Tilting At Windbags

Christians get a bad rap; hell, I give Christians a bad rap. While my aim was true, the blast radius tended to be a bit too large: I included too many of the Christian individuals in my slamming of the Christians Who Speak And Politic Too Much.

Truth be told, I was raised Catholic, my family are all Catholics. Mass-going, Communion-taking, tradition-respecting Catholics. And they’re all more than just ok with me, they love me. They accept the bio-diversity and/or socio-diversity that produces homosexual individuals. My partner Sam isn’t my “friend” Sam, he’s just as much a part of the Barbose clan as my sister-in-law Karen or my soon-to-be-sister-in-law, Jessica. Sure, my parents had expectations from their children which were in line with what the Catholic Church wanted: marry a Catholic girl and have lots of Catholic babies who will grow up to be Catholics who marry Catholics and have lots of Catholic babies.

Book Of Daniel 160X600 Gen-1And so on.

I remember telling my Mom on the phone after I came out to her that the hardest part of coming out at all is the loss of expectations. Everyone, when they’re young and living in the ‘normal’ section of society (belonging there or not) has a set of expectations for how their lives will play out. And most people’s expectations in NormalLand tend to be very similar to one another. In this similarity is the tacit assumption that there’s really nothing outside that small population of expectations, and that to fall outside the ±2 standard deviations of Median Normal was to fall off a cliff and be forever an outlier.

Brokebackonesheet45 Alas, I geek too much.

The Silent Majority of Christians are out there, I’m certain of it. And, there is evidence in the numbers that go with the movie Brokeback Mountain that people like a good love story over and above the circumstances and traits of those whom the story is about.

In returning the favor, in relaxing about Christianity, in setting aside the politicos who falsely fly under the banner of Christianity, in paying attention to those authentic Christians out there, in choosing story and talent (Aidan Quinn, Susanna Thompson, and, OMG, Ellen Burstyn), I have very much enjoyed the experience. It is just a TV show, after all is said and done.

I have never really lived my life as a contrarian. Not to the Catholic Church, not to Christians, not even to Republicans. Sure, I go up against each of those groups, but if you look back, you’ll see that it’s in response to something they’ve said or done (or both). For instance, because Pope Panzer says stupid things about homosexuals and homosexuality doesn’t mean that I deplore my very Roman Catholic mother.

So I wasn’t automatically predisposed to dislike The Book of Daniel because it was about an Episcopal priest. Not even because Jesus was in it!

On the contrary, the trailers and ads for the show—which, granted, got seen only because I caught images of Aidan Quinn in a Roman collar while fast-forwarding through commercials—were impressive for their originality: honesty.

Nothing cloying and sugary like Touched by an Uncle Angel or Hallmark-cardy like Seventh Heaven, but something involving prescription drug abuse and the nuances of relationships and the reality of gay people in families and politics and how even Churches have to live in the real world instead of the abstract and idealistic world of theism.

Watching the show has helped remind me not that reconciliation between my world view and the majority-christian-worldview is possible, but in fact, that there’s very little to reconcile at all!

Those who profess faith in the Christian mythos (def: a set of beliefs or assumptions about something) aren’t different enough from me and my particular spirituality when it comes to the things in our daily lives to matter.

I identify more strongly with the main character, Daniel Webster (Aidan Quinn), than I do with the gay son. In fact, I identify more with their particular version of Jesus in the story than with even Daniel Webster!

What’s wrong with a mild, understanding, non-judgmental pose? What’s wrong with accepting the differences in people while also identifying their strengths and encouraging those while also continuing to understand what might be identified as short-comings? What’s wrong with looking and dressing differently to everyone else? What’s wrong with patience and meekness even in the face of “Evil”?

I’ll answer: there’s nothing wrong with any of those things.

These were the things I was taught as a Catholic, and these are the things that remained with me, even as I came to understand myself and my lack of belief in the theological aspects of Catholicism and walked away from it.

Those out there who identify as Christians or Catholics, I have a question for you: am I wrong in any of this, according to your own values? And those who identify as atheists or agnostics? Is any of this off-the-charts crazy?

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Trees in Heaven

Today I went to Cafe Commons to have dinner with my friend, Dave. Mostly it was because I hadn’t had any facetime with Dave in a very long time. Long-time readers will remember Dave (and his wife, Lisa) as my cultural sherpas, teaching me much about Northern California culture. But in a fit of remembrance, I bought the lunch and offered it to Dave as a little birthday present for Allen, who would have been 48 today.

