I hate surprises. It doesn’t matter whether they are good or bad, I prefer to know what is coming at me, so I can prepare myself to make the best of it or decide in advance whether fight or flight is the better option. I have known in advance what I was getting for my birthday since I was 12. I know that this would seem to indicate a stolid nature devoid of any sense of adventure, though I think few people would describe me that way. The thing about surprises is that they tend, in our complicated culture, to be the quick and dirty substitute for something far more meaningful and important: wonder.
One might think that in an evolved, educated, first-world nation, the issue of “sex ed” would have been settled long ago. After all, what could be more important than teaching children about their own bodies, and encouraging each individual to make responsible choices when it comes to reproduction? And yet, the debate continues to rage, in our homes and schools and on the national stage. How much information is too much? Does sex ed encourage children to have sex? Should we teach them about birth control? And recently the debate has extended to include the question “When do we start?”
A great deal of emphasis is given in our stories to tales of magical creation. Wishes are granted, and the coveted item appears out of thin air. The birth of a child, in many religions, is the beginning of salvation. The creation of a building, or an artifact, or a concrete set of precepts is often the turning point where a tale of misery becomes a valuable lesson. As we go through our lives, working to live up to our own, personal, mythologies, we carry these lessons with us and aim to build and create that which will lead us to wisdom, happiness, and a sense of righteous fulfillment at the end of our time here.
Much less often is the power of death and destruction upheld as a step along this path. Usually, tales of death are only made meaningful when death is magically overcome, or serves the purpose of furthering a noble cause. Destruction is saved for the punishment of the guilty or as a catalyst for greater achievement. Something to be avoided at all costs, but if encountered, to be nobly borne and overcome. What we rarely hear are stories of the beauty and necessity of destruction as a meaningful, sacred thing in itself. The recognition that destruction is a crucial part of all our lives if we are to continue to grow, that death creates the fertile ground for new growth, seems to have been left behind with the harvest festivals and strange, heathen temples of the east. We are a people of creation and building, we never look back. We just continue to build up and out on the basis of what came before. But what if our foundation was built so long ago that the core is rotten? Can we continue to build external supports indefinitely, attempting to shore up that which wants to fall?
Look…I work in website design. I understand “social media” as much as any socially incompetent, RPG-playing, XKCD-following, yes-I-have-a-Spock-fetish girl can possibly be expected to. But, can we be honest here? I am flummoxed by the ‘I like it” phenomenon.
I think we can blame Facebook for this one, but it’s spawned well beyond the realms of that bubonic plague of a website. The “tell me you like this” plea is everywhere, and I have no idea what I am supposed to do with it. The words do not mean what they would otherwise seem to mean. In the case of Stumbleupon, especially, a “like” will alter my future stumbling experience, it will also ensure that a site shows up on my “liked” list for anyone to see. But whether I actually Liked it or not (as an emotional response, you understand) is only one tiny part of the equation. What would Amy Vanderbilt do? * Continue reading
I just received a forwarded email (copied in the first comment) from a representative of Conservative America, offering terms of settlement for divorce. As it came to me, I reckon I am a fit delegate to respond to the offer. My response is as follows: Continue reading
In the last few days, there has been a rash of reports commenting on the Republican Party’s apparent embrace of violent terminology. You can read about it lots of places, but in case you somehow missed it, here’s an example.
So there appears to be a trend, not necessarily amongst all Republicans (I still like to dream that there are a few fiscal conservatives cowering beneath the onslaught of Moral Imperatives Activists and Obama Is A Fascist lunatics), but certainly amongst some of their most prominent and loud-mouthed representatives. And the contingent of the blogosphere which likes to think of itself as Sensibly Liberal has made the predictable response: they’ve gone into mama-next-door mode and begun worrying about the future of the neighborhood. They’re concerned, and perhaps rightfully so, that one of these days some teabagger out there somewhere is going to stop throwing bricks through windows and pick up a gun.
A year and a half ago, you asked me to choose which Presidential candidate MoveOn, as an organization representative of my beliefs, should support and promote. I chose Barack Obama, as did many other MoveOn members. So many, in fact, that he received your endorsement for the Presidency; support which undoubtedly had a significant influence on the election results of 2008. Barack Obama is now President, thanks to our hard work.
And the country has yet to see the Change and Hope upon which he based his platform.
I know there are a million issues we all worry about every day. It gets hard to decide where to put your time and money (if you have it to spare). Should you rescue the whales or the cheetahs? Should you support organizations fighting for your rights or the rights of others, folks overseas whom you will never meet but whose eyes gaze pleadingly out at you from the t.v. and magazines, telling you that just $15 a month could feed their entire family? The last thing you need is to hear about another noble cause that you might or might not have the energy and money left to help.
Yesterday I found myself explaining a curious thing to my son. He was wondering why H.P. Lovecraft wasn’t the most famous horror-writer ever, and I explained that he was a little too “out there” to ever garner a larger readership, until recently (admittedly, I suspect his readership is still not huge, but it’s growing). My son asked me why more people were reading him now. And so I told the tale of How Geeks Took Over The World.
Long ago, I told my son, when I was growing up, Geeks were forced to desperately cling to the lowest rung of the social strata. “Really?” my son asked, horror showing plainly on his face. Yes my love, I told him, it was a very hard time to be a Geek. And I reminded him of several nightmarish episodes from my youth. I then proceeded to explain to him how we took over. How, with the advent of the Internet and computer games, suddenly we were the ones holding the keys to the kingdom. You see, I continued, no one but the Geeks had ever bothered to learn how to write computer programs or play with hardware. And so they found themselves coming to Us.
OK…so I’m a bit drunk. But tonight’s surfing brought me to a story of some girl who got arrested for her “too revealing” prom dress, and then an assortment of Hollywood “gaffes” wherein some starlet or other showed too much nipple, and finally I was compelled to do a search for “men burkhas” which, I can tell you, turned up no men in burkhas. So I just wonder:
1) How come it’s crazy when Middle Eastern religions say women have to cover up, but it’s OK when we do it here? It’s because it’s different bits, isn’t it?
2) How come Western culture is so sexually promiscuous, and yet a nipple is still headlining news?
3) How come anyone still cares about Britney Spears? [Note: you must follow above pattern of searches to understand this question]
4) Why does a search for men in burkhas turn up mostly naked women?
Perhaps they are not deep questions, but I sort of think they are.
So, it’s Easter/Ostara/Spring Equinox/whateveryoucallit, and as usual the stores are full of symbolic representations of our gratitude for new life. Pastels, chocolate eggs, and the persistent Peeps. Yes, the gooey marshmallow “treats” which line up in their neat little rows behind their cellophane windows to peer blankly out into the world through their vacant eyes. They practically beg to be abused, with their conformist attitudes, insubstantial nature, and misprinted features. And, inspired by this effort, my family and I decided to accommodate their blatantly masochistic inclinations. Thus, the afternoon before Easter, we invested $2 in two packs of the “bunny” variety of Peeps, and proceeded to destroy them in the most creative ways we could imagine. What follows is a record of our efforts.