A Chicken in Every Pox

"If you had chicken pox, the shingles virus is already inside you." (TV ad)

If you have religion, the obedience virus is already inside you.

If you were born human, the need to control, or be controlled, is already inside you. The need to socialize is inborn, as is the need for structure, hidden somewhere in your DNA, even structure that binds.

If you are to survive, the capacity for risk fills your marrow, for it is the risk-takers that propel us forward, beyond obstacles and over barriers. It is not only little boys that need heroes. It is you, and I, and everyone who has drawn breath.

Is it even possible to evaluate the essence of being human when you are one? How can we step outside the box when we are the box? If we are merely droplets in space, where is the ocean, and what happens if it gets "hung out to dry"?

I am quick to castigate Mark Zuckerberg for his motto "move fast and break something". I would not like to meet Steve Jobs when he hadn't showered for weeks, and I am offended by his cavalier treatment of his incredibly patient and loving parents. But these are the humans who move the species forward. They cause the silence of the cosmos to roar, if ever so briefly. And maybe, just possibly, the rest of us are better off for it.

Does that mean that every sociopath is heroic? How do we distinguish the ground-breakers from the heart-breakers? Maybe we can't, and therein lies a dilemma. Barefoot kids with stinky feet are not necessarily prodigies. Sometimes they're just dirty, or rebellious, or trouble-makers. Sometimes the people in the white coats treat you as a guinea pig rather than a patient. Sometimes those in grey suits line their pockets with the contents of yours. Just because someone wears a uniform doesn't make them your friend or your protector. They're just another viral pox, waiting to strike when you least expect it. The corporations that sell electronic cigarettes to kids make shingles look like splinters, yet they continue toxifying our planet.

But in between the ashes and the butts, beneath the poxes of society, are the true heroes. Maybe they don't pass standardized tests well: Einstein didn't. Maybe they create art that outrages: Matisse's work was called "a savage wholesale rupture with tradition". Maybe tradition makes them break out in rashes, and standards offend their inner drives. David Kelley, on TV's "Monday Mornings" (which I routinely watch on Tuesdays), pictured a young man who wrote beautifully: when his Mother locked him in his room without paper or computer to "cure" his obsession, he wrote on the walls and he wrote on toilet paper.

Some of us are born with inner voices that can't be denied. Some of those will propel the rest of us into tomorrow. And some are simply truculent kids that create havoc wherever they go.

Do you know how to identify one from the other? I wish I did.

c. Corinne Whitaker 2013