Do not wear unearned colors. Do not fly a flag unless you fight beneath it. Do not cut yourself to see red freely when your enemy ought have to sweat for it – and everywhere there is no real threat there is the masochism of imagined heroes. Let the imagery of your identity be as pedals of a flower: do not expect them to maintain life without roots, and rather plant the seed before you don the blossom.
In the age of individuality, everyone is eccentric. Reservedness is worn by mannequins in main-street windows. Passers-by rejoice at who among their peers the dress personifies – but every personality is already a costume. They pile atop each other in unwashed mountains, and to fling the one and then the next aside, aside, aside, reveals the blank slate of a floor, or a body. And what do arms do when unwelcome flesh is exposed? They cover. Yet even shyness is a front: it screams, “Attention!”
Eccentricity exists because the self cannot contain the center – or as a signal which belies it. In war, you will be shot – in peace, you tattoo bullet wounds. In war, you create nations – in peace, you march against them. In war, mistakes cost human life – in peace, mistakes are opportunities, mistakes are framed in picture albums for posterity; a sort of, “Look how far we’ve come!” for a future never in doubt. Mistakes are part of the process and the process is yours.
The false signal appears as a heart on a sleeve while the true eccentric does not wear his heart, but is overcome by it. When words and thought and action cannot keep love still, it does not erupt, but oozes forth and conquers all it touches. Be wary of affection that explodes: it seeks catching you off guard, or soon returns to hibernate, or furthers its radius without caution, or exudes its energy entirely in new directions – which is to say it feigns, exhausts, obsesses, or moves on. And are not these elements everywhere? And on every sleeve?
Signals are concerned with outcome, with reception. Those rewarded too cheaply are offered the same. Integrity is not required except where those who dig dig deep – and nowhere is there a man who requires integrity of himself, whether or not he can get away with it. Because you can always get away with it. The privileged life is one long farce without a punchline.
Like a child sniffling under covers, twice protected from the truth, until his parents keep him home from school, the intellectual bears every symptom of struggle, every scar of intent, but without sickness. The image is false and, yet, convincing, because the image is only a representation but we have let the image become the thing. Thus, everywhere you see soldiers – not of causes, or of futures, or of human interests – but wearing those identities in the name of self; ever-reaching outwards for an audience in manners which belie their core.
And what is there to do, then, in this world of the image, but deny it? The signal cannot be trusted; nor can our eyes. Close them. And listen.