Greetings, gentle reader. One of the most enduring characters to be found in popular culture is that of the “Natural.” This is a person who possesses such innate talent, intellectual brilliance or preternatural ability that he is able to transcend difficulties which would overpower most ordinary men and women. Contemporary examples include Luke (“the Force is strong with this one”) Skywalker from the original Star Wars trilogy, Neo (“the One”) Anderson from the Matrix movies, and Harry (“that annoying kid with the lightning bolt on his forehead”) Potter from the J.K. Rowling novels. Would it surprise you to learn that Dr. Cranky has been told he is a Natural when it comes to diagnosing disease and saving lives? Yes, your host reluctantly admits this is true. Although most people would regard such an appellation as a compliment, your humble servant disagrees. In fact, he thinks of it as an insult. Why is this so, you might ask? Allow him to explain.
The idea of the Natural serves one of two basic purposes for most members of the general public. First is the fantastic notion that they might also be Naturals. They just don’t know it yet since it is common for these stories to begin with the protagonist assuming he is of humble birth. As they witnesses their hero’s discovery, transformation and achievements the thought occurs that they might also be budding Luke Skywalkers! All that is required are the hands of Fate to intervene and deliver the right circumstances!! It is only a matter of time before similar adventures await!!!
Alas, an integral part of this modern-day übermensch mentality is that opportunity will find our young wunderkinds without any real effort on their part. Fate will intervene just as soon as He finishes His biscotti and latte at the local Starbucks. It is only then that our young prodigies will be discovered and journey to mysterious destinations, yet unknown. In the meantime, there is no need to exert themselves. There’s always Jersey Shore to watch on MTV.
The second purpose of the Natural is much more tragic. In this case, such a character serves to justify why “regular” people have not enjoyed any significant success in life. Why should they be expected to achieve? After all, as ordinary mortals they don’t have the benefit of destiny or possess that magical right stuff. It’s so much easier to see what’s on the Lifetime Channel. Are there any Cheetos left in the pantry?
Interestingly enough, the Natural is not just a phenomenon found within the borders of these great United States. There is a European equivalent as well. Dr. Cranky has heard of this referred to as the “English Boarding School Myth” and it is rampant in the Harry Potter novels. It is an especially odious conceit and an embodiment of the institutionalized snobbery prevalent in the British class system. Quite simply, a Natural is the distant American cousin to those members of the aristocratic gentry who are so culturally superior they don’t even need to study.
In fact, it is only those unwashed peons of inferior social stock, such as Muggle-born Hermione Granger, who find it necessary to toil late into the night as they prepare for exams. It is no coincidence that she is often portrayed as a somewhat obnoxious and insecure upstart.
This, of course, leaves those snotty scions of better breeding free to explore all manner of eccentric hobbies or take part in thrilling adventures. Think about it for a moment. Can you ever recall seeing Harry Potter, the supposed savior of wizardry itself, actually crack open a book to study for a test at the esteemed Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry? Of course not, he was too busy chasing down Voldemort’s horocruxes! Just as Luke Skywalker “trusted his feelings” to make that “one in a million” shot which destroyed the Death Star, young Harry simply relied on his innate abilities – things just came to him naturally.
And this is why your host believes being called a Natural is an insult. Comparisons to such unnatural demigods discounts the tremendous toil and effort he has engaged in so he might excel. You see, gentle reader, mythical literary prodigies such as these are commonly used by people to subconsciously excuse themselves from the effort necessary to achieve real success in our wonderful country of unlimited opportunity.
When he was but a young Cranky college student, your host was chided by a fellow classmate. He was informed that he didn’t really need to worry about an upcoming exam. In his compeer’s opinion, all Dr. Cranky needed to do was stop by after class and pick up his “A” in organic chemistry. If only life were that simple! Your host is really not all that smart. In fact, he regards himself as somewhat of a dullard. As Mrs. Cranky (who is not at all cranky herself) once observed, the real secret behind your earnest Scrivener’s achievement is that he is just too stubborn to quit. The high marks he has earned throughout life are not the result of brilliance or innate talent. They are the product of much toil, gnashing of teeth, and the loss of more than a few hair follicles.
Success is hard. Success requires work. In fact, success can be downright brutal and taxing. “Please don’t depress us Dr. Cranky,” you might say, “allow us to indulge in our pretty lies. They make us feel so comfortable.” Alas, your diligent author feels he would be remiss in his educational responsibilities if he were not to at least offer you the red pill of reality. So why should you take it? What good can possibly come from such exertion? The reason is simple. Although difficult to achieve, success is also quite fulfilling and provides tremendous personal satisfaction.
And so dear reader, in his next several posts Dr. Cranky hopes to introduce to you the four maxims he has adopted which underlie his success in life. He did not read about them in a book. He did not speak with any academic professors. He especially eschewed psychologists. Rather, he was educated by the most effective educational institution known to Man: the school of hard knocks. These will not be the only lessons he has learned, just those he considers most important.