The phrase, ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do,’ means it is polite and possibly advantageous to abide by the customs of a society when one is a visitor.
It is also taken to mean following others for the sake of conformity and convenience, and to avoid unnecessary exertions.
In this loose interpretation, it is adopted as a philosophy of life by many people. They believe in following current trends without using their scruples too much, as it is easier to go along with the crowd than invite curiosity, ridicule or opposition. It definitely is an attractive proposition, as one can escape potential embarrassment and hostility.
But, such thinking and course of action also condemn one to mediocrity and are unlikely to help one achieve anything exceptional. Anyone who wishes to do something worthwhile in life has to do it on the foundation of sound principles and character. This may involve swimming against the tide. Conforming to what everyone else is doing may mean compromising on one’s principles, and even ethics.
Living such a life may be easy, but it does involve the realisation, even if momentary, that one has given up one’s values so as not to uncomfortably stand out from the crowd. It is values that make life worth living, and preserving them enriches it even if no one around us appreciates those values.
One who embodies values is a source of strength and inspiration for others and is vindicated sooner or later. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “Even if you are a minority of one, the truth is the truth.”
Truth has such power that it manifests itself without anyone having to prove it. Living by high ideals may not be a bed of roses and one may have to face a lot of opposition for persisting on a path that looks irrational to others, but that is the price one has to pay for having a clear conscience and the knowledge and satisfaction that one is on the right path.
History is full of examples of men and women who were little appreciated in their lifetime for their ideas and actions, but were later recognised as outstanding souls. Even man’s scientific progress has been made possible by individuals who challenged prevailing dogmas and conventional ways of thinking to reveal the truth.
Physicist and astronomer Galileo Galilei was accused of heresy and sentenced to house arrest for supporting the view that the earth moved around the sun and not vice versa, while philosopher, mathematician and astronomer Giordano Bruno was convicted of the same offence and burnt at the stake for his scientific and religious beliefs.