When I told Dave this was why I was buying lunch, he lifted his drink, raised it up and looked up, saying, “Happy Birthday, Allen.”

It was beautiful. And then it was done. We were back in the now, talking about various stuff. Apple and Intel, about San Francisco, about Lisa, about Sam.

After lunch we walked over to Dave’s new workplace, a glass-sculpture shop. At 48 himself, Dave is apprenticed there and he gave me a tour. The studio was a large, tall triangular space I never knew was there. Dave gets to walk to work every day. Lucky.

Anyway, the space was incredible. Dave showed me how it all works and showed me some of the work they do. There, I saw the most incredible chandelier I’ve ever seen. Cool green glass, each piece having a uniform pocket for the lighting and each had tails that swept up! All pieces in a dance that seemed to move of itself.

After I left, I called Sam to come pick me up because, y’know, I still can’t walk up a hill or up stairs. While standing there waiting for him—he was on his way home from an appointment—I noticed a newly-planted tree put there by the Friends of the Urban Forest. The sapling was fenced in with chicken wire and wooden stakes. Across one side was a placard which had on it:

“The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you don’t expect to sit.” — Nelson Anderson

That’s certainly one very specific way to look at life, but it’s one that I utterly appreciate and agree with. And, of course, being none other than who I am, it set me to thinking. And then realizing.

The root of the Christian Idea is exactly this. That good works here, in this life, among fellow humans, would not be rewarded here. That payback was something you got after you were gone from this reality. Helping thy neighbor was a thing you did as a Christian without later handing that neighbor a bill, either implied or on paper.

Further, you were granted the opportunity to do good works when that neighbor allowed you to help. The person in need is, in a huge sense, the true giver. My friend Vincy helped me understand that point of view.

In any event, no one is supposed to keep score, right?

My beautiful and amazing friend, David (another different David) has taken me to task about my treatment of Christians on this blog, in the sense that I lump them all together and aim the flame at all of them.

With all these things in mind, I realized that he was right. And I realized that the Anderson quote provided the key to it all.

Look at all the Christians out there who expect that their “hard work” in getting people elected, in lobbying like hell, in launching enormous campaigns of ideology against their “enemies”, all to provide fast, concrete results and just as fast, just as concrete and immediate benefits to each of those Christians. The Robertsons and Falwells and DeLays and Santorums of the world are of this type.

Dear Auntie Brenda, my folks, and many of the people I know and love who believe in God and the Divinity of Jesus are the ones who plant that tree, help that neighbor, contribute to the world and don’t ever expect the cooling shade here on Earth. Their trees are in Heaven.

And in having had to lean on people more than usual these last few weeks, in allowing Michael and Vincy and FTP (oink!) and Mark and Sam and Dave and David and Davey and James and Marie and Jack and Anthony and Brotherman Sam and all those others to help me (which isn’t easy for me), I get the getting. I’d like to believe all along, god or no god, Church or no Church, that I’ve gotten the giving part as well.

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Rectum Santorum

The sheer blatancy of Rick Santorum’s recent disassociation with the Thomas More Law Center, a “Christian-rights” organization, speaks volumes about the hubris of the American Right Wing. They’ve always been in a state of denial about the world, but until recently, they’ve fooled enough people that they could get away with it: there were things that no one would call them on, a space where no foes would enter: the Conservative Sanctum Sanctorum.

SabirthOn the surface, Rick Santorum’s move is inexplicably stupid. He gives every appearance of being a fair weather friend, of changing his mind because he backed the losing whores horse.

What he actually is doing is attempting to set up further support for so-called “Intelligent Design” by distancing himself and ID from the “religious argument”: Santorum told the Philadelphia Inquirer that he was troubled by testimony indicating religion motivated some board members to adopt the policy.

Religion and ID overlapping?!? Why, The Honorable Mr. Santorum seems to be surprised by the notion that they’re not separate things! What a fellow.

Apparently Santorum will hook up with just anyone without checking out their background. He had an association with the Thomas More Law Center, whose website contains their mission statement, quite easily discoverable. An excerpt:

The Thomas More Law Center affirms the right of Christians to publicly practice their religion and freely express their religious beliefs. Our Founding Fathers fought for a nation built on a foundation of religion and morality. Our lawyers are committed to restoring and preserving that foundation.

