On paths less traveled I tend to make better time. From the outer edges of the crowd, the sightline is clear to a wider expanse of the horizon. As far back as memory can serve me, I’ve been comfortable with being a nonconformist. Eccentricity is as natural to my lifestyle as conformity is to another’s. To those who occupy the central villages of societal norms, I am often referred to as part of the fringe element. I’m happy being fringy. Happier than I could ever imagine being if I were here to live the role of a centrist. Domestication, and all things mundane, remind me of the Sunday suits with clip-on ties and over-tight collars that my well-meaning mom often cajoled me into wearing as a child. Is it in rebellion that I’ve become more eccentric as others have moved closer to the center? I’ve considered this possibility often and I’ve always arrived at the same conclusion. It is not rebelliousness, or any other socio-psychological reactivity, that makes me a non-conformist. It happens much closer to the root of who I am physically, spiritually and intellectually. Having learned to love myself, after too many decades of self-deprecation, I have come to understand the beauty of irregularity, and the true value of absolute self-acceptance. I embrace the unique strengths and weaknesses that come with the whole package of being me. This, in turn, makes it easier to connect with those at the very center of normality. I realize that even the most rigid conformists must deal with many of the same inner and outer struggles that I’m dealing with, and they’re regularly experiencing victories and defeats of their own. To middle-grounders, it may seem that those of us on the fringe are failing in basic ways, but that misperception is arrived at because their understanding of our lifestyle is basic, and furthermore, that understanding is based in a common, and well-worn, viewpoint. At this moment in human history, radical ideologies are becoming increasingly counter-productive to the unification of communities, societies and civilization as a whole. Those with open minds and hearts can comprehend that there are equivalent sources of positive and negative radical ideologies attempting to change the course of humanity at this moment in history. To those who occupy the middle ground, it may appear that there are far more negative radical influences within modern civilization than there are counterbalancing forces, those forces being on the positive side of radicalism. The reason for this shortsighted perspective – the worldview that being a radical is equivalent to having a negative impact on society – is that the radicals with ill-intentions are most effective in the mainstream of society. Using fear to their advantage, they keep their collective heel on the throat of humanity by infiltrating the very core of society with their warped ideals steeped in hopelessness and desperation. Fortunately, there is a counter-balancing force out here on the fringe. For the sake of this discussion, I’ll dub them the Free Radicals – these are the ones who strive to build a better future for all (including those who are not yet in existence). Free Radicals are unifiers and peacemakers, healers and problem solvers, and they act not out of greed or a lust for power, or even from a place of self-interest, instead, they are motivated and inspired by the finest qualities of humanity. They perceive, in their brothers and sisters, parents and children, something worth living and dying for. These Free Radicals think and act according to a shared value system. Their values are grounded in good will toward humanity and gratitude for the abundance life and all of life’s sustenance on the earth.
When I created the sculpture above, I failed to research the origins of the term Manifest Destiny, or to identify the negative connotations attached to the imperialistic outlook that brought this terminology into existence. In my ignorance I titled the artwork as such, thinking that it meant our ability to define and manifest our individual future lives by setting intentions that would aid in the realization of our best life stories. As I learn and grow, I uncover past missteps that I sometimes feel the need to acknowledge and correct. The term Manifest Destiny was appropriated and used in a way that is an anathema to my personal philosophy of inclusion and equality with regards to all people. Manifest Destiny originated here in the USA as justification for the colonialization of North America. They claimed that it was the European culture’s superiority over the aboriginal cultures that gave them the right claim all of the land from sea to shining sea. They committed widespread injustice and prolonged cultural atrocities all in the name of an ill-conceived western belief system. My intentions while creating the work were honorable, I was just looking at the term from a literal point of view and relying on the limited knowledge I had at the time. I stand corrected, and so does the title of this work.