If anger and hubris simply tasted better to me chances are you’d know my real name and face for a series of seemingly over the top responses for seemingly equally innocuous events. “In today’s news, a local man is accused of attacking a mother of three for ‘standing in the aisle of a supermarket, blocking traffic while talking on her phone’ and immediately thereafter attacking a man for leaving a cart in a parking space instead of walking it to one of the designated spots.” “Here’s one you won’t believe, Brenda: a man today is charged with beating another patron at a symphony concert for applauding before the conductor stepped down from the podium. It appears that this same man has also been charged with verbally accosting a patron at a movie theatre for checking their FaceBook page during the film and once forcibly ejected an audience member from a play for speaking too loudly during the performance.” “Later tonight listen to what this local man says about having his tires slashed for being double parked in front of a busy convenience store and why police think it might be related to another man’s damage to his car while playing loud music while pumping gas…”
Believe it or not, I’m not an intolerant man. Far from it, in fact. Like Woodrow F. Call, I, too, hate rude bahaviour in a man, but I will tolerate it. I’ve spent a fair amount of time not only trying to see the bunny in the famous picture, but also looking to see if I could create a giraffe or fish in the midst of it, just in case. You see, I like different approaches and views. I love interpretation and subjective thoughts. Grey (or gray) areas thrill me. I’ve developed an occasionally ridiculous disinterest in yes/no, right/wrong, is/is not approaches and philosophies. Be forewarned, when someone speaks to me using absolutes a part of my brain checks out and starts daydreaming (and I fear I tend to daydream quite a bit, which, I further fear, is a form of intolerance unto itself).
‘Experts’, I fear, limit too much precisely because they know too much.
The point I’m so meanderingly driving at is that, as much as I believe in my own answers, I’m aware that they’re merely my own answers and not yours or his or hers or that guy that insists that I’m being close-minded by not more appreciating Metallica. I try, believe it or not, to think of you as I react in the daily desiderata, both yours and mine.
Here’s a desired and all too appreciated thing of mine, a pretty tasting ambrosia, honey-sweet on my tongue, a hubris so dessert-rich that my toes curl and I salivate Pavlovian at it consistently: according to a small number of tests that may or may not be ethnocentrically biased I test better than approximately 98% of Americans. On some charts, which may or may not be unfairly skewed, I roll a six and a five and land on the genius square. Be it ever so humble, my egoism wallows in this like so many heiresses at a day spa. Lest I paint myself so tolerant and loving of contrasting points of view, know here and without question that I’m far too prone and far too often tempted to “prove” that I know better than whatever random person in whatever random situation that may crop up. I’ve long since seen that it’s built into me to be a pain in the ass simply because I’ve read up on some things that others haven’t. I’m overly proud when I can talk of Baudelaire’s original French and red-shift in regards to the perceived curvature of space with random strangers that don’t leave their carts in parking spaces at grocery stores. Make no bones about it, I can be an elitist prick when the cards are down and the chips are counted.
In my defense, lest I now come across as too much an egotistical right-rotten bastard, I wish it to be known that my role model, my aspiration, arguably, the goal in my life, is the kind drunkard, the fantastical and utterly fictional Elwood P. Dowd. I love his exuberance. I love his acceptance. I love the way every day is something to be appreciated and every person someone to be known and loved. I love the way he’s found himself back at youth, unfamiliarity, and wonder. And what I wouldn’t give for friendly Pookah…
All this said (or at least written), what galls me most and grinds the gears of all my attempted acceptance is not ignorance. I’m reminded daily of my own ignorance (truly, don’t doubt). I can’t begrudge such; there’s simply so much in the universe that it’s currently possible to know that it seems to me that taking someone to task for their ignorance is akin to blaming them for the amount of melanin present in their body. Sure, you can study, read, learn, even tan, but ignorance is only present in regards to the situation wherein it arises. We’re all born in ignorance and I’m not convinced that we ever completely escape it. What drives me to distraction and cranks up that cantankerous, sputtering, and incongruously angry engine to daydreams of violence in a self-proclaimed pacifist are observed accounts of disregard and obvious disrespect for strangers.
