Going Against the Grain

Good ol’ USA, yesterday, dressed in our red, white, and blue tank tops, gathered together by our grills, we celebrated your first moments. Your beginning was inspired, and we are left with our country’s foundational values to prove it. They make up our cultural core and explain why immigrants have come (and still do) to the United States.

A book called American Ways: an Introduction to American Culture points out three pairs of values that make us who we are:

  • Individual Freedom and Self-Reliance
  • Equality of Opportunity and Competition
  • The American Dream and Hard Work

“The first is for Individual Freedom and the price for that is Self-Reliance.  We cannot be truly free if we cannot take care of ourselves and be independent.  The second is for Equality of Opportunity, and the price for that is Competition.  If everyone has an equal chancefor success, then we have to compete.  The third is for The American Dream, the opportunity for a better life and a higher standard of living.  The price for the American Dream has traditionally been Hard Work.”

America’s core values make an exceptionally fitting backdrop to assist with what I consider to be the universal task at hand for all of humanity:

To be unapologetically ourselves. And bring our hearts along with us as we do it.

To figure out how to be the people we know we can be, and therefore, be proud of ourselves and love ourselves and in turn, each other.

Going Against the Grain

If you’re a contrarian like me, you are convinced that the path to a healthy and connected life lies in going against the grain. The modern cultural influence contains a heavy load of toxicity. It threatens to put you to sleep and drive you off a cliff. No one wants to end up a lemming!

The contrarian spirit goes against the grain as if life itself depends on it.

“If everyone moves one way — run fast the other way!”

1. Our parenting knows this:

“If all your friends were going to jump off a bridge, would you?” 

Who hasn’t heard or said that one? See, you might be a contrarian, too. What is being pointed to here is one’s inner sense of morality. We have the answers about right and wrong inside us. It’s important to exercise that!

2. Certain investment strategists use this principle, too: “If you do what everyone else does, you’re going to get mediocre results.” See the pack going one way and know that there is not a ton of opportunity there. Find something unique by learning things for yourself.

3. Moreover, I’ve felt this principle as being applicable to our health. The modern cultural stream has an agenda that is different from what you think. It prioritizes promoting consumerism, for example. If you can be convinced that you are not whole without a certain product, then they’re doing their job. Being a cog in that wheel is like being led along towards the cliff. Where is any of our best interests in that? It’s a strong current and it takes a lot of strength to wade upstream against it.

Take the Standard American Diet for instance (S.A.D. for short, sad indeed).

Industrialized food gives us cheap, readily available sources of mass-produced food, but at a price to our health: depleted soils and plummeting nutritional value are deteriorating our health. Ultra-processed foods make us “fat, sick, and nearly dead.”  Their rebuttal is that we can just use modern medicine to correct the situation when we get sick from industrial food. Going against the grain is to leave that paradigm and eat and invest in local and organic food in a way that is best for your health. Additionally, it is to produce food and medicine in a way that honors the life and the living essences that makeup nature.

“Over time, ‘go against the grain’ became more widely used as a way to describe individuals who challenge established norms or expectations. It can be seen as an act of rebellion or nonconformity, but also as a sign of independent thinking and creativity.”

— crossidiomas.com

The Way of the Contrarian

Researchers say that 130 million years ago, plants solely reproduced with spores, which are found today on ferns, or with seeds and cones, which are found today on pine trees. Flowering plants were rare. Imagine how the first flowering plants shockingly declared themselves in nature. In a sea of green, suddenly a bold, much different gesture.

“Today, plants with flowers — called angiosperms — dominate the landscape. Around 80 percent of green plants alive today, from oak trees to grass, are flowering plants. Flowers are part of the reproductive system in all of these plants”.

The truth is that those who go against the grain create the path for critically important impulses for the future that are not a part of the culture. Every culturally innovative idea, by definition, has to originate outside the cultural norm in the counterculture.

The culture has influences that would prefer to lull you to sleep and take you with the current. They breed conformity and see any deviation from the norm as dangerous and uncomfortable. The contrarian culture, however, acknowledges that struggle is of value. “One theory suggests that the phrase ‘going against the grain’ comes from woodworking, where cutting wood along the grain produces a smoother finish than cutting across it. Going against the grain would result in a rougher texture and require more effort.”

One thing is certain: a major benefit of going against the grain is that it makes it easier to connect with your individuality.

The point is not to be in culture or counterculture but to offer the worked-through truth of yourself and to be led by your presence, determination, and benevolent intention with very little compromise. That’s the global path supported by the ideals of the American way. That’s the real firework.