The X Factor

Run, do not walk, to the corner of click and double-click, to the nearest map of the cybersphere, to the location station of the uniform resource locator, known in current lingo/slango as a URL (which I once memorialized in a digital presentation called yoU aRe eLle, but that is another story for another time). The reason for this odyssey, this urgency, is an account called “X”, which Natalie found for me online. It brought tears to my eyes the first time I read it. It still gives me chills.

Every artist knows what it feels like to be an X. Every person with a genetic malfunction does as well. So do those who use hearing aids, hear voices, need crutches, have contact lenses, wear a prosthesis, lisp, stutter or are dyslexic. Each of them is an X. Each of us, in some way, is also an X.

The planet Earth herself is an X concoction. At the current state of our scientific knowledge, we know of no other celestial body whose inhabitants ask, “Why?”. Our discomfort with the loneliness of being singular, with the isolation of Xness, leads us to to send the Keppler* spacecraft out into the unknown crevices of the solar system. It is almost unfathomable that we could be the only laughing/crying/bitching/wondering beings anywhere in the world. The desperation of being an “only” rocks us profoundly, both individually and cosmically.

So we often take a belligerent approach to our own dis-ease. We postulate a “them versus us” mentality, the insiders against the outsiders. We idolize “supermen” - heroes, movie stars, political leaders, blessed saints and blasphemed sinners, to prove that WE are right, after all, and the others are wrong. I once knew a couple who argued continuously about which was the better ocean, the Atlantic or the Pacific. Christoph Links Verlag gives us 11,500 reasons why the them-and-us paradigm inevitably self-implodes. Mad dogs are mad dogs, no matter their politics, no matter their religion, no matter their language.

But Superman has warts. He is also an African Hindu tribal leader with AIDS. He is a Catholic bigamist priest. He is a hispanic Nigerian who prays to Mecca thrice daily.

He is, in fact, a She.

Sometimes, to cover up the loneliness of Xness, we try to fabricate a costume that will please others. Plastic surgeons will enhance our lips, anorexercise our torsos, remove our wrinkles, even alter our fingerprints. (See Othering from November of 2007.) Now we are sure to join the white breads of correctness, aren't we? Then why do we feel more isolated than before? (Hint:Halloween is only fun once a year.)

Sometimes we make a lot of noise. Noise equals might, doesn't it? Equals importance, command, control. Doesn't loud equal RIGHT?

Why is it that noise and fists too often go together?

So how do we overcome the terror of lonely/only-ness? It helps to remember that all humans search for approval, for acceptance, especially for affirmation. Once born, we have paid our dues to the Club of the Living. We are all card-carrying members of the race Human. My hair is frizzy, your eyes are round, her lips are thick, his fanny is fat, he walks with a limp, she doesn't shave her armpits. They wear funny hats. They pray on the wrong day of the week. Those others don't pray at all, and these prey too easily and too often. X's one and all.

One underlying truth that appeals to me is that we can stand for something if we stand together. We can respect differences, warts and all, without needing to wipe each other off the map of existence. We don't need to be right. We just need to get along.

As I compose these forays into the human psyche each month I often wonder if anyone is listening. I call it “barking in the dark”, and hope that someone will bark back. Recently a friend told me that she treasures these writings, for they lift her spirit. With just those few words she transformed my own Xness into a circle of delight. My littlest grandson, age 3, gave me a similar gift of love when he would only purchase shoes that were silver, grey and yellow. I was puzzled, until I looked down and saw the silver, grey and yellow athletic shoes on my own feet. It was his older brother, several years ago, who gave me a joyous Christmas present: a bag of my favorite candy, along with a toothbrush and toothpaste so that I wouldn't get cavities.

Wouldn't it be – like – awesome - if we embraced our Xness into one giant joyful celebration of being alive, now, in these magical moments of awareness? Think how much we could accomplish!

Have you hugged an X lately? And when you do, think of David E. Kelley's immortal words, as spoken by Denny Crane on "Boston Legal": "It's fun being me. Is it fun being you?".

c. Corinne Whitaker 2009

*Those of you interested not only in the Keppler spacecraft but in other attempts like gravitational microlensing to find intelligent life in other dimensions may want to read "The Next Blue Planet", reported from the International Astronomical Union meeting in Rio by the Economist.