When you are a little kid at that “in between” age, not a toddler, when your parents are omnipotent gods and not a teenager, when your parents are complete morons; that is when you have your first inkling that there may be something odd about your parents. Still, you believe in them and their mission; whatever that might be.
When I was a kid, a moment of huge embarrassment could be instigated by your mother appearing in public with those big pink plastic setting curlers in her hair poorly veiled by a scarf. Everybody knew what was under there. She wasn’t fooling anybody. She may as well have come out of the house naked. When it happened to me, I was wishing myself invisible. I always wondered why she just didn’t spare me and send a telegram or my father. (He never wore curlers.)
Finding something that you are passionate about is just thrilling. You do all that fun research, you meet new people who know all kinds of stuff that you didn’t and they are just fascinating to chat up. That thing whether it is vegetarianism, politics, religion, eco-living or science is bound to have some kooks. Often they are charismatic, charming, and knowledgeable but still kooks all the same.
The problem with kooks is that their arguments make sense all the way up until the part where the magic happens. Some people don’t notice it and they mistake kooks for “rocket scientists”. This is the tricky bit; some rocket scientists are kooks. I knew a man who solved one of the unsolvable math problems of our age. He knew his math but past that you couldn’t trust him. The voices frequently told him to drive his car into telephone poles.
What we have to do as any given kooks audience is listen, pay attention and apply our own critical thinking. It’s okay to take the part of the kooks thinking that isn’t kooky and throw out the rest. We are, in fact, obliged to do so. People often get some of it right and rarely, with some notable exceptions, get all of it wrong. We can’t let ourselves be put off air travel because we saw that guy running down the street flapping his arms. Without kooks, we tend to get groupthink. When we have groupthink, we end up with a Cuban Missile Crisis.
In the same way, you can’t let good ideas like green living be defined by the people you define as the extremist of the movement. Separate the wheat (the good information) from the chafe (the crazy talk). It requires a broad spectrum of thought to come up with good progress. So, don’t be too hard on the kooks. They are important too.
In short, (I know it’s a little late for that) today’s kook is tomorrow’s visionary. Reciprocally, today’s visionary could be tomorrow’s kook. Close up, it can be hard to tell the difference. So, join a cause and give a kook a hug. Don’t let your mom’s curlers keep you from seeing how really cool she is.