Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Miracles, Paste Wax, and Eccentricity

My friend John is a high-end car detailer. Yesterday he agreed to work on mine, though it has to be the cheapest, shabbiest vehicle he's ever washed. After several hours of esoteric and highly original maneuverings, the car looked as nice as the day I bought it. Nicer, in fact. He actually improved on its actual design. Its lines suddenly made complete sense, in a way they don't even in the company's own brochures. My vehicle looked so regal - not just in its shiny cleanness, but in its actual styling - that I was almost embarrassed to drive it home.

"It's impossible," you understandably reply. Washing a car, after all, cannot change its fundamental design. There's only so much a good wash and wax can accomplish! Well, my rational mind agrees completely. But I've seen this before. There is a level of care and ingenuity where miracles happen - though few appreciate them (the Bible's got it all wrong; miracles aren't big flashy affairs, they are subtle and easily overlooked). Wherever mere greatness is possible, there's always "a whole higher level" waiting to be mined in the asymptotic real estate atop the curve of declining results.

Argue all you'd like, but this is a tenet of my religion. As I explained here, the secret involves a wanton lavishing of embarrassingly earnest qualities such as love, attention, intention, and commitment.

John's an original thinker, and he says people often call him eccentric. I told him how much that word offends me. "Eccentric" means "odd and wrong". "Eccentric" people build perpetual motion machines, or believe they've found a way to communicate with the dead. They're absorbed in cranky, flaky quests which will never amount to much, but at least they're entertaining. It's a term of condescension; this is how we condescend to non-conformists. But is that an appropriate way to describe bona fide miracle workers?

We need a word for "odd and right", for those who march to different drummers with truly great results. I'm thinking "splendcentric". Or, come to think of it, how about "creative"?

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