The Art of Zigging While Everyone is Zagging

“Doing as others told me, I was blind. Coming when others called me, I was lost. Then I left everyone, including myself. Then I found everyone, including myself.” ~ Rumi

In a world where everyone is zagging and waiting for everyone else to have the courage to zig, there must come a point where someone gains the courage to break rank. 

This article is about how to cultivate such courage. More importantly, it’s about trusting the process of courage by transcending discomfort and then becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable. 

As Joseph Campbell wisely surmised, “The modern hero must not wait for his community to cast off its slough of pride, fear, rationalized avarice, and sanctified misunderstanding. ‘Live,’ Nietzsche says, ‘as though the day were here.’” 

Indeed. He goes on further to say, “It is not society that is to guide and save the creative hero, but precisely the reverse. And so every one of us shares the supreme ordeal––carries the cross of the redeemer.”

And so the art of zigging while everyone is zagging is born…

Don’t just take the road less traveled, create it: 

“I can do nothing for you but work on myself. You can do nothing for me but work on yourself.” ~ Ram Dass

Trailblaze the maze. Create worlds between worlds. True creativity never comes from “business as usual.” Don’t be obvious. Be Contrarian. Rise above the status quo and transform bureaucracy into autonomy. 

Contrarians do not have ‘a way.’ But if they did, it would be the Middle Way: the bending, zigzagging, perpetual crossroads touching all paths and none. This is the path that you are free to create. 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. 

Being contrary will keep you open to all paths, even as you’re creating your own. This will keep you free and curious. You’ll be ahead of the curve; “the curve” being the petty drama of the road most traveled. You’ll be flying by the seat of your pants, but at least you’ll be less likely to fall victim to the delusions and extremisms of the herd. 

Instead, you are free to blaze the trail of change, going full-frontal boss-mode into a unique way of being human in the world.

Give yourself the latitude to make mistakes: 

“To be a good human being is to have a kind of openness to the world, an ability to trust uncertain things.” ~ Martha Nussbaum

The ability to trust uncertain things is the hallmark of zigging while everyone else is zagging. While everyone else is clinging to the known, walls up, fortified in their comfort zone, you are taking leaps of courage out of faith and into fortitude. You’re busy bridging gaps, squaring circles, and spinning theories. While everyone else is squabbling over borders, laws, permissions, and limitations, you’re out there transforming boundaries into horizons. 

You realize that the only certainty is uncertainty. The only absolute is that there are no absolutes. The only answer is to question. The only real mistake is not to have the courage to make mistakes.

That’s why you’re out there testing uncertain waters, meddling with a full-mettle-jacket on, making glorious mistakes. That’s why you’re out there reconditioning cultural conditioning, reimagining imagination, and reinventing God.

Life is too short not to leave some things to chance. Fate is more of a factor than most people can imagine. And so you keep fate on a short leash, close to your chest. You practice the ability to embrace paradox and to hold the tension between opposites. You learn how to live with uncertainty. Everything else is a delusion at best, a deception at worst. Curiosity will be your guide through the screw tape.

Don’t gravitate, aggregate:

“To be human is necessarily to be a vulnerable risk-taker; to be a courageous human is to be good at it.” ~ Jonathan Lear

Don’t settle, meddle. Better yet, have mettle. Strict scripts kill creative progress. Choose risk-taking over script-making. Choose uncomfortable courage over comfortable timidness. Take risks. Turn tables. Flip scripts. Push envelopes.

In a world on fire, choosing indifference is tantamount to cowardice. Don’t be a moth gravitated to the wasteland. Be fire instead. Fire plus fire equals greater fire. And the fierceness of your fire might even have the power to discover water. Ironically, it will take the courage of fire to bring water to the wasteland. 

As Stephanie Sparkles wittily observed, “I love when people that have been through hell walk out of the flames carrying buckets of water for those still consumed by the fire.” Yes indeed!

While everyone else is living it up as a zagging moth gravitating to the wasteland (of which it’s not even aware) you’ll be out there zigging in fiery displays of courage. Absorbing what’s useful and displacing what’s not. Subsuming cosmos and using it to transcend the ego. Unlearning what you’ve learned, so you can relearn how to learn. 

Absorbing what is useful is absorbing what is healthy. The path becomes clear. You’re free to question with a good conscience. You become undeceived. In a state of undeception, you are free to wield the question mark sword—the Sword of Truth—and to use it in a way that distinguishes what’s healthy from what’s not.

By aggregating rather than gravitating, you become a beacon of hidden truths. A hot magnet. A mercurial middleman between cosmos and psyche. You emit a gravity all your own, and people are forced to come correct or be crushed by your vitality.

Choose improvisation over tradition: 

“A man’s reach should exceed his grasp.” ~ Robert Browning

Point the way; pilot the way; pivot away; repeat.

While everyone else is wallowing in the impoverishment of tradition, it is incumbent upon you to be out there improvising toward progress. The healthy evolution of the species hinges upon it. 

When you point the way, some may follow, but most will not. But you cannot force them to be courageous. You can only show them courage. Which is why the next step is so crucial. You must also pilot the way. Show your courage by flying out of tradition and into uncertain improvisation. And then, the most crucial step of all: pivot. 

You must pivot lest you become stuck in a new tradition. You pivot to prevent the construction of stifling comfort zones. You pivot to thwart closemindedness, hardheartedness, and brittleness. You pivot so that you may remain flexible, adaptable, and antifragile. 

If, as Joseph Campbell said, “not everyone has a destiny; only the hero who has plunged to touch it, and has come up again—with a ring,” then it stands to reason that in order to keep your destiny open and free, you must, in the final analysis, have the wherewithal to question even the “ring” itself. 

Otherwise, your destiny becomes stagnant. The “answers” you’ve found become prison bars. You become stuck, entrenched in believing you’ve “made it” or that you’ve “become enlightened” or that your “way” is the only way. In short: you become dogmatic. You have neglected to “kill the Buddha on the path,” and now you’re blinded by the light.

As Nietzsche’s Zarathustra puts it: “And this secret Life itself spoke to me: “Behold,” it said, “I am that which must always overcome itself.”

So it is imperative to always see the way through “the way.” It is vital that you maintain the capacity to pierce the veil. Even if that means that you must become a beacon of darkness in the blinding light

See the way, guide the way, then change the way. Do this again and again, in improvisational humor despite tradition, and the secrets of the universe will not elude you. 

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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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