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Peculiar People

January 10, 2016

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There are many unusual celebratory days in January (Fruitcake Toss Day, Bean Day, Houseplant Appreciation Day, Blame Someone Else Day, Penguin Awareness Day, and Measure Your Feet Day to name a few), but my favorite has always been today, Peculiar People Day.

The most interesting people I know, have known, or know about certainly fall into this category. This is not in any way a derogatory assessment in my view. After all, just what does “peculiar” mean?

Various dictionaries offer the following synonyms: unusual, eccentric, odd, curious. I, for one, do not consider those adjectives to necessarily be problematic. Being someone who departs from the ordinary is, after all, so often considered to be a good thing.

Think about it. Some of the icons of our society who are most revered are, well, peculiar. Unusual. Eccentric. Odd. The list is both long and varied, populated by individuals in all walks of life, people such as Leonardo da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin, Oscar Wilde, Salvador Dali, Albert Einstein, Bjork, and Elon Musk. They share certain common characteristics like being creative, intelligent, intensely curious, and most of all nonconformist. Often we love them, sometimes we may not, but in either case, they are hard to ignore.

Why then are so many made to suffer for their peculiarities? It is ironic that in a country that purports to be the champion of individual freedom and respect for others that such a high premium is placed on conformity. Those amongst us who are different either by nature or by choice provide the diversity which most, in theory, accept as desirable. In practice, however, too often it is scorn and mockery that is their reward.

So perhaps this day might be the impetus to reconsider your thoughts about all the peculiar people in our midst. Maybe you will find something peculiar about yourself if you look hard enough. Even if you can’t, it might be time to acknowledge and appreciate your quirkier friends, acquaintances, coworkers, or family members. That is, of course, if they’re not off somewhere celebrating Measure Your Feet Day.

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