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I have some saddish stuff to say–not necessarily immediately, but eventually, and not continually, but at least occasionally.
And you will perhaps feel the urge to, in those timeless words of Mr. T., “pity da fool.”
Please don’t. Or please, at least, don’t feel any obligation to do so.
I’ve come up with literally (the literal “literally”, not the figurative “literally”) dozens of arguments against your pity (and may share some later), but for now I’m going to share just a few and, I hope, concisely.
It’s not that I’m opposed to pity per se. Pity, in its purest form is truly divine. Indeed–and especially within the last 18 months–I’ve gladly given and received it, a lot. And to those who have been the source of what I’ve received: thank you, deeply and sincerely.
And maybe that’s part of my aversion. I’ve received so much and I’m not sure I’m worthy of any more–certainly not any more than anyone else. Yeah, just the thought of it makes me feel guilty.
Pity can also be a bit oppressive. In some sense it implies a response of further sadness. It can be a sick cycle, really. You pity, the one pitied is further immersed in sadness, provoking more pity and so on; and if we’re not careful, we all end up depressed and suicidal. Well, okay, it’s maybe not so bad; it can be, but, thankfully, someone usually eventually gets the point and jumps the loop (which, unfortunately, still sounds like a euphemism for offing oneself). And I do hasten to clarify that the proper response isn’t to carefully tiptoe around the sadness. The pitied know they are sad and your careful avoidance only accentuates what a mess they’re in. As best you can–for what it’s worth, IMO, take it or leave it, et al.–don’t shower the pitiable with obligatory pity but don’t pretend there’s nothing wrong or that it can’t be talked about; just be and be honest. I know that’s not easy, but it’s worth it.
Yaknow, come to think of it, that’s my main point. I want to probe this stuff, walk through it, unpack it. I want to dig into it like it’s a clearance rack of genuinely underpriced, actually valuable stuff (we all have stuff that matters to us; pick yours–it need not be material stuff–and the metaphor will work). Not the crap that’s usually–brightly and hopefully, in large, friendly uppercase letters on a field of obnoxious orange–emblazened with that invitation. There’s something good amidst the crap, buried perhaps, but still present.
It’s not so much a clearance sale, but more like an unwanted shopping spree. You didn’t buy it–at least you didn’t mean to. But they took your money–took more than your money, took most of what mattered or made any sense or had any value, at least most everything that you could hold and call, however imprecisely, your own. However unwillingly, you’ve paid the price. And, now goddamnit, you’re going to get something out of the exchange (though even calling it an “exchange” is the kind of affront that makes you want to throw up and punch somebody simultaneously–which would be a neat trick and, I imagine, potentially both satisfying and uniquely effective).
So now the price has been paid and all that’s left is to pick through the cheap baubles and find something worth salvaging. And what I’d really like, if you don’t mind my asking, is someone at my elbow to say, “Yes, Joel, that’s a keeper” or “Please, no. You don’t want that worthless sh**; just let it go.” This is a blog. Blogging is about open expression and dialog. Let’s dialog.
And here’s the other thing. I’m sometimes sad, but I’ve no interest in being morose and I will in one moment weep but even in the apparently same instant laugh–perhaps, you might think, inappropriately. I want to have fun and be amused and, frankly, whether you like it or not, I’m going to. I also want to be ruthless with the truth, want to beat it to a bloody pulp if I have to, and if either of us is tentative or inhibited, that kinda gets in the way. My point: if you want to laugh, please do; if you want to confront my intellectual dishonesty or sloppiness, please do. Don’t worry that the protocol of pity forbids it.
Well, that’s probably plenty of mixed metaphors for now (I have more and will pull them out later, lest you feel it is not).
I’m asking you not to pity or at least not to excessively express pity. More precisely what I’m asking is that you feel no need to pity. It is a favor; I don’t deny it. And you may deem me unworthy of such a favor and presumptuous to request it. But, there, I asked.
More transparently, I confess to you that this whole business of pity and obligations and expectations ends up functioning as Resistance. I will say more of Resistance but for now know that it is essentially this: not writing. Which brings us back to the beginning: I have some things to say–some things I feel I should and must say. Perhaps my request will deflect a few distractions. If nothing else, this public declaration is cathartic and helps me step around them. Come up they will, but I said I didn’t want them, so, no offense, I’m stepping past them. In truth, I’m still quite open to pity; I’d just rather not be bogged down by it here (ha: blogged down), if that makes any sense . . . and even if it doesn’t.
