Fostering Divergence

What do I mean when I say “divergence”?

The most basic of dictionary entries on divergence states it as simply “separating”, “changing”, “transforming into another state”, and even “having a difference of opinion, thought, or behavior in relation to something.”

The concept of divergence in people has been a pervading paradigm for centuries. It has inspired ancient sagas, mythic heroes, books, world-changing inventions, and even movies and other media. Think about it this way: Any time someone chooses something different than the norm or defies expectations in some way, they are divergent. Any time someone thinks or behaves differently than a majority, they are divergent. Any time someone pursues something beyond what is mainstream, they are divergent.

Some people are wired for divergence from birth, not by choice. More specifically, the neurodivergence of the brain which manifests as the autism spectrum, the ADHD spectrum, dyslexia, and other neurological presentations. These expressions of divergence are NOT conditions to be cured or problems to be solved. Read That Again. They are just divergent, which is a way of simply stating that they are wired differently and are still worthy of respect, compassion and support, not ridicule and forced conformity for the comfort of the neurotypical. However, before I go into a rant, I’ll save my thoughts on that particular subject for another post.

Divergence by choice, however, doesn’t come naturally to most people. The average human is hardwired biologically and culturally (nature vs nurture) to follow the crowd for safety/security and for a sense of belonging. How many people notice the barrage of influences on a daily basis pressing in from all side towards a level of conformity? From wanting to influence the way someone votes and perceives politics or government, what they eat, how they dress or behave, how they express themselves, what they believe about mental health or money, where they live, who they get into a relationship with, to education and profession. The list goes on indefinitely.

Now, think about subcultures and fringe cultures that rise up in opposition to the influences or demands of conformity across mainstream or long established cultures and societies. Subcultures are a form a divergence, often labelled something else: deviance. True, that not all divergence is of a positive nature, but the very act of being divergent in itself is not “bad” and is not something to punish or discourage.

There’s usually a valid reason.

Human beings as we have come to know and define them became so because they were divergent and took a different evolutionary path than primordial ancestors. It can be argued that divergence and novelty is in our DNA, not conformity, and was overruled by the thousands of years of struggle to survive the wilds of nature that dominated before cities and civilization. That’s no longer the case. Sure, culturally we’ve grown up to converge into groups and conform for the sake of peace and proliferation of our species. Yet, that momentum of the group think now works against the progress of better ways, innovative solutions, and sustainable populations. We do have the capacity to evolve beyond this, collectively.

It’s now a matter of choice.

Divergent people tend to move in the opposite direction of crowds (aka mobs) and mainstream behaviors. Often time drawn to blazing their own trails into uncharted territories; sometimes of their own making, and sometimes into new frontiers of science, medicine, arts and other creative medias, entrepreneurship, or explorations in the depths of the oceans and the vastness of space.

Divergence at it’s core is creativity and the willingness to make mistakes, get messy, learn, be original. Divergence is courageous, to be different in the face of possible adversity from peers, to test themselves and question everything. It requires of level of self-awareness, honesty and integrity to a code that is all to one’s own. Guided by an internal compass of morality and strong ethics, not dictated by books, religions, cultures, governments or other people. It is fueled by passions and curiosities, gifted with fluidity and adaptability.

Personally, I see divergence as the basis of innovation, transformation, and progress. I choose to celebrate fellow divergent people as the creative, intuitive, differentiated, independent, and individualistic whole human beings that they truly are. Celebrating divergence is honouring what makes us human, what makes us unique. Acknowledging what differentiates each individual ironically can valid us, make us feel seen/heard, and bring us together with more empathy, compassion and cohesion than conformity ever could.

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