These are the folks who were defending the Dover schoolboard’s decision to require teaching of ID in science classrooms. So you can see how Santorum would be surprised to find out that people choose ID over evolution for religious reasons.

Personally, I think ID should be mentioned in Science classrooms in its due proportion of scientific merit. If I were a science teacher, I would mention the existence of groups of people who believe origins to be based on Intelligent Design and then offer a summary of their position: God Did It.

And then I’d spend the rest of the school year providing examples and theories and research all supporting evolution.

ID isn’t Science. It isn’t even anti-Science. It’s ridiculous posturing and lying by Christians who should be following their own Commandments.

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“Christmas” Tree

In my 41+ years, the holidays have meant various things. When I was a child, Christmas was, of course, about presents, about Santa and about going to church to commemorate/celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Christmas wasn’t ever really the day Jesus was born, not that I remember; it was just the day we all agreed upon as the day to celebrate or remember the fact of his birth. It was a chance to think about external things to look forward to rather than think about the internal world that I always knew was different to anyone else’s.

When I was a bit older—we’re still in the pre-teen Biscuit era—my burgeoning fabulousness (and whatever happened to that?) had me saving my Christmas money to go shopping one year, obtaining for myself a 4½ ft artificial tree and an assortment of ornaments: Marie always went with a monochromatic theme on the tree (she was ahead of her time) and I wanted a more “traditional” fake tree. You know, one with strings of tiny multi-colored lights and a round treetop which, also multi-colored, used fiber optic strands to great effect. Tradition also had me adding to the ornaments over time, and eventually replacing the fiber optic treetop with a heat-powered one that rotated and cast disco-like lights all over a dimly lit room. “Tradition” included glass ornaments with fake snow painted on them; icicles made of reflective mylar; bubble-lights and garland that looked like a boa on a Christmas Diva from a Christmas Pageant.

I helped with the decorations. I helped with the cookies (though I had always done that, even since I was very small, helping my great-grandmother). I set up the Nativity scene, a group of figurines cast in clay and handpainted and sold by a neighbor of my grandmother. Quite a little business she had going. I even grouped the white electric lights in such a way that a light-burst shone on the Baby Jesus, although I recall struggling with whether the effect was too-Easter for a “traditional” Christmas display.

Teen years had me trying to talk my parents into getting a live tree instead of the “fake” one.

All through this, I should point out, there was yet another Christmas Constant: our Uncle Bill, who always showed up with the most amazing gifts for each of us. He’s not really our uncle, and he’s gay (had I known this much earlier in my life, the knowledge would have been the best gift of all) and not the real Santa, but awaiting his arrival was always one of our best traditions, not because of the gifts but because he always commanded a room and had everyone laughing and feeling firmly ensconced in Family.

Another of our traditions is a meatless Christmas Eve. Well, meatless until you went to Christmas Mass. This one comes from my mom’s forebears, a Polish tradition. Such starchy and seafoody fare was poverty food at one time; today the palette is a bit different, as are the economics, so seafood includes not only sole, but also scallops. The thin mushroom soup is still made by hand by Mom, still from locally harvested mushrooms (though obviously not the same kind of mushrooms they harvested in Poland) and french-fries are still, technically, potatoes. Oh, and pierogies. My grandmother and great-grandmother always made them, but they’re labor-intensive and these days they can be bought from Greek Orthodox Churches with the proceeds going to the Church or to Greek-Orthodox-compatible charities. This is the traditional Christmas Eve family dinner for me. Or was until about twenty or twenty-five years ago, when my father, a self-confessed man of non-letters decided it was the right time and mood and situation for him to write his own prayer of grace over the meal. And this has become the finest of our Christmas traditions; whenever I am not there (as will be the case this year), I call them on the phone and listen in. Perhaps this year the tradition will include live video over iChat and Airport and Mom’s broadband connection.

In the early days of the Holiday Season “stealing” the Christmas Season (though, I swear that all of my life—Lo! These 41+ years!—I have seen “Seasons Greetings” and “Happy Holidays” appearing in all sorts of places). I always thought that there was a multitude of ways to greet someone at this time of year, and, in greeting a stranger with a smile and the spirit of the season, it was best not to assume anything. Not that I knew about Hanukkah, but I did know that the Protestants were a wily bunch and that there were subtle differences between them and us “real” Christians (e.g., “what was all that ‘And Thine is the Power….’ bullshit?”). Good times.