In homage to his T-ness, with an obtuse allusion to Adobe, I’m considering marking the most ostensibly pitiable posts with the category “PDF,” yaknow, so you’ll be warned. And I admit, I think it mildly clever. Very mildly. Almost unnoticeably. Don’t pity that I’m cleverness challenged; that’ll really piss me off.
I’m going to try to do more linking to other people’s blogs instead of jamming them with my comments. It seems better in lots of ways. So here I go.
A conversation I had yesterday and two blogs I’m reading have today reminded me of a couple of core convictions. By the way, these blogs are excellent, so I encourage you to explore beyond the posts I cite.
Brett talks, in the cited post, about Truth, and June about Grammar, but my takeaway from both is that the world is a beautiful place and we’re never quite capable of capturing either its beauty or its horror strictly with rules and formulae and such–which is not to say that we shouldn’t still try.
A commenter on June’s blog, a teacher, points out the paradox of grammar: that one first learns its rules, then how to bend them. I’ve decided, after several (not an enormous number, but more than a few) years on the planet that that’s one of life’s most important themes. I can think of no field in which it does not apply. At every point of revelation, some “truth” we’d been taught to get to that point is exploded by another or simply dissolves in its own insubstantiality.
That doesn’t mean it all dissolves, that there’s nothing substantial or absolute, but mostly perhaps that our plight is one of perpetual misunderstanding, of partial glimpses, of hints and guesses and approximations. And, really, that stuff itself (both our own concoctions and the world and order that exist to varying degrees independent of us–material and otherwise) is more or less, if not flimsy, at least shifting. Moreover, in a way that perhaps transcends or precedes (experientially) the universe’s shiftiness, there is perhaps a necessity that we learn lies or half truths on the way to understanding.
I do believe in absolutes, in Truth. I’ve experienced a bit of it. But it doesn’t come in a pill or a package. Of course, even that’s a lie. Truth is quite capable of sneaking up in a capsule or neatly wrapped container–but eventually, it’s gonna bust out. We learn lies on the way to truth because so much of learning is the acquisition of definitions, definitions are boxes, and gloriously, thankfully, Reality won’t fit in any box, no matter how elaborate and vast we might make it.
God, the world and we ourselves are fundamentally fraught with Mystery–Hallelujah!
Yes, that’s frustrating. Yes, I am continually aggravated by certain things I never quite comprehend but still somehow feel that I must. But there is greatness in surprise and hope and beauty that doesn’t sit nicely in my head or my heart but is always ever tugging at the seams.
With the same finger you might use to fly the universal symbol for defiance and violent disdain (yes, that; yes, the), you can instead bring peace, harmony, cooperation and communication to the world. With little more strength than you possess in your daintiest appendage (the pinkie, I mean), you can control–yea, even hold back–one (perhaps many) of man’s mightiest implements of mass destruction. All that with a single finger on your left hand.
One simple device grants you such power.
I refer, of course, to the noble turn signal–overlooked, underused, quite often despised and prejudicially ignored. I’m convinced that this erstwhile lowly afterthought of automotive genius is one of man’s crowning achievements. I believe that its habitual and rightful employment would significantly improve the condition of this sick, sad world. Who knows, we might even hasten the second coming. O yes. For reals.
I can’t say for sure that it was one of my proudest moments, but I was certainly quite proud and felt an unusual warmth in my soul the day I witnessed my grown-up daughter express her own ardent affection for this underestimated instrument of pure goodness. It went something like this (note that the actual dialog is somewhat interpolated and may be a mash up of more than one instance; there have been a few):
Christine (speaking with uncommon conviction to the rude driver ahead of her on the road): “A turn signal would have been nice. Does your fancy car not have them?”
Me (hopefully): “So, you feel pretty strongly about turn signals?”
Christine (incredulous that I would even ask): “Duh.”
Me (barely containing giddiness but wanting to be sure): “Well, it’s just that so many people don’t quite recognize how important they are.”
Christine: “I’m not an idiot. They prevent accidents. They’re a means of communication. Th-”
Me (unintentionally–in my exuberance–and ironically acting like the cause of our frustration by cutting her off): “They’re a way to be polite to your fellow drivers. . . .”
