The world is dazzling,
I alone am dull.
Others strive for achievement,
I follow a lonely path.

Followers of Tao are nonconformists. The conventional label our behavior erratic, antisocial, irresponsible, inexplicable, outrageous, and sometimes scandalous. We hear other voices, respond to inner urgings. We have no interest in the social norm; we only care about following Tao. It does not matter if no one can understand us, for we are nurtured by something most people do not sense. Awakening to this inner urge, and distinguishing spiritual impulses from the merely instinctual, is one of the crucial goals of self-cultivation.

We all have many voices, personalities, ambitions, and tendencies within ourselves. The ability to distinguish between them, and the ability to silence all the voices save for Tao’s, is imperative if one is to reach this state of being. Once one is in touch with the true Tao, there are no doubts, and the murmuring of others cannot have any effect. One is as comforted as a child at its mother’s breast.

The more one walks in Tao, the more one is interested in self-perfection. All that matters is constant cultivation to be with Tao. This is a lonely path. There are others who follow Tao, but it is not always possible to meet them. That is why is takes someone both sensitive enough to hear the call and strong enough to walk the solitary path.

Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Tao

Whoso would be a man, must be a nonconformist. He who would gather immortal palms must not be hindered by the name of goodness. Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. Absolve you to yourself and you shall have the sufferage of the world.

For nonconformity the world whips you with its displeasure.

It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after one’s own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Once in a while it really hits people that they don’t have to experience the world in the way they have been told to.

— Alan Keightley

I guess I’m pretty much a nonconformist. I don’t always do this because I’m listening to the Tao, though. I have done a lot of things due to following those other voices in my head. Tao helps me to silence a lot of them, though. I’ve never really paid much attention to what others think about me, but when it’s someone whose opinion matters to me and they pull away their support for me, that has hurt, a lot. I’ve learned to let go of those hurts, but the scars are still there and tend to keep me from getting close to people and trusting other people sometimes.

I’m not nonconformist to be different. I just grew up in an age of questioning authority and the norms, and it stuck. It’s not a case of “I want to be different, just like all my friends!” I’ve just learned to enjoy people who are different, who think for themselves and can make their own decisions about what works in their lives. I find them more interesting, and more honest than those who try to hide what actually happens in their marriage or in their lives for fear of being out of the norm.

So the Tao works for me. Not because I hear a call, or am strong, but because it makes sense to me. It gives me ideas to think about that help me organize my life a little more clearly, and doesn’t have a God I must believe in or a strict set of rules I need to follow. Tao just is, and is in everything. And I just am, and am into everything.