These days, I’m on the other side of the “Seasons Greetings” and “Happy Holidays” kerfuffle. I am not a Christian nor a Catholic (though the Catholics will tell you “once a Catholic, always a Catholic”, I think their global assumptions have a tradition of being inaccurate), but you know what? I like the Holiday Season. I like the little twinkling white lights everywhere.

Here there is no snow, nor will there be. But snow is tradition and technology has created a pleasing homage to snow and icicles in the form of these white lights and other decorations.

At this time of the year there is more good will and more joy. Not because of the Baby Jesus, necessarily, but probably fueled more by the tradition of pausing and holding one’s breath as the odometer turns over to the next big chunk of time. We’re closing out yet another year where we’re still here, and why not get the world all tarted up to celebrate the fact?

Christians aren’t happy about the world opening its kimono, though, to allow everyone to join in and be convivial. Not happy with welcoming without malice or expectation those who believe or behave different to their own Tradition.

In fact, we Liberals are accused of being at it again. We’re “stealing Christmas”, says the “Reverend” Jerry Falwell.

I, of course, have a tradition of thinking that Jerry Falwell is neither reverend nor terribly “Christian” in his deportment. He’s quite the Soldier of the Lord, but somehow, I think soldiering is better rendered unto the world’s Caesar than to Jesus. Just guessing.

I, for one, would like to thank anyone and everyone who chooses inclusion over an apposite display of piety, who acts like a Christian instead of just sounding like one.

But most of all, I’d like those who think people are stealing Christmas from them to remember that they, in fact, stole the notion of the Christmas tree from someone else and incorporated it into their own mythology.

Now, maybe I’m just full of shit in this, but I just want you to consider the Christians holding so dear that symbol which they consider a fair and true representation of the birth of a person they believe willingly came to this world, born of a virgin, who would eventually be crucified, died and buried, and who, according to myth, did it for all of us. So! Without further ado, I give you the symbol of the Celebration of the Birth of the Lord Jesus Christ that the Christians of this age so need to protect:

<br/>Xmastrees<br/>

Someone has to protect the original meaning of Christmas, right? But I tell you what: while you’re doing that, I’m going to enjoy the lights, and the feeling. And being spared from preaching. And the inclusion many Christians give the rest of us. And including the Christians in whatever they choose to participate in with the rest of us. And the concept of “show me, don’t tell me”. And the promise of a new year. And the green of our Winter.

And my father’s prayer over us all.

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Love the Birth, Hate the Birther

In a stunningly unstunning move, a Catholic school moved to dismiss a teach because she was pregnant without benefit of legal- or church-approved-marriage to a penis.

And she’s fighting back. Go, soon-to-be-Mom!

I wish it would stop amazing me, already, the sheer audacity of the Papists to talk out their collective anus. Pro-Life? Yeah. Riiiight.

It’s another clear-cut example of how they’re pro-birth and nothing more. They don’t care that they’re adversely affecting that yet-to-be-born child’s future by firing his/her mom. They don’t care about the mom, clearly, leaving her to be jobless and a future single-parent.

They care about appearances. They care about their dogma. They care about punishing those who don’t fit into their own myopic and narrow view of how Life Should Be.

So the NYCLU and others step in to support the woman. Supposedly, the pre-marital and extra-marital sex behavior is the basis for the woman being fired. And hey, the proof is in the pudding—or at least the bun in the oven—right?

Trouble is, where’s some similar proof for men? How do you detect if your male teachers are having sex outside of marriage or without benefit of the marriage bed or are even—dare I say it—masturbating?

Well, you can’t. That’s the problem. And isn’t it funny that the Catholics don’t seem to much care if straight men are doing any of those things, and yet women and gay men are under scrutiny?

Yes, gay men. The Catholics are also screening seminarian candidates for homosexual activity or—whatever this means—“strong support of gay culture”. I guess they just don’t have much faith in the power of god’s forgiveness via the Confessional.

I know that bureaucracy and P.R. long ago overshadowed the sacramental, but do they actually believe that can so blatantly parade the fact and not have anyone question it?

