Tuesday, February 27, 2018

1440: Anti-Conic Inquest

Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.
–(often credited to) Eleanor Roosevelt

I dislike this quotation. I agree that great minds discuss ideas – that without what some people call over-analysis, we would lack a lot of important literature – and in fact, if anyone accused me of blogging about meaningless fluff (as they have before), I might use the first part of this quotation in my defense.  But I dislike the rest of the observation. All in all, I think that it is hypocritical; by saying Small minds discuss people, the speaker discusses people. Moreover, they seem to discuss people in the same gossipy fashion which they condemn – that is, belittling others to enact a see-saw effect on their own self-importance. It’s bad enough to ignore conversations which are both people-centered and constructive; but worse than that, I think, is how the quotation reeks with the sort of motives it wants to disparage. 

Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to others.
–Proverbs 12:15 (NLT)

If someone is older than me, then I should like to drink their insights. That is to say, I don’t expect to impress them so much as I expect to draw from them. But did you ever sense that someone was searching for your green spots? That, in a sense, your lesser age was being used as a weapon against you? I don’t mean that learning must be crammed into a certain cubby-hole – there is no situation I can picture, to be honest, which isn't fit for seeing wiser proposals tabled. But I am suggesting that teaching might work differently – that teaching can be more or less tasteful depending on what monster you’re dealing with. Maybe we should forget about somebody’s age until certain questions come above the water; or am I crazy for thinking so?

I don’t like the idea of something existing if I can’t get a copy of it.
–B. Jones

In its native context, this confession refers to the circulation (or lack thereof) of certain home video releases.  I find the quotation interesting, however, for what it broaches philosophically. Materialism, perhaps, is an attempt to stuff history into a ball; you can’t own the history of Hollywood cinema, but a shrink-wrapped movie will lend the illusion. Nor can anyone hang their life in a picture-frame, but some try and reflect it in a castle-sized house. And if poets and their love-songs can’t be jammed in a single box, at least we can pretend our spouse is that selfsame container. When push comes to shove (and vice versa), I don’t think materialistic people are actually interested in materials – what we collect is abstractions. Yes, we, for oftentimes this precarious philosophy seems to lie at the chewy center of my soul.

I’m very social indeed. It all depends on what you mean by social, doesn’t it? Social to me means talking to you . . . Or talking about how strange the world is. Being with people is nice. But I don’t think it’s social to get a bunch of people together and then not let them talk, do you?
–Clarisse McClellan (via Ray Bradbury)

One fad of which I am thoroughly tired is a widespread obsession with antisocial identities. Not only does my generation tend to collect as many antisocial labels as possible, but it also tries to peddle those labels on those who don’t identify with them (such as myself). The quotation above – taken from Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 – is a concise deconstruction of certain social misconceptions; we would need a Bible-sized volume for all the terms which have had their definitions likewise perverted. The volvocular issue of extrovert versus introvert is probably the easiest (if most utterly boring) example – what with a whole generation of chumps led to believe that the former means loud person and that the latter means quiet person. But do you know what the upshot of all these muddles is? It’s that honesty about social nuances is difficult. These antisocial gastropods want so desperately for you to be as antisocial as they are (so they won’t have to contend with perceived inferiority, I suppose), that any confession of social challenges gets your name slapped on their cheesy subscription list. Yes, there are those on this planet who would rather lie in water-beds than socialize; but far more than those water-bed types will encounter social difficulties. Can they comprehend that?

Make new friends, but keep the old; Those are silver, these are gold.
 –J. Parry

I’ve given you a disclaimer, then, that social difficulties do not signify an antisocial person. In turn, you’ll understand that the quotation above touches on a problem of mine.  Making new friends is a piece of Coca-Cola cake; pulling them into a tunnel of deep conversation isn’t much harder. As for cultivating regular chats, that depends on few enough variables to be called relatively simple. But what about getting invited to their wedding? That, loves, I cannot seem to do. Please know I’m not referring to literal wedding invitations; my track record on that object would be an odd thing to monitor indeed. Rather, I mean the kinds of relationships which wedding invitations symbolize: ones so far planted in the roots of consciousness, that nothing can spoil their fraternity from the outside. Whereas shrinking my contact with a certain friend may cause our bond to flounder, I feel that there are other people who, within five minutes of meeting one another, know that they’ve found their next groomsman or bridesmaid. So do you see what I mean about silver versus gold? But I’ll admit my brain could be spinning some very silly webs in this paragraph; this, too, is (possibly) schlock, a chasing after the wind.

like Moses and Jesus… they went threw a period in there life were it was just them and God and it made them stronger in the Lord

I could have used parentheses to correct your grammar, love – but I didn’t. The quotation comes from a text of yours, and the errors (if you ask me) are part of what makes it so endearing. I think of these words when I am alone; I go to your error-ridden text rather than to Kafka or to Mother Teresa. But why? Is it because your words are especially trenchant? They – in my opinion – are not. But certainly they’re the very picture of sincerity. You’ll forgive me for sometimes wondering, love, whether your brain is well-oiled enough to blandish or deceive. But sometimes when I am frightfully lonely – and I am drawn out on the deserts of unmet needs, growing stronger in the Lord – you seem no less a compatriot in my journey than do Moses and Jesus themselves. Bless you.

And whoever is reading, God bless you too. He has given us a marvelous day.
–B. Hill

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