Darkside of the Sun: Young geniuses, time to get to work

Mike Corrigan

Mike Corrigan


By Mike Corrigan

BN Columnist

As you have always expected, my young friend, you’re a genius.

Sure, the world is full of distractions, and boxes to file yourself away in. A house is a box. A car is a box on wheels. A job is a box. Frankly, it’s time for you to think outside the box. After all, who is telling you not to? The people who manufacture the boxes!

Be glad you’re a genius and an American! In Communist Russia you didn’t think outside the box if you wanted to keep breathing. Feudal Europe was one big box, with all the people packaged into very small boxes. Communist China is a billion souls in one big (and now very polluted) box.

America, of course, is lousy with boxes, too. They bring you home from the hospital, they lay you down in a box and tell you to stop crying. You live in a box, you go to school in a box. You go get your stuff at the big box store. Eventually, they’ll bury you in a box. But being an American means you don't have to stay inside the box they've assigned you. The least you can do is build your own box. You truly are free. Take advantage of that.

A lot of people choose to work outside the box, some literally so, by laboring outside in nature, others by following their own path. Many rewarding careers are less remunerative. But following your passion and your genius is the difference between a job and work, and so it’s ultimately the difference between drudgery and joy. It’s the difference between making a choice and having a choice made for you.

Society — any society — loves its boxes. Even a free society wants you to believe that your options are limited, since all societies want things calm, regular, predictable. The fewer people outside their boxes, the more things will stay the same; the more sedated the population the more they’ll stay inside their boxes. (Game Boy, anyone? Television?) But society benefits from the outside-the-boxers; they’re the ones who move things forward, who make the boxes more capacious, at least, or who invent boxes that are easier to use, or more fun, or who show us how to live outside the stifling boxes! They provide the inventions, the art, the new ideas that make life vivid.

This is America. We made a Constitution to live by, one that commands you to pursue your own happiness. What are you waiting for?

The new mantra is there aren’t enough boxes to go around. Forty million people — the most ever — are unemployed or underemployed in this country. A tragedy — for those who want a box to live in, and have had their genius dulled by years inside the box, and now can see no option. But current conditions are an opportunity for the outside-the-boxers, particularly for you young ones, possessors of a more plastic genius. So what if so many of the dullest boxes have been shipped off to China and Mexico to be filled? You didn’t want to make a career out of doing something a robot could do better, anyhow, right?

Genius is not measurable, because it is unfettered and illimitable. It’s not IQ; that’s just the boxiest kind of genius. And yes, you do have genius for something. If it’s for filling boxes, fill away; if it’s for breaking down boxes, break them down. Your real job in life is to identify your work; you'll know you've got it right when work is play, when you can't get enough of it. Maybe you’ll need to go to college, maybe you won’t; college is just one more expensive box, anyway. There is more college debt in this country than credit card debt. Fine way to box your self in — and so young too! Look, the best educations are made out in the world; the best formal educations are self-taught, at the free public library — educate yourself and you’ll never want to stop learning. If you find school boring it may be because you're already tired of filling boxes eight hours a day for no reason you can see. But that’s education for you — preparing you for a lifetime of work, where you can fill boxes eight hours a day for no reason you can see!

Wrong preparation, wrong job.

Young people today are told to get a job — but there are fewer and fewer good ones. They are told to buy health insurance, because they’ll need it when they’re older. They’re told to go to college and get qualified; then they find they are qualified for a paper hat and a fry-o-lator! The generations ahead of them hold most of the good jobs, and we fogeys aren’t dying off fast enough. What to do?

Kids, the Land of Opportunity knocks. This country still has the largest number of small and medium-sized businesses in the world — 60% of them, I read somewhere. Look out your back door: mercantile shops, construction companies, Moir Mfg., Howell Labs, Downeast. And that’s just the techie stuff. In rural Maine! Quality, passion, a good idea, that's the ticket. Genius will find a way. If your passion is culinary, look at Beth’s Cafe in Bridgton. Great place, quality, local, a few good jobs, a lot of happiness for a lot of people: we need a Beth’s Cafe in every town in America — but not run by the same Beth. There’s a revolution going on today, and it’s a revolution born partly of necessity. It's a revolution of fewer things — and more happiness. It’s smaller, more local, and more people-oriented. (Turns out we aren’t numbers, after all!)

The age of the big corporation is death to outside-the-box thinking and outside-the-box living. Small corporations and small companies are the answer; they’re a lot more human. Their customers aren’t just bank accounts to be fleeced. The big corporation’s inevitable result is a few people living in county-sized boxes, while millions live on the streets in cardboard boxes. Outside the safe gray corporate box is exactly where millions of Americans now find themselves.

So, make the most of your opportunity, young geniuses. If you do, whatever box you end up making will suit you just fine. And the world will be a better place, too. Funny how that works.

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