To see environments as they really are

Marshall McLuhan, in The Medium is the Massage, on rejecting well-adjustedness, if well-adjustedness basically means an at-home-in-the-worldliness:

The poet, the artist, the sleuth—whoever sharpens our perception tends to be antisocial; rarely “well-adjusted,” he cannot go along with currents and trends. A strange bond often exists among anti-social types in their power to see environments as they really are. This need to interface, to confront environments with a certain antisocial power, is manifest in the famous story, “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” “Well-adjusted” courtiers, having vested interests, saw the emperor as beautifully appointed. The “anti-social” brat, unaccustomed to the old environment, clearly saw that the Emperor “ain’t got nothing’ on.” The new environment was clearly visible to him.

To see environments as they really are tends to be one of the most important and most difficult things to do—because it’s not always clear how things really were until after they’re past. This is why I agree with something a friend of mine pointed out years ago—that it’s not the future that’s to be feared, but rather it’s the present, because the uncertainties of the present are more challenging than the abstractions of the future.

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