Cullen Blathers at Length: A Little Weird Goes a Long Way

The Monty Python mug is far from the oddest of my oddities, but it’s the easiest to pose with.

Let’s take a moment before I dig in further to appreciate every one of those moments, stranded like flowers on Mars, when our lives got more interesting for a few seconds or even a few minutes.

You know the ones. You’re reading in the park and you see someone practicing a few dance moves. You’re walking through downtown and a man passes you, gesticulating wildly as he throws down lines of prose poetry. You pull into the parking lot and notice some guy who seems to be swinging a sword only he can see, all but oblivious to the people driving by.

That last person is, of course, me, and the truth is I see the cars. Pretending not to is part of the show. Within the last few months I’ve been making a conscious effort to ignore social conventions that don’t help anyone. If I have to talk about something difficult, I shouldn’t speak ten lead-in sentences as if each “but” is a lifeline I’m securing before I suspend myself over Mauna Loa. If you’ve seen Mauna Loa erupt, you have a pretty good idea how useless those lifelines would be anyway. That’s part of the analogy here. Conversely, if there’s something I want to do in public that doesn’t hurt anyone or inconvenience anyone and isn’t illegal, I’ve made a point of doing so when I have the energy.

Though I leave open the possibility there are things I haven’t thought of for which that’s… not a great policy, shall we say.

Let’s go back to those flowers on Mars again. You may think it’s preposterous for me to compare odd humans to flowers, lovely, sensitive, fragile flowers, on a totally lifeless hell-planet. If I lived in a more consistent society, I’d agree. But think about it: Mars isn’t against flowers that we know of. There’s no giant cloud of malicious dark energy roving mars and roaring “IF I SEE A BLUE PETAL IT’S FUCKING GO TIME!” Mars doesn’t lack flowers by intent. Mars just doesn’t have flowers. Having flowers is not in the nature of Mars.

The only argument I’ve heard against “weird” is that it’s not normal. It’s not in our nature to be weird. Well, you make your own choices, you’re an adult. I hope. If you’re a child reading this blog, go elsewhere you brat. You’re not old enough for 90% of this shit and you’re being corrupted at this very moment. See, I’m cursing. Corruption. Anyway, we’re discouraged from being weird simply because we’re aware other people will think we’re weird. I have no problem with a professor politely asking me not to practice flow drills outside her office because it’s distracting. The squeaking and scuffing and occasional pants might wear on my nerves a bit too. I’d just close the door, but perhaps that’s why I’m not a college professor.

But I will not refrain from taking time otherwise wasted, the interminable hours that dribble away when I wait for the bus, and putting it towards swordsmanship. It’s abundantly obvious by now that I care about the art a hell of a lot more than I do anyone’s opinion of my weirdness. So for the last month and a half, I’ve done flow drills during my morning commute (sometimes in the afternoon if I have enough energy). I felt at first I was breaking some dread binding and that I would be seared away, like a lily stupid enough to grow atop Olympus Mons.

What happened? Sweet FA. I get some odd glances from the drivers and fellow pedestrians. On campus I’ve had a couple of people ask me what I’m doing and I was able to explain what HEMA is. There was no uproar, no fleet of squad cars hurtling ’round corners beneath a chopper-darkened sky. By and large, people didn’t notice at all.

The few who do just see a weirdo swinging a sword that isn’t there. There’s no page dedicated to mocking me on social media. I haven’t even gone viral. I’m just a splash of blue on a gray background. Because my coats are all blue. And I like to wear blue. That’s it. No color symbolism there.

Maybe people appreciate the display, maybe they don’t. Maybe it gives me the kind of publicity I can work with, maybe the kind that condemns me. But most likely, this is how things will continue. Somewhere in High School we internalize this brainless notion that the worst thing we can possibly do is stick out. I don’t meant that consciously deciding to stand out for its own sake is good either, but if you’re a strange person with stranger things to do (culture reference), you’ll be a little more visible than usual. Maybe when we were teenagers whose social lives depended entirely on having a clique this made a species of sense.

But we’re all supposed to be grown-ups now, and that means there’s no more to be gained by suppressing ourselves. Quite aside from that, cutting off pieces of yourself to fit in isn’t healthy. Again, there’s no qualitative argument behind calling something weird. We all just act as though weirdness is a bad thing because we’re conditioned to act like it, even though all our art, all our writings, all our conversations keep coming back to the world’s blandness. We want something to fascinate us, and yet we’re bizarrely afraid to be that something. We always portray madmen as wearing straitjackets, but this crazed need to appear sane is one padded cell we’re locked in by choice.

So, yes, I’m weird. But I’m not boring. I’m not a scumbag (although I might be an asshole.) We’re not living on Mars, we’re living on Earth.

We can have flowers here.

Say something, darn it!

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