Who doesn’t have the image of the greatest mind of our century resembling a crazed man who wears his hair like his finger was stuck in an electrical power outlet. What an impact that would have had on the demure and dignified scientific community of the early 20th century and how difficult it would have been for many to take him seriously. And yet he wasn’t taken seriously and his theories were dismissed for many years because of his over zealous eccentricity!
The value of the eccentric is obvious in the world when new ideas and theories are needed to break the cycle and advance our ways of operating, our modes of thought, our concepts of what is acceptable, of our limits and our capacities. In history the great changers of theory were all dismissed and discredited for their ideas. When everyone railed against them, these people persisted with their theories and concepts because there was an innate and driving passion that they were on the right path.
Copernicus and his heliocentric theory was discredited by the Catholic Church for his theories of placing the sun at the centre of the spherical planetary system and not the earth. Galileo was summarily placed under house arrest for the last 8 years of his life for defending this theory and advancing the notion that the sun was the centre of the planets and the alignment of the worlds. Aristotle’s theories on logic, metaphysics and metaphysiology have consistently come under fire and been hotly debated over history to include the 20th century where emminent theologians still refute and subject his work to constant criticism and theoretical analysis centuries later. Hypatia in the Hellenistic period of ancient Egypt and her work on conical mathematics were doggedly opposed by the establishment and resulted in her brutal death on the streets of Alexandria. Then later comes Newton’s theory on Universal Gravitation and Einstein’s Theory of Relativity who both faced consistent opposition to their theories on physics and motion but were determined in their approaches and convictions. All these great minds had to overcome opposition and doctrine to prove their worth and their theoretical ideologies to eventually change the way the world viewed itself.
When we encounter ‘eccentric’ minds we can find them quite difficult to relate to. Bombastic, crazed and ‘less ordinary’ people are difficult to tolerate at first and it is only upon out inkling to listen and perhaps entertain the idea of the less understood approach that we can even begin to connect with the genius that sometimes lies before us. It is hard work to meet someone when they are on a level that is not your own - not below or above - just not the same.
Eccentric behaviour is classified in part by a few known and considered factors. The eccentric person is not someone that is normal. Their mind is beyond the normal paradigms of their contemporaries owing to the uniquely individual nature of their advanced thought or understanding. “a mind so original that it cannot be conformed to societal norms”. Eccentricity is not maladaptive, in that it is not more harmful than helpful. An eccentric seeks to operate and solve certain problems outside of the normal considered process’ of the normal person. Some might say an innocent pride in that "they are entirely unafraid of and uninfluenced by the opinions and vagaries of the crowd".
The Eccentric Genius usually has some common traits:
enduring non conformity
strongly motivated by an exceedingly powerful curiosity
an enduring feeling of being ‘different’
idealistic or driven by an idealism of advancing the world
These people are not easy to tolerate in a social setting. They are unaffected by perceived niceties and norms of behaviour. Stupidity is dismissed for what it is without a second thought. It’s the Sherlock Holmes syndrome, where everyone seems blind to what is completely obvious and analytical if you have the power to perceive it. Being able to tolerate someone who doesn’t necessarily operate on societal norms is a little difficult but if you can see past the enduring quirks and idiosyncracies of their nature, then the genius lies in wait. Recognising this for what it is worth is one of the advantages of understanding the eccentric. They are operating at a level that is far beyond normal capacities and their theories are so beyond comprehension because they do literlaly think outside the box. They merely try to prove their theory actually exists or is plausible and they can do so spectacularly well.
We need the great thinkers and creators to be the people who dare to step out beyond the societal norms and the accepted doctrines to continually challenge us to accept why we subscribe to the thoughts that we accept. That this is indeed ‘the way things are done’ or the why’s and wherefores… these minds challenge us to entertain what is not perceived as possible. They are the ones to create what has not come before and what can be. Without their insistence and conviction we might be forever stuck on a time continuim that does not move anywhere let alone forward. Proving it can take a lifetime, defending it can take centuries and then long after you are forgotten, others may be debating the validity of what you proposed. One can only hope that if we have original thoughts that are truly groundbreaking, that others are able to take up the gauntlet and eventually prove our opinions are correct or have something to contribute to the greater good. And how richer we are for these sorts of people.