Being weird, like gutting dead animals for turkey vulture research

There’s an episode in the show Ozarks on Netflix in which the son of the money launderer starts finding dead animals in the woods and gutting them. After gutting them, he puts the disemboweled animal in the yard and watches in awe as turkey vultures swoop down at 35 miles-per-hour with their 6-foot wingspan.

His parents think some kids in the neighborhood are doing this because they don’t like them, so, one day, when the kid’s mother finds a gutted possum in the yard with vultures feeding on it, she takes the possum and drives to the neighbor’s trailer park. She finds the neightbor kids sitting on top of the trailer and softball pitches the possum at the kids by its tail.

One day, the money launderer looks out of his window and sees his son gutting a coyote on the dock by the lake. He takes the boat out a hundred feet from the house with his wife to talk about what he saw. They take the boat out for privacy but their daughter can still hear everything they’re saying from the porch. Their voices echo in the quiet night of the Ozarks.

After getting off the boat, they confront their son.

“Jonah, did you kill those animals?” his mother asks.

“What? I love animals! Did you know that turkey vultures have a wingspan of over six feet? They feed on dead animals. The carcasses give off a chemical that the vultures can smell over a mile away” the son says.

“Jonah, are you saying that you’re dragging dead animals to the house so you can study vultures?” his dad asks.

“Yeah, if you cut their bellies open the vultures will come swooping down at like thirty-five miles per hour! I was really careful to wash my hands afterwards…”

The following morning at the breakfast table, the daughter asks why her parents thought her brother might shoot up a school one day, referring to what they said on the boat.

“That was a private conversation,” her father says.

“Who said it?” the son asks.

No response.

“You think I’m weird, don’t you?” the son says.

“No,” his mother says.

“No, no I don’t…” the father says.

I thought this response was really cool. Most parents would be extremely worried about their son, even if he was doing it for research purposes. But his parents accepted it, and they didn’t make him see a psychologist or anything like that.

His parents understand that weird is just different, and different is good. As long as you’re not hurting or terribly inconveniencing someone with the weird things you do, you shouldn’t feel embarrassed or “weird” about doing them.

Weirdness is where big ideas come from. It’s how we can challenge the status quo and pull the blinders from people’s eyes. Being weird is important.

This is the message to you and myself.

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