Let’s take a side-bar here. Violence, in itself, does not bother me, per se. I find it rather natural. Violence in nature is not only abundant, but even copious. I believe that certain situations are only solved through violence. While I, myself, prefer to avoid it I don’t find it in the least unnatural. Further, I don’t find rudeness or poor behaviour inherently bad or see it as a detriment to humanity. Sometimes rudeness is not only called for, but, quite possibly, the best, and sometimes only, response to certain situations. In fact, I occasionally love a well-placed and thought-out act of belittlement and/or beat down. I’m okay with that.
I’m generally offended by people disregarding the well being of other people of whom they have no knowledge or dealings. I may well assume, in meeting you in a mall store while buying pants (that I tend to wear too high) that you’re not very bright or not well read or that you believe things that strike me as ridiculous. Whatever my assumption, however, I will treat you with a courtesy that I would hope would be extended towards me. Whatever I may know, I’m certain that I’ve misjudged before and even more certain that I have no working knowledge of your history, your experiences, or even how you treat your dog (or kids) at home.
In short, I don’t know you. Need I really expound on this?
Here’s where this whole thought started: I am currently learning six years old. I now know precisely dick about six years old. As Morphine says, “There’s no map and there’s no clue…”
So, the kid is six and his sister is graduating high school and when it’s time for him to get ready he doesn’t understand why he has to dress up, why he has to comb his hair, why he has to go to such a boring event, be troubled in his otherwise easy day, and why his mother is getting upset with him for continually voicing these complaints and dragging his feet on getting ready. Maybe, just maybe, he’s wondering why I’m silent during all of this.
While we drive to the civic center to see this particular landmark of her daughter’s life I’m composing a speech in my head. It’s my plan to make six years old better see why we dress up, why we comb our hair, why we sit attentively at events that seem boring, but are solemn to others. I’ve got aspects of respect for others’ achievements planned in this speech; handy, but unverified, accounts of how some of these families are seeing someone from their family graduate high school for the first time and how it’s rude of us to detract from these proud moments just because we don’t know these people. I’ve got a whole bit in my head on how it’s beneath us to take away from someone else’s joy and pride in an accomplishment simply because we’d rather be playing a video game. “The game is always there for later,” I hear myself saying, “this is the one moment these people get to see this occur.”
“I recommend pleasant,” says Elwood.
When we get there I’m asked to remove my hat before I even gain admittance into the lobby of the event. I appreciated the implied solemnity. The ceremony commenced, the school band played Pomp and Circumstance (which should be remembered later in this rant) and lovely girlfriend’s daughter does a bang-up job on her introductory speech, speaking well and clearly, respectfully, rehearsed and poised (better, I dare say, than the valedictorian; and my pride is glowing, strong, and ridiculous as I’ve not reared her, but it’s there, all the same*). The principal then takes the dais and asks the audience (some thousand-plus guests of some three hundred graduates) to please hold their exuberance until the end, allowing every parent to hear their child’s name called in our current rite of passage into (or near, at least) adulthood (there’s an argument that as we get older we mature slower; it makes a bit of sense to me).
At which, rather dignified, point the vast majority of the audience then blew my speech of respect, honor, poise, and deference to the appreciation of an event towards strangers to that dear six year old boy completely to shit.
By logical approach, relevance of knowledge…utter, utter shit.
Clap, yell, holler, hoot, scream, squeal, even fucking noisemakers, man. A group of all ages absolutely disintegrated my argument to a six year old (from whom I expect such behaviour) on why we don’t all act six years old; which is to say why adults don’t succumb to the desire to act as stubbornly egocentric as children. Can you feel my pain?
Seriously, can you? This question frightens me as much as the idea of ‘experts’; equally defining, equally limiting.
