In an interview, author Alice Walker said, "In fact, in hard times, we are advised by all wise people to look to the margins of a culture, not the center." This sentence struck me in its simplicity and truth, and I think it says something about our society. The center is where the masses are, with homogenous ideas, and the margins are where the free thinkers tend to reside.
Having spent most of my life firmly in the middle (well, more to the right of the middle, but definitely "inside of the box" as opposed to outside of it) it is very freeing to move to the side and see what that view is like. Everything looks different when you open your mind to one thing, because it stretches like an elastic band to make room for many new ideas and perspectives.
Initially, these changes terrified me, and I thought for sure I was sliding off some theological cliff into no man's land where people become liberal and start wearing flowered muu-muu's and holding enormous placards. I have always steered clear of activists and was afraid to become a person obsessed with justice, poverty or other social issues, but thinking in the margins doesn't mean taking up a cause, it just means I have the freedom to bend my thinking.
I don't want to believe something simply because I always have, or because my parents did, or because it's easier to accept what I've been told instead of thinking through it myself. I find the process of wrestling through my own ideas and beliefs to be rewarding in itself, even if none of my ideas change. I enjoy possessing the confidence to know I can change if that seems to make more sense to me.
Looking to the margins of society offers us the chance to take on a perspective radically different from our own, especially if we have lived our life in mainstream society with all of its acceptable norms and practices. When times are hard, in the economy or in the social aspects of mainstream culture, I think that the people on the outside looking in have what it takes to lead a revolution which will provide solid change. I love that idea; that there is room for everyone to play and make a difference, regardless of where you have been or are going. We all have the possibility to create change, in our lives and in the lives of others, but we must stop living in the shadows and come out into the light in order to make a difference.