Forget Safety. Live where you fear to live. Destroy your reputation. Be notorious. – Rumi
Reading this the other night, I felt a massive weight lift from my shoulders. Here we are entering the New Year, starting the yearly bout of Mercury Retrograde and I am feeling the tug-of-war feeling I get every year at this time.
I am acutely aware of all that I am not, all the ways I fail to fit in, be liked, look good and succeed, and again this year, like all years, I have a faint sense of disappointment in myself for falling short of my cultures vision for success.
This year’s angst started when my husband and I took our 3 year old and her friend to the local science museum. It cost us $24 just to enter and negotiate a pseudo realm of plastic and maze of gadgets, detached explanations and other educational periphenalia. It didn’t take long before I was feeling slightly depressed, anxious, and somewhat listless. We forced ourselves to stay for at least an hour and finally fled.
So, what does this have to do with being notorious?
Well, after leaving I felt a similar relief that I feel now as I read this Rumi quote. Many years ago I read a book by Morris Berman called The Twilight of American Culture. His main thesis is that we are living in a cultural twilight.
He names these few, New Monastic Individuals, and says that if what you are doing is popular, or making a million dollars then you are selling out. New Monastic Individuals are quiet and unassuming, they are simple yet passionately doing the painstaking work of preserving true culture.
Looking good, being famous, measuring up, succeeding….
These are the things our current cultural establishment is designed to encourage. According to Berman, these traps must be left behind if one is to try their hand at true cultural preservation, and so today, as we step into the new year, I am reflecting on Rumi, and opting for an open mind, a measure of meekness, and a healthy dose of notoriety.
This New Year, I resolve to take another step away from popular culture into the perhaps not-so-popular realm of living in the place I fear to live.