The world is full of oddities: naked mole rats, haunted dolls, toe socks. The whole spectrum of human emotion is an oddity if you think about it for to long. As is the entire human body. There are so many things that no one understands. And there seems to be a startling lack of curiosity in the world.
The more time I spend with other people, the more I wonder how the human race got to the point it is today. Are people less curious? Or have there just always been the select few who say, “screw your laws and customs” to the universe and go ahead and make scientific and humanitarian and technological advances despite it all?
I’ve seen a trend rising—and maybe it’s always been there, maybe I’m just noticing it now because I’ve only recently started paying attention to trends—a thought trend that takes the tone of, “I’m special because of what’s wrong with me.” And if you think I’m wrong, take a moment and scroll through your Facebook feed, your tumblr home page, your twitter timeline.
My six self-diagnosed mental illnesses are kicking in again. But they’ll be gone tomorrow.
I can’t believe that person just called me a Millennial and now I’m embodying every Millennial stereotype and expecting you to feel bad for me.
I can’t believe my boyfriend/mother/ex-best-friend did that vague thing I’m not going to explain.
Stephen Chbosky’s infamous, “I’m getting bad again” and the fifteen bajillion teenage girls who quoted it every time something in life didn’t go their way.
I’m so persecuted for my hipster tastes. (Did you catch that I’m a hipster?)
Etc. Etc. Etc. It’s always been “cool” to be dumb. To be a troublemaker. To wear counter-cultural clothes and get bad grades. That’s still cool. Except now it’s even cooler to blame it on a mental illness, especially if it’s not actually real. To show how “broken” you are, even if you have to break yourself. To be a phoenix always burning, never rising.
But make sure to write about how you’re going to rise. A lot. All the time. Just don’t ever do it. Otherwise what would you write about? Who would you be?
You’d be real.
People are afraid of this, I think. Otherwise I don’t know what the explanation would be. Real people have deep flaws. Real people make mistakes. Having something wrong with you is an easy identity, a shallow flaw you can control. If there’s something wrong with you, you don’t make mistakes. It does. Having it doesn’t take any work, and, if you keep doing no work, it’ll stay with you forever. What more could you ask, right?
Well, a lot. I’d like to ask a lot more of you. On the behalf of all humankind, I’d like to ask you to try. I’d like to call you to be curious. To do new things. I’d like to encourage you to connect and to create. To make mistakes and own up to them and try not to make them again. I’d like you to be good.
And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good. —John Steinbeck
Perfection is overrated anyway. Perfection doesn’t involve learning. And one should always, always be learning.
Endemic species fascinate me. In fact, this was supposed to be solely about endemic species—a type of animal or plant that exists only in one geographic location. The Montezuma Well in Arizona is so full of carbon dioxide and arsenic that fish can’t live there. But a few other species of aquatic life have adapted to the conditions and live there—and only there.
For instance, there’s a species of leech in that carbonated sinkhole that is nocturnal and creepy as all get out. Every night, it swims to the surface of the pool and, using passive sonar, finds its prey and swallows it whole. It’s the only known species of leech that hunts in open water. Terrifying, right?
But cool. So incredibly cool.
Why don’t we know more about it? Are people incapable of feeling all-consuming curiosity? The kind of curiosity that doesn’t abate until it’s satisfied, until something has been discovered, created, unmasked? There’s no half-assing this kind of curiosity. It demands an all-or-nothing approach.
And it’s satisfying. So incredibly satisfying.
But it hurts, too. A great payoff can usually only be preceded by great discomfort. Pain, even. In order to know something, to discover something, one must first not know it. And, while ignorance is bliss, knowing you don’t know something can be excruciating.
The chances of finding out what’s really going on in the universe are so remote, the only thing to do is hang the sense of it and keep yourself occupied. —Douglas Adams
I see the merit in this, I do. And in another blog post I might laud the sense of doing just that. But as with everything, there’s a balance to be had. If you hang every shred of sense in order to just carry on with life as you know it, you’ll live a sad, dissatisfying life.
What good is living if you’re living stagnant?
What good is your life if you’re not helping people? If you’re not discovering things? If you’re not creating, connecting, trying, failing, learning, growing, dancing to the music of the universe?
We are not an endemic species. At our very worst and our very best, we are an invasive species. If we know a place exists, we try to go there. We’ve explored nearly every corner of our world, and now we’re looking to move onto others. Mars colony, anyone? Heck, why not even go further than that? Let’s establish a colony on Pluto then rally equal status among the other planets!
This, of course, is absolutely terrible if we go in with the mindset we have now. The closed-off mindset that is unable and unwilling to take responsibility for any of its actions. The mindset that half-asses a try once and, when it fails, gives up.
If you try and take a cat apart to see how it works, the first thing you have on your hands is a nonworking cat. —Douglas Adams
This is true. But that doesn’t mean we should stop trying to figure out how a cat works. That doesn’t mean we should sit scared in our little safe spaces as cats slowly take over the world because we’re too scarred from our first endeavor to even go near them.
We should just do it better.
Mistakes are about learning from them. Mistakes are just that, takes—tries—that weren’t done right. It’s when the same mistakes are made again and again that we run into problems. Problems of all kinds that manifest themselves in infinitely fracturing ways.
Scientific problems become societal problems become political problems become economical problems become scientific problems again. And every possible combination of every possible type of problem.
So what if we tried not to make the same mistake more than once? What if we lost this victim mentality? This inability to take responsibility? What if we tried to good instead of to do justice? What if we were curious instead of condemning? What if for every opinion we offered, we knew twenty facts? What if we did this and assumed others were trying to do the same?
For myself, I find I become less cynical rather than more—remembering my own sins and follies; and realize that men’s hearts are not often as bad as their acts, and very seldom as bad as their words. —J.R.R. Tolkien
So I call you not to act, but to wonder. Not to destroy, but create. Hate and dissension only breeds more of itself. You’re not special because of what’s wrong with you. You’re not special because you have a disease, or because you’re going through a hard time. You’re not special because you’re sensitive, because you can’t hear certain words.
You’re special for the good you do in spite of that.
When you’re long dead, you won’t be remembered for being incapacitated or for bitching about things on Facebook. You’ll be remembered for the difference you made in someone’s life. You’ll be remembered for the discoveries, the innovations, the art, the genius, the inventions. You’ll be remembered for the things you contributed to the world. For the good you did.
The musical Rent put it best: “The opposite of war isn’t peace—it’s creation!”
We are not an endemic species. I’m not even convinced that we’re one cohesive species, not in the social sense of it. When dogs develop different fur color or body size they’re given a whole new species. But humans are just humans.
So let’s figure out how to work within it, yeah?
Don’t make yourself special with pity and hate. Make yourself special by being the very best you you can be.
Be excellent to one another. And party on, dudes! —Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure