E.E. Cummings said, “To be nobody-but-yourself-in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else-means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.”
This is a common theme throughout history; the greatest thinkers have praised originality.
This is a concept worth continuing a discussion about because the dangers of conformity are as alive as ever.
Perhaps one of the greatest manifestos on individualism is Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Self-Reliance. Indeed, in perfect union with Cummings’s philosophy is Emerson’s quote that:
Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members. Society is a joint-stock company, in which the members agree, for the better securing of his bread to each shareholder, to surrender the liberty and culture of the eater. The virtue in most request is conformity. Self-reliance is its aversion. It loves not realities and creators, but names and customs.
Here are a few other remarkable statements from that essay:
- To believe our own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, — that is genius. Speak your latent conviction, and it shall be the universal sense; for the inmost in due time becomes the outmost…
- Insist on yourself; never imitate.
- Where is the master who could have taught Shakspeare? Where is the master who could have instructed Franklin, or Washington, or Bacon, or Newton? Every great man is a unique.
For more quotes and their meanings, see this link.