Weird Is Not Unique

In the beginning, my mother cut my hair.

Finally, I turned seven years old.  It was 1962.

My mother, my father, and I stood in the kitchen, my mother gently running her fingers through my hair.  She looked at my father and said, "Joseph, I think it's time, and I'm pretty sure our little man here doesn't want another buzz cut from me."

Enjoying the moment, he teased, "I don't know, Grace.  Do you really think he's ready?"

My redheaded, freckle-faced, wide-eyed grin ping-ponged between them.  After what seemed forever, my father smiled and put his arm around my shoulders, and we headed for the door.  My father taking me for my first real haircut at the barbershop – culture reflected in our family traditions – a special moment.

Today, parents spend lots of time telling their kids how special they are, and the rest of us spend lots of time telling adults the same thing.  Despite the fact that each of us is so very special, there are over 300 million people in the U.S.  How many special ways can hair be cut, shaved, braided, colored, bleached, teased, curled, straightened, or permed?

Years ago, we ran out of special and moved to different.  Then we ran out of different and had nowhere to go but weird, then weirder, and finally weirdest.

I've given up.  Now I just cut my own.

A few years after my first trip to the barbershop, the counterculture of the '60s challenged many things, including the need for barbershops.  A common thread that wove through much of what they protested was that they should not be judged, but be free to "do their own thing."

It started with simple things like hair and clothes.  "Dressing up" was out; "dressing down" was in.  Funny that for those who insisted that the way we look doesn't matter, the way they looked mattered so much.  The non-conformists were all too easy to spot.

Fifty years later, it's neither simple nor funny anymore.  Nuances, such as to degrade the meaning of special to nothing more than a synonym for different, grew into monstrously destructive changes.

The sirens' call that we are special because we are different assaults us even as it programs us – at the grocery store checkout, in print, online, across the airwaves, and at the movies.  But dismissing what connects us – that which shows us how we are the same – and in its place shouting out what makes us unlike anyone else serves only to identify, emphasize, and magnify that which separates us from each other – a culture-killing recipe.

Across all of history, the greatest heroes were those defined not by how different they were from everyone else, but rather by how much they were willing to sacrifice for everyone else.

The society that blurs the line between different and special makes weird the same as unique, and a culture that rejects limits, definitions, and standards surrenders the ability to identify right, much less choose it over wrong. 

Something else happened along the way.  Instead of seeing our individuality as the natural expression of who we are, it became the focus, the purpose of who we are.

Individuality, an indispensable gift to the greater whole of which we are part, enables us to contribute to and to share in the gifts of society.  Everyone wins.

Our self-obsessed Culture of One seeks destruction of the standards that define the whole, and the chaos of "no rules" births anarchists who fill the vacuum with a tyrannical minority that preys on a self-absorbed and apathetic majority.

This myopic fixation on "the one" excludes the unifying oneness of the greater whole.  It sacrifices the greater good for the wants of the self.  The multitude that is the foundation of society is thus set adrift, abandoned...culture conquered from within.  Everyone loses.

Freedom and individuality are two of the necessary and beautiful spokes in the wheel of humanity.  But make one spoke longer than the others, and the wheel wobbles.  Discard all the spokes but the one that says "I am special," and the wheel collapses.  No growth, no movement, no wheel.

When the drum plays so loudly that no other instrument is heard, it's not freedom won; it's the symphony lost.

Fifty years of believing there is no moral authority greater than Self brought the All-about-Me generations to their ultimate destination: the godless religion of secularism.  Filled with the sins of man but void of the saving grace of God, its priests thunder its pagan hollowness across the nations.

Our secularist culture demands that none of us judge, even while it asserts that each is his own judge.  Shakespeare's line, "To thine own self be true," resonates with us.  However, true to ourselves limits us to who we are and robs us of becoming more.

Shakespeare, arguably the ultimate source for theater, is not the source of ultimate Truth.

Logically, a standard of measure must necessarily exist outside of that which is to be measured.  Secularism's focus on self delivers the elimination not of judgment, but rather of any discernible standard against which we might be fairly judged – not judgment gone, but judgment gone wrong.

The language that speaks the truths that define America rose out of Judeo-Christian concepts millennia old.  This foundational belief in God of the Founding Fathers demanded they treat His creation, from the least of all mankind to the animal kingdom and the earth itself, with a divine respect never before instilled in government.

Good stuff.  In fact, great stuff.  And yet, under attack.

Secularism imposes upon us an ever changing multitude of gods based on Self.  But the gods of this modern pantheon are defined by, and therefore limited to, the all too obvious frailties of the human condition.  We are oppressed by arbitrary, undefined, mutable sources – not a country of laws, but of the current holders of office.  It reduces us from the beloved children of the God Who created the heavens and the earth to not just children of a lesser god, but to children not of any god at all...but only of our parents.

The truths that America holds to be self-evident are the Truths with which we were endowed by our Creator.  To deny the source is to invalidate the Truths.

Over 50 years ago, John F. Kennedy said: "Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country."  We are special not in what we deserve, but in what we are willing to give.

Moments later, the final words of that extraordinary inauguration speech went beyond mere politics.  As he called us to the standard by which all creation is judged, JFK affirmed the common bond in which our individuality is fully expressed, even as our unity is ultimately assured.  He said, "Let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God's work must truly be our own."

Mike Kirkwood has authored a collection of short works, What If..., and a novel, Fathers.  Both are available at

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