My friend Jane Kellner emails a quote to everyone on her contact list almost every day. She calls it Daily Zen. I save my favorites in a file, and have used them, on occasion, in past blog posts. Yesterday she sent what may be the best quote in the history of Daily Zen, from writer Christopher Morley. It goes like this:
“Read, every day, something no one else is reading. Think, every day, something no one else is thinking. Do, every day, something no one else would be silly enough to do. It is bad for the mind to continually be part of unanimity.”
Is that brilliant, or what? As life learners, we’ve got the third part part firmly in our grasp. Although most people think we’re crazy, not silly. Or if not crazy, at the very least grossly misguided.
Think something no one else is thinking? Perhaps a little more difficult. Sometimes I play devil’s advocate with myself and ask ‘what if everything I believe is wrong?’ It’s a good exercise, and though I don’t know if I could say no one else ever thinks that, I would guess not many people do. Try it with kids and watch their minds go to work.
Read something no one else is reading? Again, if no one was reading it then it wouldn’t be in print, but Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States is subversive enough to qualify. Or maybe John Gatto’s The Underground History of American Education. Or, if you want to go a different route, pick up Herodotus’ The Histories, just for fun. Or proudly walk around reading The Little Princess or Stuart Little or any other children’s classic. (This only counts if you are an adult.)
But my favorite sentence in this quote is the last. “It is bad for the mind to continually be part of unanimity.” If no one ever went against the grain, our country would never have been founded, most major inventions would never have been created and we might all still believe the world is flat. There is a great movie (well, as movies go, critically speaking it is not great, but the story makes up for it) called “Agora” which is a historical drama set in Roman Egypt. It brilliantly illustrates what happens to the mind when a sort of mob mentality – unanimity- takes over. You can get it through Netflix.
So, as the people at Apple said a while back, “Think Different”. And read and live different, while you’re at it. It’s so much more fun.
And thanks, Jane, for the many years of Daily Zen.