Monday, April 24, 2017

The windmills of my mind

Last night as I was trying to fall asleep, I started thinking about a book I read when I was young. Then it became a distorted thing, like this.

A Child’s Treasury of Versus

“Good vs. Evil”
“Left vs. Right”
“Evolution vs. Creationism”
“Man vs. Woman”
“Man vs. Mouse”
“Protagonist vs. Nature”
“Dogs vs. Cats”
“Godzilla vs. King Kong”
“Rocky vs. Apollo Creed” ...

Well. I’m sure you see the pattern. And so I went off to dreamland.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Wrongfully Convicted

Well, hey. “I know it's out of fashion / And a trifle uncool” to persist in my Sixties ideals, but I do. And so today’s so-called Outrage Culture is really getting me down.

More and more often I find myself shutting down because the texts around me are actually baited traps, about which there can be little reasonable discourse. Those who speak know they are unarguably right; there is no need to listen to another perspective. There is no contingency; there is no provisionalism. So many of us just want to be offended; and so many others just want to offend.

This line of thinking reminded me of a now-trite Sixties concept, epitomized (mockingly) in Hair. Perhaps you remember these lines from the introduction to “My Conviction”:

I wish every mother and father
Would make a speech to their teenagers
And say, “Kids, be free, no guilt.
Be whoever you are, do whatever you want to do,
Just as long as you don't hurt anybody, right? Right.”

Our understanding of “don’t hurt anybody” is considerably more nuanced than it was back in 1968. I think most of us recognize today that many of our freedoms depend on someone else’s lack of freedoms, and fifty years ago the main beneficiaries of this ideal were white middle-class men. But still. We have learned something since then. Or have we?

Without becoming an apologist for anyone but myself, I really wish we could roll our attitudes back to an easier time. Because I am exhausted by outrage, and my compassion is beyond fatigued.

So this. Do what you want, and don’t hurt anyone else intentionally. Own what’s yours to own, and apologize when you make a mistake. As Desiderata, another text popular in the 1960s and 1970s, reminds us: “Strive to be happy.” Yeah. Just that.