Watch out for more sloppy linguistic gyrations from the Papists as they try to defend themselves and continue to sacrifice the greater ethic for their own worldly gains.

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The Good and Decent Right

It’s a strange tack to take, not only pigeonholing the infinite, but then having the audacity to speak on behalf of His Holy Infinity, but Pat Roberts has managed to do just that. Again.

Now, before I launch into this, I should put Pat in some perspective. He’s not the only Christian who does this sort of thing. Many other Christians climb their bully pulpits every Sunday and remind their fellow Christians that heathens and the profane should fear the Christians. Not only fear the Wrath of God, but fear, in earthly and malevolent ways, Christians.

And to also be fair, there are an enormous number of Christians, who, despite the hubris and pomposity of claiming to know their Creator’s wishes in the first place, are really rather decent, mild, meek, helpful people.

But these days, those people remain silent. Perhaps they’ve bought into being afraid of not toeing the Christian party line, too?

So Pat Robertson, the sore loser (at least ideologically) in Dover, PA, not only tells the fine, smart folks of Dover, PA—who rightly punished those who wanted to suborn science by removing them from power—that they’ve turned from God (hey, I thought “Intelligent Design” wasn’t about God!), but that God has turned from them:

I’d like to say to the good citizens of Dover: if there is a disaster in your area, don’t turn to God, you just rejected Him from your city…And don’t wonder why He hasn’t helped you when problems begin, if they begin. I’m not saying they will, but if they do, just remember, you just voted God out of your city. And if that’s the case, don’t ask for His help because he might not be there.

Well! How about that, Dover? You’re up shit’s creek without a Deity.

<sarcasm>And then there’s my good buddy, Bill O’Reilly</sarcasm>.

So miffed was he over Prop I, or rather, miffed over the fact that we San Franciscans approved Prop I, that he’s handing us over to the terrorists. It takes him just a little bit of time to get there. First he leads with what each and every one of us who voted in favor of Prop I knew could be the consequences:

You know, if I’m the president of the United States, I walk right into Union Square, I set up my little presidential podium and I say, “Listen, citizens of San Francisco, if you vote against military recruiting, you’re not going to get another nickel in federal funds.”

That’s how our government forces schools to permit military recruiters: by paying them to do so, or at least threatening to starve them of funding if they don’t. I suppose patriotism and sense of duty should be the driving factors, but, whatever.

But then he becomes his usual insane self. You can almost hear the wheels fall off the wagon of his sanity:

Fine. You want to be your own country? Go right ahead…And if al Qaeda comes in here and blows you up, we’re not going to do anything about it. We’re going to say, look, every other place in America is off limits to you except San Francisco. You want to blow up the Coit Tower? Go ahead.

Didn’t he just commit an act of treason? And more to the point, isn’t he going to get stretchmarks? All this from the man who wants his values pushed in schools and will do anything, no matter how unsavory, to make that happen, ranting at a bunch of people who want their values reflected in schools and actually go through a constitutionally-approved, let-the-voters-decide procedure to make that happen? Why, Bill, one might think you’re a hypocrite, if you’re not careful.

So Pat Robertson hands Dover, PA over to the forces of Hell, and Bill O’Reilly encourages terrorists to blow up San Francisco.

Where are the hoody’s and the Vigilante Papists and the Aquinas-brown-nosers and the teen-age martinet-marionettes railing about God’s love and how these people should be punished for their moral relativism? Probably we’ll hear apologies, excuses, rationalizations, because clearly sacrificing people for their own agenda is more important than the pro-life agenda itself.

Watch, world. Watch how the theocrats decry nothing.

You didn’t hear it here first.

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Praos Theory

Whew!

Some of those nasty state Props were close to passing (although the couple of what I thought were good ones also failed to pass).

Politics is a funny business, where often one is called to speak other than they think (and dare to call that “diplomacy”!). And these days, add to that that one is called to speak and proselytize other than what they believe (when I was growing up as a good Catholic boy, we were taught that that was called “lying”, though today it’s just called “doing God’s work”).

And what is God’s work these days? Well, that depends on who you ask. There are plenty of absolutists about, daring to claim theirs the One True _____, daring to insult, desultorily or otherwise, the beliefs of others as inferior. Their Truth is Everyone’s Truth, and to challenge that Notion, well, makes you a moral relativist and Not To Be Trusted!

