Be The Outsider

Years ago I engaged in a long usenet discussion with another gentleman on immigration, life in the third world, etc. After some back-and-forths, the gentleman proposed a scenario:

What would happen if the two of us were dropped, naked and with absolutely no way of calling for help, into the poorest and most desperate spot in India?

Would we stay there, living the rest of our lives as the locals do? And if not, why should we be able to extract ourselves while they could not?

We decided, quite quickly, that the first day or days would be unpleasant, but that we’d make our ways out of the situation in short order. The question then became, “What was it that would empower our self-extraction?”

More discussions ensued but it wasn’t hard to see that is wasn’t our better education that would ultimately stand behind it. In the end, we agreed that it came down to two things:

  1. We believed that we could and should live better than that.
  2. We had zero belief that this situation was in any way “ours.”

After still more reflection it became clear to me that #2 was the crucial point, and that believing we could do better would follow it closely, based merely upon self-reference.

That is, once you believe that, “I am in no way beholden to this situation,” believing that you can do better follows naturally.

Kirk, Spock And The Bible

Outsider images come from various sources, but one of the most widely recognizable, and one of my favorites for decades, has been Kirk and Spock, from the original Star Trek series.

When Kirk and Spock beamed down to an Earth-like planet (as they did fairly often), they displayed the outsider mindset: They were considerate of the people they found on these planets, but were perfectly clear that the rules they lived by were retrograde at best. That the locals took them seriously was an unfortunate relic of their ignorant past.

And very interestingly, we see precisely the same sentiment in the New Testament, coming from Saul of Tarsus (aka, Saint Paul). In about 54 AD, he wrote this to a small group of proto-Christians:

I (we) use this world while not abusing it.

That is the same as Kirk and Spock’s view, and it is a consummate outsider view, as well as a highly productive view. And notice that this viewpoint does not drive people to political solutions, and in fact drove Paul’s readers to separate from such things. “We are not of this world,” they would say… just as my correspondent and I would be saying in our “most desperate India” scenario.

Where The Cool Things Happen

Please believe me that the coolest things happen outside, and not within the hierarchies of the status quo. Trudging along in the middle of the crowd is a recipe for a boring life. (That includes getting drunk with the crowd, going on political rants your parents will hate, and other forms of merely reactionary rebellion.)

Outside is where personal computers came from. It’s where the Internet came from. It’s where Bitcoin came from. It’s also where Abraham, Jesus, Tesla, Einstein and a dozen other crucial people came from. Nearly everything cool comes from outside.

Inside is where cool things are corrupted, ultimately either fading away or being turned into tools of conformity and abuse.

Those of us who have seriously separated from the world in some significant way know the liberation that came from it. Those who have not should give it some thought.


Paul Rosenberg