Once upon a time there was a square peg.
He didn’t become square, he was born square. Something like having smoke blue eyes, six toes in your right foot or chestnut colored hair. It is a given, right..? The blue eyed one didn’t go shopping and say, “Oh, I like this shade of blue. I’ll buy this pair of eyes.” That’s how it is with being square- in a land of round holes.
When square-pegs recognize their square-ness and the concept graduates into a cult, I am sure they will choose the porcupine as their mascot. You know porcupines, all poky spikes and bristling aggression on top and a soft, harmless vulnerability underneath?
Square-peg mascot, the porcupine, is a herbivore. The animal is tiny… barely 25-36 inches. In some parts of the world it treated as a pest… and is eaten. To some, it is ugly as sin.
The square-pegs I speak of resemble porcupines in many ways. They are not very commonly seen. They certainly don’t inspire a feeling of tender, protective care in the beholder’s breast. Their aggressiveness makes them come across as beings who can ‘take care of myself thank you’. They make you want to keep a wary distance. You’d rather not mess with them if you can help it.
The quills of a porcupine remind you of raised hackles. Even when they are not being annoyed they look peeved. Like those of their mascot, the ‘hackles’ of square-pegs is merely a protection mechanism. They aren’t trying to hurt you, they are only trying to prevent the world from making a meal of them. That is why they hang out the ‘Don’t Trespass!’ signs all over their persona.
The quills of my square-pegs are made up of their reactions and responses to their world. Their reactions are pointed, sharp and very extreme. They are incapable of lukewarmness. They must either be scalding hot or bone freezing cold. Their prodigious emotionality breaks the containing banks and floods the world. If you are anywhere around them, expect to get your pretty pink toes wet. When they are high, they are soaring like eagles; when low, they are all the way down into the core of the earth.
The smallest events can throw them into a tizzy. In fact, it seems they are constantly in one tizzy or the other. They come out of one only to plunge enthusiastically into another. To round pegs they seem exhaustively insane. They don’t know how to hold back. When they talk, they will talk all the legs of a proverbial donkey off. When they are taciturn, they resemble a glassy-eyed stuffed trout. Their reactions are of a magnitude that make the Niagara look like a mud puddle. Large is not a word large enough for them. The entire extreme vocabulary was created for them. Not that they are happy with the extreme vocabulary though, they find it painfully insipid and cloyingly mundane.
Yes, they are extreme people.
To be with them is to be on the world’s biggest roller-coaster. The transition from dizzying heights to utter depths make you feel detached from your internal organs. You feel sure they are either left behind on the high you just came swooping down from or are still lying in panting repose in the low you just climbed out of.
Don’t bother getting your breath back when you are with these magical (maniacal?) creatures, you’re going to lose it again soon enough. They multiply your senses many-fold, they expand your experience of the universe in multilayered ways. You wonder why the colors are suddenly so bright, the sounds so deep, the lights so luminous. They make you vibrate at frequencies you never imagined existed. You realize you never lived before… or at best you lived in the murky world of underwater… where life was viewed through a film of shifting, debris filled water.
When you are flung out of your underwater world onto the high mountain ledges of crystal clear perception, do yourself a favor. Don’t peer down your lofty perch and seek the comfort of your habitual murky depths. Don’t voluntarily, deliberately and willingly become oblivious of the world you see around you, and refuse to believe it for real. Ask yourself instead if the world of diffused approximations… the almost… the nearly… the someday… the maybe… is the only world you will permit to be real. When your soul gives you an answer, I hope your courage will not abandon you. I hope you will face the answer and accept the benediction- and the freedom- it will bring.
Living with square-pegs is not easy. They don’t permit dull moments in their reign. You will be kept on your toes and pushed beyond your limits. If you envisaged a even paced, predictable life for yourself, abandon the thought. If you are weak-hearted, square pegs are not for you. Go find some nice smooth round peg and live out the days of your life in unruffled peace. I am sure you will never step on a single toe all your life. No, I didn’t snigger. You must’ve imagined it!
I am not promoting porcupines. I am merely introducing them to you so that your life becomes a larger than life experience like mine. I am merely trying to give you a road map for the terrain that lies ahead. It may look daunting but trust me it is not all that tough. Moreover, it is incredibly rewarding.
You go to the mighty ocean and you beg him to climb into a bottle. He is fond of you and would like to do it, just to make you happy. But he CAN’T… no matter how hard he tries. Believe me, when he sees he cannot, his heart breaks before yours does. He is devastated before you are; he hates himself long before you can. Then YOU turn around and tell him it is his fault he can’t climb into a bottle! Can you imagine how he’d feel? Have you never been accused of a committing a sin you never committed? Have you never been blamed for something that wasn’t your fault? Don’t you remember how it feels? Didn’t it kill you, inside?
The truth is, you simply CANNOT hold the ocean in a bottle. If you try, you will only end up fragmenting him. You will break him, denude him of his magic and strip him of his ocean-ness. You may bottle the salt water and fool yourself into thinking you have bottled the ocean. Far be it for me to rob you of your delusions and earn your wrath. It would be well to remember though, that the ocean is more that just salt water.
Roller coasters are meant to be roller-coasters. The ocean is born to be the ocean. A porcupine can only be a porcupine. A square peg will always be square. If you don’t like the extremes of a roller coaster, the vastness of the ocean, the spiky back of a porcupine or the inflexible square-ness of a square-peg, stay away from them. Believe me, I say that with deep regret because I hope you will not stay away. I hope you will hold on to your courage and let yourself be swept away. I am sure you will never want to get off once you get a taste of the ride.
If you choose to stay with them, do yourself a favor. Don’t try to bind them in rules. You cannot pin a cloud down, nor hold water in a closed fist, nor stem the flow of wind. Like everything else in the world, square-pegs are a package deal. The very extreme-ness that makes you feel divorced from your innards is the one that adds so many hues to your life-experience. You cannot pick up one end of the stick… it must be picked whole… or not at all. If the vastness of their (emotional) responses make you feel like you are drowning, please remind yourself that it is this vastness that adds the depth of pulsating life to your days. If their raised hackles poke you sometimes, please remember the softness underneath. The spikes are a protective covering, not a weapon of war. The protection is not rigged against you, but against the world at large. You getting poked is truly incidental, there is no point in taking it personally.
The rules governing round pegs don’t apply to them. If you feel naked without rules, I can share the only one they have.
They will make their own rules.
Picture from the internet