(Conversation continues. By this time I’m glowing and hoping she doesn’t notice my inordinate enthusiasm. It embarrasses her when I’m too proud.)
Perhaps it’s to be expected. My devotion has surely spanned more years than she’s been alive. I did help teach her to drive and before that she was a frequent passenger when I drove. But it’s not the kind of thing I remember making a big deal of. Her recollection might be different (sigh; it often is). Really, though, the turn signal is almost something I take for granted. You’re going to turn? You’re about to change lanes? You signal your intentions. To do otherwise would be akin to taking your hands off the steering wheel and closing your eyes while you accelerate. Sure it could be done. It probably is done . . . by idiots.
Maybe it’s even genetic. Or maybe she’s just wise. I don’t know, but whatever its cause, it’s one of many things about her that make me happy. And it’s one of those things that convinces me that we share DNA.
So convinced am I of the worth of this glorious and brilliant light amidst the sea of darkness that is the American roadway, so committed am I to the cause of its proper appreciation and use that, I pledge to you, this isn’t the post that I write about turn signals; this is, in fact, merely the introduction to a recurring feature in this blog. Indeed, in my mind, this is a spiritual issue. You heard me. I have much to say about the turn signal–much, especially if you’re scoffing even now, that you need to hear.
In lieu, again, of something more significant, and perhaps in the tradition of bloggy blog, I’m just going to write again today. And, yeah, I don’t know why that’s such a big deal. I think the just writing is what this is supposed to be, but there’s something evil in the back of my mind (it has a name, and I’ll be writing about it eventually) that makes me think just writing isn’t good enough. Screw you, thing in the back of my mind. Indeed, screw you.
I’ve talked to folks lately about learning to be a bad writer–or, rather, learning to let myself be a bad writer. Which is not to say that I’ve been a good writer up to now. That’s the point. I just haven’t been a writer. Which maybe isn’t exactly true. I haven’t been much of a writer.
What I’ve decided (I’ve been becoming a decider, lately–slowly perhaps, but still; thanks, Dubya; you the man) is that to get where I want to go, I need to let myself be a bad writer: lacking profundity, grammatically incorrect, stylistically lame, obtuse, convoluted, lacking readers, etc.–yaknow, all the stuff that comes naturally.
All of you fine people who aren’t reading–or, reading, aren’t responding to–my blog are actually helping. So there. Er, I mean, thank you. Really. It’s sad how dependent I am on people’s responses, or lack thereof. It’s sad how sensitive I am to being unread or unreadable or so easily misunderstood. It’s sad that at this stage in my life I am still so fundamentally insecure and hopelessly hanging on the approval and acceptance of others. But I am, and, there, I confessed it.
There are other sad things, but that’s a whole other post. What’s funny (I don’t know about you, but I’m coming to the conclusion that if it’s funny one way, it’s probably funny several others and the whole bit about “ha ha” and “strange” is just another intravenous line of bullsh** we all accept to our great detriment) is that the acceptance-hungry voice in my head says “don’t promise more sadness; people hate sadness.” Screw you, acceptance-hungry voice. Though (and this is not a concession to AHV, that dirty bastard–he is, in fact, a bastard, btw, but that too is a whole other post) I will add that much of what I mean to write about the sadness is that it’s also a place of laughter, curiosity and enlightenment–maybe mostly laughter, as far as I can tell. That doesn’t make any sense, you might say, if you were reading this and responding to it. Ah, but it does, I might respond, were we interacting. Stay tuned. Which obviously makes no sense if you’re not already tuned. But there, again, I said it anyway.
I have a point. What’s funny is that I keep having it. This then may become a blog largely about blogging–or about not blogging or about the incipient potential of the blog. Probably not. Probably I say that because I’m self-conscious about a dozen different aspects of my and my blog’s inadequacy. But I notice that others blog about the blogging and the not blogging. Again, why this should matter to me, an adult–at least I have the chronological accumulation to suggest I might be an adult–I’m embarrassed to ask (I do ask–in case you’re curious–in my head, and fire back the answers I don’t want to hear).
So, yes, the point (implied but not quite yet spoken in the preceding paragraph): I will write and keep writing. I will be bad. I will be unread. Oh what a glorious thing it is.