We can be heroes

Ok, let’s say your brain can hold a lot of data. Maybe pi to the 20th digit. Maybe the opening moves for 20 famous chess games. Maybe the capitals of all the countries in the world.

This makes you smart; you have a knack for gathering and retaining rote information. What makes you gifted is being able to not only gather and remember, but to interpret and build upon learned sets of information. But even that isn’t really the gift. That just clues the non-gifted people in that your brain works. The gift is channeling vast arrays of data: weather patterns; home field advantages; injured rosters; season schedules; historical facts, and predicting who will win the pennant. But why stop at baseball? Why stop at politics? Or currency fluctuations? Why stop at anything we already know can be done?

There are minds that see past the limits, the boxes, the courses, the channels, the expected, to the heart of truth. They can key into universalities, and they are finely tuned, like a turbo charged engine made to race at Le Mans. You wouldn’t drop that engine in a Toyota Camry and expect it to get through rush hour traffic. Its purpose is niche and limited, but when optimized and given the right conditions, it’ll fly. This is what gifted people were made to do. We were meant to soar.

We call them deficits, sensitivities, exceptionalities, limitations, learning disabilities, mental and neurobiological disorders, problems, hurdles, mistakes, aberrations, lack of focus, laziness, trouble, sociopathies, criminalities, drug dependencies, insanities, worthlessness. But that is only because the boxes used to define people’s worth were created for the mediocre. The average. The mean. The metric was constructed for Toyota Camrys. Let’s be fair. We need Toyota Camrys. Like we need accountants and restaurant managers and train conductors and brick layers. But we need explorers and visionaries and healers and problem solvers, too. Only we don’t create the nurturing environments to give these minds a chance. We need these minds. Our world is on fire in every way possible.

Why, when we find these kids, do we funnel them into AP classes and biology majors and law school? Why do we give them the most predictable and rigid paths that will break them down and expect them to go on the figurative 405 at 6:15 p.m. in stop and go traffic, when they could be optimized to solve problems in novel ways?

As a planet, we keep looking for messiahs. And we are time and time again surprised when we find, for example, an 8-year old Mexican girl who has a higher IQ than Einstein. It is cute. It makes the news. And then it is forgotten. As forgotten as all our gifts and talents are because they are considered no more than curiosities. They hold no value in the world created by and for the average.

The language has to change. The paradigm has to shift. We must bring all the mighty forces at our disposal to find them young, to heal them grown, and to support them in ways that give them the chance to be curious and skeptical and loud and rambunctious and challenging. That is how this has to happen. There is too much suffering. This must be our mission. And to accomplish it, we have to throw out the conventional wisdom about our approach. Interdisciplinary, holistic, throw-it-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks, by hook or by crook. This is not the time for double blind tests and triple sourced data. You won’t find the exceptional through ordinary means. And we can’t wait. Not one second longer. We need our heroes now.