-improvement through the medium of transcendence. It’s the determination to become healthier and more robust than you were before. So that Eudaimonia, antifragility, and the Overman always remain possibilities.

4.) You would rather be courageous than good

“If you can’t get rid of the skeleton in your closet, you best teach it to dance.” ~ Andrew Marvell

The good man, the content man, wants to conserve outdated ideals, traditions, and old gods. The contrarian, the courageous man, wants to create new virtues, and new gods. Therefore, all progress depends upon the courageous man.

Thus, as a contrarian, you would rather be courageous than good. You would rather have some updated good come from your courage than remain good and recycle outdated good. As James Russell Lowell said, “Time makes ancient good uncouth.”

As such, your contrarianism is in flow with the passage of time. Change is inevitable? Very well. You will change. You will adapt and overcome. There is no permanence? So be it. You will embrace impermanence through grand displays of contrarianism.

Could some ‘new bad’ come from your courage? Sure. But contrarianism is not for the risk-averse herd. It is for those with the courage to launch themselves beyond the ‘good and evil’ of the herd and into that field where Rumi waits beyond ‘rightdoing and wrongdoing.’ There, in that field, your true contrarian colors shine, and all hope for a healthy evolution for your species holds out.

5.) You follow the No-way of the Middle Way

“In order to shake a hypothesis, it is sometimes not necessary to do anything more than push it as far as it will go.” ~ Denis Diderot

Contrarians do not have ‘a way.’ But if they did, it would be the Middle Way: the buckling, bending, zigzagging, perpetual crossroads touching all paths and none. It is the way of No-way. Free from extremes. Free from being pigeonholed, or forced to fit a mold, or coerced into fitting into a cul-de-sac of stopgap beliefs and makeshift delusions.

Most of all, No-way is entertaining a ‘way’ without accepting it. Your contrarianism keeps you open to all paths even as it is unaccepting of none. This keeps you fleetfooted and free and flying by the seat of your pants. And though you may sometimes lose your pants, at least you never fall victim to the whimsical delusions and extremisms of the herd.

Instead, you ride the wave of change over it all, with a bird’s-eye view, going full-frontal Meta, with a humor of the most high.

6.) You mock all slaves, tyrants, and gods

“Are you a slave? If so, you cannot be a friend. Are you a tyrant? If so, you cannot have friends.” ~ Nietzsche

Your persistent moderation (to include moderation) keeps you balanced on a wire over the human condition. From this height, you gain a bird’s-eye view of the big picture. You see the interconnectedness of all things. Your sense of humor is cutting and sharp, fierce and free, ruthless and insouciant. It mocks all forms of extremism. Especially slavery, tyranny, and blind faith.

You mock slaves to wake them up to the level of their slavery. For they do not even know that they don’t know. Your mockery is a wakeup call. Akin to shock value art. You mock tyranny with fierce audacity and daring ruthlessness, lest a tyrant’s power become corrupt.

You do the same with authority, challenging it at every turn. To include, especially, the greatest authority of all—God. You understand that the outdated notion of God must be roasted to ashes so that the mighty phoenix of a new God might emerge. Thus, your contrarianism towards all gods keeps the concept of God fresh and new, vibrant and vital, in a kind of godly life-death-rebirth process.

7.) You would rather laugh than believe

“I would rather be ashes than dust.” ~ Jack London

At the end of the day, your contrarian high humor is your saving grace. It gives you the courage to transform fear into fuel for the fire of a life well-lived. It gives you existential resilience. Without even blinking an eye, you dance with your demons, laugh into abysses, skip through Dark Nights of the Soul with bells on, and mischievously swap the devil’s heart out with God’s.

Your laughter is a mighty howl in a dwarfing cosmos. It’s a sword through the Achilles’ Heel of boredom and nihilism. It’s doubled-edged, making the gamble of life all the more exciting. For you realize—balls to bones, ovaries to marrow—that even unwanted adventure is better than no adventure at all.

And while the herd-like majority stumbles through a life half-lived, with their certitudes and comforts and so-called answers, you keep your edge by laughing, and laughing often. How could you not? The only other option is to believe. And belief is the Achilles’ Heel of any contrarian.

You leave belief to the status quo junkies and comfort addicts. They believe, and the stronger they believe, the harder they become. Like stone. Like tanks with hidden but suffocating hearts. They believe, and the more they believe, the stronger their belief becomes, like a prison for the mind. Reinforced by cognitive dissonance and an all-encompassing herd instinct.

They believe. And still, you laugh—uproariously, you laugh. You laugh with so much hope and with so much heat that it becomes a fire. Your hope is that a spark of your fire will catch the flimsy and fragile kindling of their belief. Because you don’t want to be the only one who is laughing at the cosmic joke. Though you will if you have to.

Image Source

Art by Ramin Nazer

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Gary Z McGee
Gary Z McGee
Gary 'Z' McGee, a former Navy Intelligence Specialist turned philosopher, is the author of Birthday Suit of God and The Looking Glass Man. His works are inspired by the great philosophers of the ages and his wide awake view of the modern world.
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