Now, to be fair, I don’t remember much of my own graduation. I don’t remember feeling all too solemn about it, but neither was I going to fart during the proceedings. I knew some people saw it as special. I saw, too, the importance of allowing it to be so. Regardless of how I felt or still feel, I always believed some things to be important, in some manner, to some person, and I’ve often felt that it was imperative of me to not let that person down.
Now, again, maybe I was just obeying authority, but I feel that I was respecting something beyond myself, even if I didn’t fully agree. Westboro Baptist Church believes that they’re doing right (I’ll give them that), but I tend to remain silent in funerals in respect for the family and to try my best to respect event that are pivotal to whomever. Who am I to judge a baptism (or anything, for that matter) as erroneous when it matters to those involved?
My graduation, twenty-five years ago (and I was not baptized), is beside the point; it’s as obsolescent as Betamax at this time, but that crowd…that crowd…
That crowd disappointed me extremely. I counted only three student’s names of that some three hundred that I couldn’t make out, but three student’s parents wouldn’t have heard that name announced as an achievement of years of their parents’ labor and possible urging, pushing, tutoring, and gods know what. Take a moment. Who knows what these parents may have gone through to get their child to this point? It doesn’t matter if they did or didn’t. They might have. Until we know that they skipped every moment of merit they deserve our respect of trying. Defaulting to the idealism of parents wishing the best for their children seems to me a decent approach.
Then again maybe I’m overreacting. Maybe it’s not a big deal. Maybe the guests of those three students weren’t let down by that crowd. Maybe the guy behind me who wore his hat throughout it all didn’t step on anyone’s toes as cheapening the event, but in my ears, clanging with every name and diploma, was the complete and utter disregard for people with whom those clamoring could not envision as having the same pride and utter joy as their own; a complete lack of concern for anyone else attending for precisely the same reason they were there: to celebrate a child’s or loved one’s accomplishment.
Am I so old? Is this a dated idealism? Have I lost touch? Do I expect too much? I’ll yell and even hoot at a concert. I’ll take off my shirt and vest at a party. I’ll say fuck in front of the k-i-d-s. I’ll even take the last hot dog at a picnic, but I do try to not take away from another’s experience simply because I won’t see them tomorrow.
Previously I’ve talked about instituting four legal clubbings a year. One smack with a blunt, heavy object every season for whatever reason. I’m convinced that a polite manner towards strangers would necessarily ensue. Again, I could be wrong (I often am).
I’m sure I’m a little too idealistic. The crush of crowds funneling towards a narrow stairs at that event would never, ever turn into a revolving cascade of “no, no, after you,” but…Jesus, have I become so cranky? Can I have become so naive?
Here’s my deal: when I’m dealing with you I promise to keep in mind that your situation is beyond me. I’ll keep second guessing myself before jumping to the conclusion that you’re just another asshole until and unless you prove yourself to be just another asshole. In return for not being an asshole to you I would absolutely love for you to treat me the same. Here’s the kicker: it costs none of us nothing; not a goddamned thing except some occasional moment in line at a supermarket and in a parking lot or two and we get the added benefit of focusing our energies on those that are, indeed, proving themselves to be just another asshole.
And three more childrens’ parents get to hear their children’s names called out to a thousand people at graduation, reinforcing the lesson to a special six year old that people he doesn’t know and will not see tomorrow or the next day deserve at least the reasonable doubt that their wishes are just as important as his on some level.
*And, Jesus, Gods, Loki, Coyote, and who knows what, how do you commend a girl that you love whom you did not raise, did not sire, were not there for any of her youth? At nearly forty I know now that love is not limited by giving. At nearly forty I know that eighteen and six is even further from me as when I wanted to dye my hair blue to my current state of being okay with grey (or gray). For all my six and five rolls of the dice, I’ve no clue how to project this love with the assurance that it needs to be benefited from. I can only point and say, “Look! Look! There it is!”