It didn’t occur to me until about a week ago that I am a mutant.
When genes duplicate, the overwhelming majority of them are copied with perfect fidelity, with only the occasional rogue gene mutating into something unexpected. Most of these mutations, called neutral mutations, have no real effect.
Once in a while, though, a gene mutates, and happens to produce a significant difference in its host, and that difference affects the host’s survivability.
I’ve been isolated lately. I wake up in the RV, start working, and take breaks only to go to the spa to shower, or to eat. Sometimes I read at night. I see my friends a couple times a week, but mostly I’m by myself. I have almost no interaction with strangers.
I used to go to a spa in the mall, but I switched to one across the street in a hotel, so I hadn’t been going to the mall. I found out that a Chipotle opened in the mall, though, so I went in for the first time in a while.
The mall is a bit of a magical place for me, because it’s this immersive experience of what life is like for most people. There’s offensively condescending advertising, trendy clothes, crappy food, and, most importantly, a lot of fairly normal people. As weird as it sounds, I feel like I’m at the zoo, observing another species.
Something about seeing the mall– this intense expression of everything I don’t participate in– and having been separated from it for so long, really made me think. I realized that I’m not a normal person who’s a little bit weird. I’m actually a weird person who’s a little bit normal. I’m a mutant.
Somewhere along the line, for some reason, I went astray of the path that most people follow. I mutated. The variance from the norm was small at first, but a trajectory away from a straight line will only bring you farther as you continue to drift. Now I’m way out there.
Lives are complex things that don’t neatly fit into categories, but if I try to get to the root of how I’m different, I’d say that somewhere along the line, I just decided to start doing whatever I wanted to do. That’s my mutation.
If genetic mutation is the building block of evolution, maybe social mutation is the building block of culture. Normal cells, and normal people, are absolutely necessary in the quantities they come in. But mutations are important, too; they’re the ones that push things forward.
Just another good reason to keep being weird.
Photo is me swinging off an abandoned tower in a WWII NSA listening base in Berlin.
Posted from the side of the road a few hours outside of Portland. Funny road trip story:
I ran out of gas in the middle of the night, four miles before the gas station. I always run out of gas on road trips. I did the natural thing-hopped onto my folding gas-powered scooter that I store inside the RV, and blasted down the side of the freeway to the gas station. Bought a gas can, filled it up, and began to head back. I realized that my only option was to drive back on the same shoulder I came on, because the highway was divided and I wouldn’t be able to get across the ditch in the middle. Lots of confused drivers flashing their lights at me.