Reach Out and Patronize Someone

Tolerance…

Quite a word, that. Deceptive in its apparent receptivity. So transparently open, and yet so opaque and closed.

A word gifted from above. An idea granted as a boon.

“I tolerate you.”

In what twisted human relationship would these words be considered either warm or (even slightly) fuzzy? What self-respecting poet would swoon to hear them tumble from a lover’s lips? Not Byron, not Wordsworth, not even a giant of Suckling stature could take that phrase and make it anything but condescending and cold.

And yet…

We treat it as the height of humanity. We behave as if no other phrase in the English language could comprehend the levels of emotion contained in those three simple words:

“I tolerate you.”

Translation: I accept the fact of your existence, and the fact that it is illegal to kill you dead.

Hold me. I can’t contain the gratitude.

I do not need anyone to tell me that it’s okay to be me. I don’t need permission to think my thoughts. Your understanding and decency are welcome, of course, but they are not necessary.

What I need–what we all need–is awareness, that tolerance is NOT the highest good. It is NOT the greatest gift you or I can bestow upon our fellow human beings. Because to think such a thing implies that I am the fulcrum of everything. My opinion sets the tone. I tolerate you.

Nonsense.

You are. I am. We are together.

Legitimacy belongs. It is not bestowed.

Pet Projects and Points of View

DSC_0712Those who live in the forest only ever see the trees.

– Me

I often speak metaphorically, and my metaphors aren’t always what you would call…well…clear. More often, people miss the metaphor altogether and take me far more literally than is ever warranted. Yesterday, I posted a thought that was either not nearly as deep as I thought (quite possible) or just misunderstood (still going with “not that deep”). So, I offer this by way of explanation:

We’re all familiar, I hope, with the old adage “You can’t see the forest for the trees.” Meaning, of course, that when we allow ourselves to get too close to any given situation, it becomes almost impossible for us to see the big picture.

To this sage observation, I add the following caveat: Sometimes we insist on spending so much time on our forest that we forget that ours is not the only one, that our trees our not the only trees. In other words, we get so lost in whichever big picture we’ve chosen to inhabit, and so caught up in the minutiae of framing it, that we fail to see or appreciate the multitude of often beautiful pictures that fall outside our frames.

In short, we become tree-blind. Like its medical counterpart, snow-blindness, it is an ailment that may only make itself evident hours after the crucial moment, and long after we’re able to do anything to check its advance. We often miss our moment, not because of the “narrow-mindedness” of others, but because of our own tunnel-vision, our own dedication, to the point of myopia, to our one beloved cause. Whatever that may be. We’re so convinced we’re on the right track that the need for adjustment is unthinkable, unacceptable, ultimately impossible. In the words of U2, we’re “too right to be wrong.” We are, in other words, all the things we condemn in others, viewed in the mirror.

We live in the so-called “postmodern era,” an age of human intellectual development (defined, like all of them, ex post facto, and by humans) which supposedly eschews the meta-narrative–the overarching legitimating storyline–in favor of the individual stories of which any given human age is made up. This is fantastic, insofar as it encourages greater recognition of the many ingredients that make up the human soup in which we stew. Instead of using the building to legitimize the bricks, it uses the bricks to achieve a fuller understanding of the building they’ve been brought together to assemble.

However, there is a downside to this bias. We can become so caught up in the importance of the individual story that we forget there is still a larger narrative in which we all share. Postmodernism’s contribution to all this lies in teaching us not to be quite so confident in the nature of that greater narrative. Properly understood, it is an issue of composition: there is no predetermined story unfolding around us, willy-nilly; the story is not written until we write it; it is what we make of it. Unlike your standard literary endeavor, we are not written as characters fully-formed; we as characters are writers, forming steadily as we go.

And this brings us to dialectics, which is a conversation for another day. Suffice it to say that all advancement springs from conflict between opposites, and is to be found in the mean between the extremes. This is what dialogue is: the weighing of extremes in the interests of locating the mean. And as in mathematics, in order to determine that mean, we need all the values, from both ends of the spectrum. Otherwise, the solution will never read true.

My friend Madalyn said something, in response to yesterday’s post, that I find quite apropos: We need travelers. Not in the physical sense. Intellectually. We need people whose purpose in life is to step outside their ways of seeing, to map out the confines of their respective epistemologies and intentionally transgress those boundaries. People who truly seek to see through the eyes of others.

This is the only way to be the authors of the story we’re writing. We must write it together, and we must accept the editorial privileges of our fellow writers. Because the narrative is not mine, or yours, or theirs, or his. It is Ours.

We all have our pet projects and our particular points of view. But, if we’re not careful, a pet may turn on us, and it doesn’t take much for a point of view to become a blind alley.

Toys Don’t Kill People. People with Toys Kill People.

You’ll shoot your eye out!

– Mother Parker

As I was getting ready to leave for work this morning, I was accosted by my television, which told me that Uncle Sam wants me to HAVE A GUN!

This commercial, produced by a local Waco store called (I’m not making this up) Fun Guns, has apparently launched a campaign that is in some way tax refund-related. Thus the Uncle Sam reference. But it isn’t the mechanics of the thing that concerns me. It’s the message it sends about guns and the part they play in American society.

Anytime we attempt to start a conversation about gun control, everything goes sideways. You’ve all had this discussion, from one side or the other: Either A) the government wants to take our guns so we can’t defend ourselves when they come for us, or B) if the government takes my guns, I won’t be able to defend my family from the bad guys. In both cases, the argument boils down to one idea: protection.

I call bullshit.

The store’s name (Fun Guns) is revealing enough. But the commercial’s tagline wraps everything up in a nice, neat, terrifying little bow. Uncle Sam wants you to “get you some!” To the sound of automatic weapons fire.

Come on, folks! All I’m asking for is a little rhetorical honesty. These people don’t want protection. They want toys.

This attitude toward firearms is not manly. It’s moronic. Let’s allow that guns are necessary tools, and that hunting and even home defense are legitimate reasons for owning them. Even if that is the case, in what universe is it remotely responsible to treat potentially deadly objects in the same way one might treat a frozen daiquiri on Bourbon Street during spring break?

It’s not a matter of gun control; it’s a matter of self-control. I find it highly suggestive that even as we demand parental guidance stickers on violent video games, we hawk real-life weapons as if they were stocking-stuffers. By all means, teach little Sally to hunt. But does the pink bedazzled deer rifle really send the message you’re after?

Remember, folks: It’s all fun and games until somebody shoots his eye out…