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The will to be weird

Manic in Manila

I am no stranger to weird. In fact, weird and I are quite well-acquainted. Having – for as long as I can remember – lived my life more than a little off kilter, weird has become my state of being. I am one with the weirdness.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Left off-center

The word “weird” is defined by Merriam-Webster Dictionary as unusual or strange; of, relating to, or caused by witchcraft or the supernatural; magical; and, of strange or extraordinary character; odd, fantastic.

I am all of the above. Maybe not so much the witchcraft part – at least, not anymore; admittedly having dabbled ever so slightly with white witchcraft back in my college days.

Weirdness is a way of seeing the world a little bit off its axis of normal thought. It is a left off-center way of viewing things.

To illustrate: as a child, I enjoyed looking at everything upside down. I would hang my head between my legs for as long as I could and take in the view; fascinated with how strange and curious everything looked from another, less conventional vantage point. I wished I could stay in that position for longer, but the blood rushing to my head had other ideas, unfortunately. I wondered if “normal folk” ever saw the world as I did, with head hanging down, or if they were just too satisfied with the same old-same old.

I loved Dr. Seuss, and his offbeat way of seeing the world and its inhabitants. Maybe he hung his head upside down, too, and the rush of blood caused him to be a tad more creative and imaginative. Maybe.

I loved dressing up, and had many favorite costumes; most of which were not your typical princess or superhero (I had a knack of mixing-and-matching pieces to come up with my own costume line, like Barbie-meets-cowboy-meets G.I. Joe, with a tiara to top off the look.

The songs I especially delighted in were no better: The Worm Song, The Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly, There’s a Hole in the Bottom of the Sea, Dunderbeck’s Sausage Machine; some of the shiniest gems in the treasure trove of weird ditties.

Oh, and I once (well into my young adulthood) owned a pet goat, and sad was the day that she was “banished” to a farm for eating my mother’s prized ferns.

As an adult, I still enjoy wearing costumes; I turn the music up – the louder, the better – and dance around in my undies, oblivious to the disinterested-bordering-on-confused looks on my cats’ feline faces. Sometimes, I break into song and dance when I am out running. Blame it on an exceptionally catchy playlist of music fed into my brain as I run, or, blame it on my intrinsic weirdness; it’s your choice.

I snort when I laugh, wait ‘til four steps have passed before stepping onto the escalator, eat the food on my plate in sections, must scratch my chest and my back at the same time or the itch doesn’t go away, talk to myself regardless of who’s listening, read the newspaper backwards (in this day and age, I could have stopped at “read the newspaper” and that may have been weird enough)… the list goes on and on.

What makes you weird? Maybe you eat only the red Skittles, or the green M&M’s? Or perhaps prefer the Oreos WITHOUT the stuffing? Do you refuse to write with a blue pen, adamantly sticking by black ink? Have a fashion sense all your own? Are obsessed with Nick Cage? Whatever your quirks may be, this one’s for you; and for all weird ones at large.

Hello, weird inner child; we meet again!

I, the champion of weird, must admit that traits generally associated with weirdness are more accepted in children than they are in adults. When a child acts weird, it is often deemed acceptable by society; and is sometimes even seen as cute and amusing.

But woe the adult who acts such, as he or she is simply dismissed as the oddball of the bunch.

As such, we tend to suppress our weirdness, for fear of being judged. Sadly, though, when you suppress what makes you unique or odd, you are usually also suppressing your imaginative side, creative nature, and spark. Case in point, a child’s imagination is far greater than your average adult’s.

Simply put, when you see the world from a different vantage point, you see things that are hidden from most “normal” people.

The characteristics that make you weird or odd – that is to say, the unique traits that make YOU – are not childish at all. They are the part of you that will, perhaps, enable you to bring something different to humanity’s table. Most innovators in their field were considered weird: Einstein, Edison, Tesla, Van Gogh, Hemingway, to name just a few.

Author E.A. Bucchianeri states the link between weirdness and creativity so well, in the book Brushstrokes of a Gadfly: “Weirdism is definitely the cornerstone of many an artist’s career.”

So say hello to your inner-weird child, and give your uniqueness full reign. It may be just what the world needs – without their even knowing it.

Snowflakes and eccentricities

In the 1900s, there lived a man who was considered very odd. His name was Wilson “Snowflake” Bentley. He was not your usual child In Snowflake Bentley, a book written about his life, Wilson is described as someone who didn’t care much for playing with other kids, never got married, and was obsessed with the weather.

He was obsessed with snowflakes. Weird, huh?

So hung up on nature’s delicate works of art was he that he spent his entire life to photographing these cold, crystalline charmers. In his lifetime (he lived from 1865-1931), he photographed 5,000 differently-patterned snowflakes! Using a camera he managed to get his parents to purchase for him, Bentley painstakingly perfected the process of freezing in images these frozen gems over a period of two years.

The book tells us that Bentley had a scientist’s mind and persistence, and that he was passionate about the wonders of nature. It also reveals that his efforts and enthusiasm for photographing snowflakes was often misunderstood in those days, but his stalwart determination brought to light two truths that have contributed to the realms of science and soul: no two snowflakes are alike; and each one is disarmingly beautiful.

Imagine what the world would be without these discoveries: children would have no paper cutouts to craft and hang, come Christmas-time; paintings and art would be a tad more dull (for we would never know the intricacies of a snowflake); why, everything snowflake-related would be virtually non-existent.

Would the world come to a grinding halt, sans Bentley’s weird, imaginative work? Perhaps not. But it certainly would be all the more banal.

This is just one among many examples of oddballs, making an often unexpected difference.

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By ANGIE DUARTE

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