The strange thing is, when it comes to the domain of opinion, or belief, or supposition, observable fact has very little to do with anything. Which means that Science has no entry point, nowhere to gain traction. So it goes where it will, it does what it does and leaves the opining-believing-supposing to those who need someone else to define their own places in the world for them.

You’d think religion would do the decent thing and return the favor: leave observation, analysis, empiricism, theory and fact to the scientists. But then again, many of these are people who so desperately need to believe in something that they’ll go to great lengths to attach their cosmologies to things which cannot and must not ever be proven-observed-experimented! Certainty is the enemy of Faith. Those who talk to God are prayerful. Those to whom God talks back are crazy.

Crises of Faith come from within. Crises in science come from without. That is to say, the only “crisis” science can honestly admit to is the onslaught of outsiders who feel threatened by findings, or by prima donna individuals who place their own ascendancy before the ethic (and hell, the god-ridden have those, too!).

Being wrong, or being not-entirely-correct is not a bad thing in science. Often it’s a good thing. Often it’s the pudding which supplies the proof that the Scientific Method, the ethic of reproduceability, the mechanism of peer review and the rigors of scientific publication actually work. It makes for better scientists and that makes for better science.

The crises that faith suffers are from those who question openly, and from those who question in their own minds and hearts the veracity of what parents and other people of religious authority have asserted. And get it right, these are assertions. Not fact. Not Truth. They’re not even evidentiary, much less proof.

When Science meets the Unknown, there is elation: more to discover!

When the Faithful meet the Unknown, there is one-note: God did it.

Thus armed with the weaponry of Christ go they into the world, a seed crystal of regimented (at least publicly) thought and behavior attempting to fix the world into a conformity that is nothing but replicative of themselves. More of the same, larger crystal. Pretty! Smooth facets and hard vertices. The only self-organization in the world they’re willing to admit to.

Never mind the Brownian motion outside their own keeps. The ‘theory’ goes like this: give up your freedom of thought and belief and think how we do and believe how we do—or die. They’ll clench so tight as to force an entire world down the long narrow path of their own neediness-based religion, and to hell with what horrors it creates along the way, to hell with the strife and the difficulty. To hell with fact and observation and rationalization.

Chaos and disorganization and rioting and mobs are useful tools when they happen to someone else. In fact, it’s what the faithful have prayed for: praos.

It’s the 11th Commandment, the “Godenfreude Amendment” if you will: though shalt delight in the misfortune of the profane and the heretical.

It’s the only commandment they enjoy keeping.

Proposition 73, which sought to moralize young women through heavy-handed use of the government (remember when Republicans wanted the government to stay out of people’s lives?) machinery, is a terrific illustration of Praos Theory. Make their bodies not their own and let the state have them: yes, dear, we know it’s your uterus, but we’re going to make our own use of it because we know better.

Praos Theory is the tactic of the Religious Right. Suborn human nature by praying. And show the godless that you mean it by hoisting whatever weaponry you can find as your praying to god makes a big spectacle of it. Offer them a choice: brandish the weapon or be at the business end of it.

Kansas school board fired that weapon because the heretics just wouldn’t listen. Science is in crisis there because it’s being silenced, or at least being led away from unobstructed search for the truths of our reality.

I hope some Kansas teachers who will be forced to teach the utterly debunked (from a science perspective) “theory” of Intelligent Design, who have been utterly reassured that it’s NOT Creationism and it’s NOT about God “per se” will remember that the world was created by Zeus and the other Olympians, and that the Hebrew god, like the platypus, was created by Apollo much by accident when he burnt his ass on the Sun as he pulled it across the sky and exclaimed “God Dammit! Jesus Christ on a Cross!”

I know I’ll be praying they do.

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Vienna & Elysium

Today was a Billy Joel day. And by that I mean nothing more than I listened to Billy Joel albums for most of my work day. And usually I listen to it for reasons of familiarity, for, at this point, a staid background of right-sounding songs in front of which I can focus my mind on the tasks at hand, the tasks of the day.

So it was a bit of a surprise when one old song hit me in a rather new way. And in newness, I felt a little old. Not because of the song, and not because of how it hit me today. Not even about how I used to think of the song. But rather, in the large difference between how I thought of the song today and how I usually think of it.

The song is Vienna.

