I am a little weird.
I’ve been thinking about weirdness the last few weeks because, in the Christian season of Advent, John the Baptist has appeared. Every year he comes to haunt us with his strangeness—his animal skins for clothing, his grasshoppers for food, his cave for a home, his “repent” for a message. John the Baptist is weird. And his power is inherent in his off-the-beamness. The crowds follow him out of the soft city into the harsh wilderness to hear his preaching because the conventional sermons they’ve been hearing in the temple do not move them.
All the regular, “normal” people who come to run him off seem like fearful children in the face of one man who actually believes something, whether or not it accords with current sensibilities. John would have agreed with Jidda Krishnamurti who said, “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” John knew a very simple truth: that life is found in God and that all of us have wandered from that pure Source. His message is equally simply: turn around, fall back into the center and Source, and do it now, don’t wait another moment.
It could be that John used to wear crisp suits, have sushi for lunch and live in the penthouse, but then decided one day to be “different.” But I doubt it. I think John was always a little bit weird. And the reason he became a saint, an icon is that he claimed his own oddness, his fierce love for the truth.
The message of Advent and John that I’ve been hearing the last two weeks is the power of claiming one’s own weirdness. There is something of the Baptist in every one of us (which is why he both offends and fascinates us). We all have a gut sense of what the truth is, where our Source lies, what brings us happiness, and what brings healing and joy to the world. But we cannot trust that gut sense against the prevailing messages that assail us in the world, the drumbeat of selfishness, materialism, security, tribalism and violence. All the cool kids seem happy to dance to that beat. We don’t want to look weird.
Then John comes along and we feel a strange kinship. In the great philosopher’s words, “we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall in mutual weirdness and call it love.”