What is a Visionist?

"A visionist is an artist, a creator or an individual that sees beyond what is visible to the eyes and brains of human beings. Visionists are thinkers, they are the recognisable brains in soociety, but most times they are seen as absurd, "nerds" and misfits – they just don't fit into the societies. They are people with great dreams and minds."

The English Wikipedia

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

"The Outsider"

The visionist is an outsider. I discovered I was an outsider in high school when I wrote my first published article (besides those in the school newspaper of which I was the opinion page editor). It was called "More Recognition for Brighter Students," an essay I had written for a senior English class for probably the toughest, most demanding and least beloved teacher in the school, Mr. Claude Stephenson. Mr. Stephenson always encouraged me to write and sent my essay to the the National Association of Secondary School Principals Bullitin and it was published (http://bul.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/47/281/99). The article was really a cri de coer on behalf of "gifted students," for more recognition and to be awarded what they often could not get in a high school, respect and positions of leadership (I had just badly lost an election for class president, but had graduated as my class valedictorian with a straight A average).

But it was only in college, when I was really trying to figure out who I was and why I was here, a true existential moment, and not doing a very good job of it, that I discovered on the library bookshelves a thin book called The Outsider, by Colin Wilson. That book actually saved my life. It allowed me to understand that I was not alone in my discomfort and that the phenomenon I was experiencing was the common lot of a number of other people. Call them odd ducks if you will. Wilson begins by quoting Henri Barbusse's hero in his novel L'Enfer, "An immense confusion bewilders me. It is as if I could not see things as they were, I see too deep and too much." Wilson concludes, "He is an Outsider because he stands for Truth." Wilson says, "The visionary is inevitably an Outsider." I know I made a distinction between a visionary and a visionist (although the dictionary does not make such a distinction; I choose to), but it is one of degree, not essence. A visionist is a visionary with humility. Colin Wilson: "Most men live from moment to moment, with no fore- sight or hind-sight. Immediate physical needs occupy all of their attention, just as with animals. The average man is distinguished from dogs and cats mainly because he looks further ahead: he is capable of worrying about his physical needs of six months hence, ten years hence." This is what Wilson called "the visionary faculty," which, as William Blake said could be developed.

It is quite natural for a Jew, like myself, to feel like an Outsider. It is also a professional necessity for a career diplomat like myself to feel like an Outsider, both abroad and at home. The result of living and working in an environment of which you are never fully a part but have the cultural and linguistic skills to understand, is the essence of being an outsider and a visionist. But there are clearly other ways of being an outsider-visionist.

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