Slow down you crazy child
You’re so ambitious for a juvenile
But then if you’re so smart tell me why
You are still so afraid?
Where’s the fire, what’s the hurry about?
You better cool it off before you burn it out
You got so much to do and only
So many hours in a day

I used to be that person by choice. The subject, not the singer. I was a sturdy, industrious young man, the Alex P. Keaton of my class. Or at least I gave the appearance of being industrious. President of my High School Class. A-student. Student Council honorary appointment. Teacher-Student Committee. Not valedictorian or even salutatorian, but because I wasn’t really as industrious as I looked. Things came easy to me. The grades, the votes of confidence. Didn’t need to study so I had time for these other things. And making decisions was really the only real work to be done in any of those capacities. That and being visible. I loved being visible. Big fish, small pond kind of stuff, though. I think I knew that even then. In any event, I didn’t really take it all so seriously that I would think of anything I was doing as “ultimate” or even “penultimate”.

But you know that when the truth is told
That you can get what you want
Or you can just get old
You’re gonna kick off before you even get halfway through
When will you realize…Vienna waits for you

Slow down you’re doing fine
You can’t be everything you want to be
Before your time
Although it’s so romantic on the borderline tonight (tonight)
Too bad but it’s the life you lead
You’re so ahead of yourself
That you forgot what you need
Though you can see when you’re wrong
You know you can’t always see when you’re right(you’re right)

Perfection is the thing I didn’t have time for. I mean, who does? Well, many seemed to devote so much time to it. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I was (was?) a sanctimonious asshole when it suited. Thank the goddess it didn’t suit all that much. I mean, I did have a lot of really terrific friends. Or at least terrifically situational ones.

My grades were pretty good. Certainly envious of most of the ones in my class, even moreso by the fact that I did absolutely no lifting in order to end up with the 3.7-something or 3.8-something I got. My most treasured grade? A “C” (my only one) in Lew Isaacs’ “modern history” class. I remember the John Birch Society pimping video tape that we had to watch. I remember finding the student editions of U.S. News & World Report to be a little bent away from what the local news and national news was telling us. It wasn’t until much later that I’d found that The John Birch Society isn’t just a bunch of happy patriots, that USN&WR isn’t just like Time or Newsweek. But mostly, I remember thinking that at least people knew when I was being sanctimonious, versus his spineless stealth-mode whoring for the Republican Party (this was in 1982, for those of you keeping track).

You got your passion you got your pride
But don’t you know that only fools are satisfied?
Dream on but don’t imagine they’ll all come true
When will you realize
Vienna waits for you

Slow down you crazy child
Take the phone off the hook and disappear for a while
It’s alright you can afford to lose a day or two
When will you realize…
Vienna waits for you.

This is the part that really got to me. “Afford to lose a day or two”? Back then, no! Of course not! O, the Humanity! A day or two out of touch would cost me….would cost me….well, it would have been just too horrid to think of!

Ugh.

Today? Today, I’d love nothing more than to choose the fuck-all option, to kick off one or two months worth of time just to get away from it all. Sometimes it almost feels like I can’t afford not to lose some time.

The Puritan Work Ethic is not what prevents me from taking off. On the contrary, all that time I had “off” during the dot-com-dot-bomb—and previously, another by-choice stint—cured me forever of the work-work-work “ethic”. That’s why the Puritan Work Ethic exists at all: because it already exists and prevents people from the time away that’s required in order to discover that the need to work for work’s sake isn’t really a valid position.

Sort of like “god”.

But you know that when the truth is told
That you can get what you want
Or you can just get old
You’re gonna kick off before you even get halfway through
Why don’t you realize…Vienna waits for you
When will you realize…Vienna waits for you

Today I’m close to halfway through. I’d run the numbers by y’all, but frankly, I don’t like to dip my qualitative wick too deep into the quantitative ink. It’s unseemly! And? It leaves a stain.

Suffice it to say that I’m still the “crazy child” of the song, but like most things, it’s a situational condition. The same crazy in two different situations can come off as brilliant or belligerent, as creative or cataleptic, as faithful or just plain fucked.

Vienna is Elysium. Elysium is the place, according to Greek Lore, where the gods conveyed the heroic after death. It’s where words like “elude” and “elusion” come from—meaning ‘to escape detection’. For those who’ve earned it.

You know, those who can afford to lose a day or two.

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