SPIRITUAL SOAP: Weird & Güd - A Black Sheep With No Flock
To be a gentle lamb or a feared ram?
Before we were The Black Sheep, we were a newsletter named Spiritual Soap. Please enjoy this article from our history!
I enjoy research too much and I’m a shameless critic. Weird & Güd is the conjoining of those misanthropic qualities into something useful: fascinations neatly packaged together for you every week, some hermit-ism required after all.
By Jenna Barton
Black sheep is a term you’ve heard describe people who don’t fit in with their group or family. To be a black sheep means someone’s differences aren’t minor, but clearly define them as standing out from their group.
We all want to believe we’re different, and though we do each have our unique lives and selves, most of us generally move in the same direction with the flock — we’re monogamous, we get jobs, we have kids, we eat things we get in a grocery store and not stray pets — and that’s good. We aren’t solitary mammals like the bear; we work and live together in society, no matter how anti-social we might be individually. The comfortable world we live in is owed to the flock — there is no society of one.
The flock is indispensable for maintaining an advanced society, but the black sheep is indispensable for creating one.
These figures might seem at odds — the oppressive majority against the fragile minority — and they often are. The black sheep and the flock are like the left and right leg fighting for dominance, but both are integral parts of the same system. It’s the black sheep that nudge the flock forward into new territory and deviate enough to discover what will become new norms, like electric cars, women’s education, and yes, a few failures too, like reality TV.
By Kat Philbin
Yet, black sheep get neither the acceptance of a flock nor the appreciation for withstanding its judgment. The flock is not obligated to like black sheep, as they’re opposites by nature, but the flock can easily become cannibalistic in its ire for deviants.
Humans have been tinkering with the power of groups ever since our species’ birthday. In a cruel, predator-filled world, group inclusion is survival and exclusion is death. We’ve evolved a few tricks for keeping our groups intact and one of those tricks is the black sheep effect. This social phenomenon permeates our daily lives and our modern groups without any conscious effort, from college clubs like fraternities to ideological clubs like politics.
The black sheep effect is simple — if you have two deviants, the deviant in your group will be punished more harshly than the deviant outside your group.
By Criminy Johnson
The evolutionary benefit of punishing those who challenge your group from within is clear — group instability is a threat to its survival. Yet, the reason we attack dissenters within our group more harshly also has to do with our individual survival.
The easiest way to signal your loyalty to a group is to punish those who are just slightly less loyal than you.
Why not display your loyalty by punishing enemies of the group instead? Come on, that’s just too easy. Highlighting your piety compared to a murderer isn’t that impressive; finding an equally pious peer who stepped out of line where you didn’t is much more satisfying.
Attacking deviation in your own group has the dual purpose of maintaining conformity and placating your insecurities. You can warn other members that deviation isn’t tolerated while proving your loyalty to the group.
In-group policing is the pyramid scheme of hierarchy building; sacrifice one person and rise a level, but each new level requires further sacrifice, and don’t forget — the longer you play the game, the bigger the target upon you grows.
By Ikumi Nakada
The biggest price paid for sacrificing the black sheep in your flock isn’t your own personal progress, but the progress of your entire society. Enough studies have shown that when you include rather than attack in-group dissenters, your group does the opposite of devolving into witch hunts. Instead, leaving space for black sheep in your flock strengthens it; creativity, better judgment, critical thinking, and progress are all qualities that grow in a group that embraces rather than attacks its off-beat members.
In unstable environments, we crave conformity, but too much conformity only creates the very instability we fear. Don’t fool yourself into believing you’ll adore the non-conformity of every black sheep; if you enjoy all the non-conformity you encounter, you’ve yet to encounter non-conformity.
Value deviation for what it is — one half of a system that balances stability and change for the goal of survival.
Cling too dearly to any half and both sides fall.
By Jenna Barton
It is what one takes in solitude that grows there,
the beast within included.
There are some needs we must fulfill alone. Though the company of others is comforting, it comes at the price of those needs. In the company of others, we gain comfort from focusing externally rather than internally. The external focus is not inherently harmful; it only becomes so when it’s adopted to avoid the internal focus.
The risk in avoiding solitude is realized when we prize the companionship of others above that of ourselves. When we can’t bear our solitude, other people are no longer fulfilling relationships, but escape routes. People know when they’re sought out not for who they are as individuals, but simply because they are not our solitude.
Relationships forged from a need to escape solitude are hollow — it’s not the person that matters, but the lack of solitude, a quality that anyone can fulfill.
The Lovers, 1928, Rene Magritte
On the other side of this replaceable role is the seeker, someone whose insatiable desire for anything but solitude creates a dangerous weakness — the inability to stand alone. The psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi found that teenagers unable to bear their solitude gave up on creative pursuits.
Addicted to the comfort of avoiding the internal, the price we pay is our very self. To win constant acceptance, whether from a partner or a group, we must be willing to bend toward the will of those others.
The person who runs from their solitude is no person.
Prioritizing the acceptance of others above all denigrates our individuality; we become another’s shadow instead of inhabiting our full self.
The poison of acceptance addiction is double-acting — we lose the ability to stand for our own values, but we also risk losing those values entirely. A constant focus on others warps our understanding of the world; if we surround ourselves with liars, lying becomes the norm.
Without making the effort to build a sturdy internal home into which we can retreat from a morally disintegrating environment, we become permanent residents in a world that seeks to drag us down to the level of its denizens. It’s only the person with a well-built internal home who can survive and become a beacon for triumph amid total darkness.
If you’ve seen Shawshank Redemption, Andy Dufresne’s character is an argument for the power that a strong internal world provides even when every last piece of your external world is destroyed.
If you haven’t seen it (you should), just look at Buddha or Jesus; both figures succeeded only in solitude. The Buddha found enlightenment through an internal focus and Jesus overcame the ultimate temptation in the solitude of the desert by rejecting the external and relying upon internal resolve.
The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
What comes to a culture that has grown terrified of its internal world by relying on the external world for constant comfort in distraction?
If you believe the changes the world needs exist outside you, spend more time looking inside you. Perhaps the chaos and malice we see in our world aren’t the symptoms of a lack of external action, but the fruits of a tree whose roots are too shallow to nourish it further.
The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
I hope this makes your week a little weirder and a little güder. Now go forth, be weird, and above all, be güd.
I sit alone at a desk biting my nails to bring you every edition of Spiritual Soap. Is it worth it? Don’t tell me, show me.