Walter White. If you know this name, you know Heisenberg. It’s been weeks since the series finale of “Breaking Bad.” In this house, we are veiled in lethargic mourning. Evening television is flat, faulty, unsatisfying now that we have finished a month-long Netflix marathon of watching the life of Walter White evolve and dissolve.
I miss Jesse Pinkman. I miss the giggle that always bubbled up in me when he punctuated a moment with his trademark “Bitch!” I miss his angst and my angst at the million moments he could have stopped his life from falling away under his feet. Skyler, Walt Jr., Marie, Hank. An oddly cobbled family that pushed us into wondering what we would do? How would we respond? Why AM I responding this way?! Why am I proud of Walter as he breaks into a smile at his 99% pure batch of meth? It’s methamphetamine, for God’s sake! It’s evil poison! Why am I holding my breath, urging Jesse to survive being mangled beneath a train he just robbed of thousands of gallons of methylene? Robbed in order to make mountains of a highly addictive, deadly, poverty-and-violence inducing drug?
The answer is because “Breaking Bad” isn’t about drugs. The storyline of mass-producing meth for profit (Walt’s mission of mercy, to leave his family a nest egg when he dies of lung cancer) is simply the device that shoves raw humanity and all of its complexities into our living rooms. “Breaking Bad” is about self-puzzling. As we watch each scene, we work to settle those conflicting rationalizations about death, love, family, loyalty, societal responsibility. None of us who have become a fan of “Breaking Bad” can walk away without saying that we are wiped out. Drained, thoughtful, confused, afraid, chagrined, grateful, resolved, hopeful, relieved. As we groan, sigh, laugh nervously at the gall of this story, of Walter White, another realization emerges. It is this: Each of us also wants to find our inner badass. We want to find our Heisenberg.
Walter White, timid chemistry teacher, slouch-shouldered by the heaviness of a rote life, could never survive the world of a meth cook, dealer, businessman. And so evolves Heisenberg, possibly the man Walt always dreamed of being, in some way. Heisenberg stands tall, he looks people in the eye, he tells how things WILL be. Period. And he makes it so.
There is an inner Heisenberg in all of us and we work diligently to keep him buried. He pushes the limits, pushes buttons, borders on dangerous. He knows the answers and revels in his own sense of right. Our inner Heisenberg never apologizes for believing in himself. Yet, for most of us, we keep our Heisenberg muzzled and tucked away in a quiet corner of our well-organized, socially-accepted lives. But what if we channeled him now and then? Within the bounds of the law, of course. What if we allowed that part of us to barge in when questions in our lives become too puzzling?
Who is my Heisenberg? He’s probably a lot like yours. My Heisenberg goes to hot yoga and runs a few miles a week without any thought to how tired he is–he just busts it out. He politely, but without blinking, reminds people to stop taking up the whole aisle in the coffee section of the grocery store. He tells the homeless guy living in the truck on the street to stop pooping in the woods behind our house. My Heisenberg rebels against a job pushing paper, gets a Master’s Degree, and works in an office where everyone wears jeans, collaborates on awesome creative ideas, and doesn’t get caught up in drama. At some parties, he may be forced, while sipping whiskey (neat), to tell the gossipers in the corner to shut the hell up because what makes their lives so much better? My Heisenberg stops wasting time. He goes to the local open mic and reads the hardest poems I’ve written. He whips out a 50,000 word novel for NaNoWriMo without breaking a sweat. My Heisenberg puts the bullshit back where it belongs. He pushes back doubt and makes things happen, for the better.
“Breaking Bad” didn’t teach us how to be drug dealers. Nor did it teach us everything we need to know about being human. But it did give permission to kick the world’s ass a little bit. So what’s your Heisenberg going to do?