Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The Over & Under Worlds

by Skald

Tim Leary, in typical pithy fashion, wrote that there are always two societies in any country or culture: the "cop outs" and the "drop outs". He also called these two the overworld and the underworld.

The cop outs are the established "game system". They make rules and are always in search of order, control, and stability. The cop outs dont like change. Most upstanding good citizens fall into this category. This group, according to Leary, has always existed in human society and probably always will.

The drop outs are the deviants, the rebels, the malcontents, the "fast mutators", the mystics, the innovators. Drop outs subvert, change, and or break the rules. They search for freedom, chaos, growth, and evolution. They are constantly trying to push the bigger system to another level. According to Leary, this group has likewise existed throughout human history, and probably always will.

Clearly, Leary was a drop out. But what I love is his recognition that both groups are necessary for the wider ecological human system. Im a drop out too... but I can appreciate that a bit of stability is necessary. Most humans simply cannot handle non-stop change. They need a breather. They need some islands in the storm. Even drop outs need this, though considerably less than the cop outs.

On the other hand, the conformist society absolutely needs the drop outs too. Drop outs drive the evolution of the species. The fast mutators keep all of us fit and adaptable. Drop outs push us onward, destroy disfunctioning systems, and make life a lot more fun.

Its good to accept this dynamic. Its easy for deviants to get snared by uncontrolled anger. They rail against the system... and descend into bitterness when change does not happen fast enough (or at all). Ive known a few people like this and they are a sad sight.

I think Leary presents a much healthier model for drop outs. To his death (indeed, including the process of his dying), Leary continued to challenge the system. He was bold, audacious, and irreverant. But he always maintained a sense of humor. When he said, "screw you" to the system,... he always did so with a wink and a grin. Leary radiated happiness, compassion, and humor (The guy even developed a quasi friendship with G. Gordan Liddy for goddsake)!!

As I move on from my own brush with the "cop outs"... I try to remember Leary and hope I can maintain his same sense of optimism and compassion.

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