A few years ago I watched a documentary about a Scottish Psychiatrist who had specialised in researching eccentricity. Unfortunately I don't remember his name, nor his exact definition of eccentricity, but he considered it innate and an interesting human variation that could neither be grasped by concepts of normality or insanity. But I remember some of his findings:
Eccentricity is rare: 1 out of 10.000. (Finding enough research subjects was a funny story in itself, since eccentrics will not be pre-collected neatly in psychiatric hospitals, prisons, schools or other institutions for researchers to come and study...)
Anyway, he found his sample of eccentrics and these are some of the results I remember:
Compared to the general population on average eccentrics have a slightly longer life-expectancy. They have less incidents of mental illness. They live in single households more often. During their lifetime they have a higher number of committed romantic relationsships but then with shorter duration. They get a smaller number of children than average. They tend to be much more energetic and driven. They experience themselves as happy with their life more often than the average population. Their average intelligence is above normal and they can be highly educated. They tend to experience less anger and conflicts and are less likely to be criminal offenders or resort to violence.
They pursue with zest their own idiosyncratic goals and are not interested in getting societal acceptance, nor do they seek societal attention, outrage or engage in powerstruggles. Live and let live-outlook.
Examples of eccentrics included a British professor of theoretical physics who had spend most of his life experimenting to make a perpetuum mobile! He would explain how he obviously knew that it was impossible according to the laws of physics, but that he couldn't see why this would prevent him from keep trying when he enjoyed his project so much!
Another example was a rich American lady from the LA-area, Jenny something who lived in the middle of the 20th century. Ever since her youth she loved to sing opera and payed for expensive lessons with famous singers, made records with her singing and hired famous concert halls to give her own concerts. She lived for this, never got married, never took any part in the usual rich-bunch social mores.
The only problem was she couldn't really sing by any normal standards! She got terrible reviews and was ridiculed, but she didn't really pay attention. Eventually she got a dedicated audience who simply loved the funny freedom of these absurd opera-concerts and the honest and genererous love and energy she radiated and shared.
She is dead now, but on her tombstone she left something like this:
Many people said that I couldn't sing. They may have been right.
But nobody can say that I didn't sing.
Isn't that beautiful? The subjective intensity of doing, enjoying and enthusiastic sharing is celebrated over the conformity of judgement, objective performance and social success.
So, eccentricity as goodnatured egotist vitality?
A nice human variation, me thinks!