I became insane with long intervals of horrible sanity.
Edgar Allen Poe
The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one's time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.
- H. L. Mencken
Many people would sooner die than think; In fact, they do so
What I have been telling you, from alpha to omega, what is the one great thing the sigil taught me — that everything in life is miraculous. For the sigil taught me that it rests within the power of each of us to awaken at will from a dragging nightmare of life made up of unimportant tasks and tedious useless little habits, to see life as it really is, and to rejoice in its exquisite wonderfulness. If the sigil were proved to be the top of a tomato-can, it would not alter that big fact, nor my fixed faith. No Harrowby, the common names we call things by do not matter — except to show how very dull we are ...
-James Branch Cabell
November 26, 2013 - 5:04 p.m.
My tummy is still not right. I am not in pain but I keep having to run to the bathroom. I do not want to go back on prednisone. I'm going to see what happens. As the Crohn's made my existential angst (my Beck cover band) go away maybe if I induce some existential angst it will make the Crohn's go away. Yes that's the rational way to go. You'd be shocked how many things people tell me in all seriousness sound as foolish as that.
I have not left the house since I last updated. I did accomplish something I set up the Facebook event for December's John Platt's On Your Radar. It took some extra time because first I put the songs by the artists up on our Reverbnation page and one sound file was a ma4 or is that m4a and it has to be an mp3. That meant figuring out how to make the conversation. I little research showed me how to do it on iTunes but then I realized I never set iTunes up on this computer. I had to let it find my entire music library and that took a while. But I got it done. And as it required some effort I got a sense of accomplishment. I've added another skill. Yes it's trivial, but only after you know how to do it. That's exactly the sort of thing I like to collect in my head and that I like to teach my students. One of these days I'll try and do a social media workshop at NERFA where I'll show all the tricks that everybody who knows them thinks everyone knows but actually most people don't have the patience to learn that they even exist.
Which reminds me of a conversation I had yesterday with a friend. The difference between "the smart kids" in school and everyone else is how interested they are in learning. Now it is of course not the only thing, there is native ability, but it's the conclusion I came to in the first grade and as teacher now I still feel it's a big part of it. Even if I hated the teacher no matter what the subject matter, other than French which was Greek to me, I was engaged in learning. I was involved in every class discussion no matter what the subject. I would jump ahead in the logic to where I could see things were leading in the sciences and math. I was pretty much never passive. Not being passive is what I'm trying to instill in my students but I don't think it's something I can do with adults in one semester. If we could instill it in our citizens the world would be a much better place. A huge percentage of the political discourse is total nonsense. People are just saying how they feel. They don't want to think things through any more than my students want to think through math problems.
So of course I just came across someone misusing statistics. If I could change just one thing about people to make the world better it would be to get people to think rationally, not make them nicer. Most people actually are nice and well meaning. Damn, This is just becoming a blog of that conversation. We also talked about how nice caring people can still be racists and it's true. The Seven Years in Tibet guy was a Nazi for Buddha's sake. But if you are willing to think things through you'll learn the foolishness of things like bigotry.
So keeping on the same theme. I'm going to tell something which I might keep as a deep dark family secret but is actually something that I'm proud of. As a kid my father had a dog. He had pictures of him and the dog, Sue or Alison do you have those? The dog was black and my father called him Blackie. Only when I was an adult did he admit that the dog's real name was Nigger. No I'm not going to suppress the word. It's a word that I'm using in a historical context. I'm not going to give it more power by calling it "the N word. By the time I knew him my father didn't have a racist bone in his body. If he did he certainly kept them under wraps. He didn't want me exposed to it as a kid which is why he told a white lie; fortuitous irony. He unlearned the racism. He also called potatoes you cooked by just putting them on a fire Mickeys.
And then there's my faggot story. It is not one of my four stories. I am somewhat uncomfortable saying any of these things. I can say it to close friends and I can write it here when I can put things in context. Blogging is talking without fear of interruption.
You'll all be shocked to learn that I was a nerd in middle and high school. It didn't help that I was in the first group of 6th graders to enter the school. Because I had skipped third grade I was a bit shorter than average height. Then I got sick and didn't grow for a year. I because tiny. I started off as fat and became thin and sickly. And of course I was the book smart kid who enjoyed thinking things trough. None of these things will endear you to middle school boys. High school either though my height worked back to average then.
So I started to be called "faggot." It was never fag till high school. Not sure if the general usage changed or it was just kids getting older. I'm not sure the kids knew what it meant. I didn't. I looked it up; "A bundle of sticks used for kindling." I was pretty sure that wasn't what they meant. Book smart only means people stupid in tv shows and movies appealing to the kids who made fun of the smart kids in school.
I came home from school upset a number of times and somehow didn't say, "nothing" when asked what happened in school, and told my parents what happened and asked what a faggot was. My father said, "it's the worse thing you can say about someone." That's it, he described it simply has an insult with no context. I found that disturbing in retrospect but this was 1967 or 1968, That's gay-rights prehistory, before Stonewall. My father had probably not thought about it his entire life, and so just picked up the general feelings. And even then he didn't try to transmit it to me. He didn't point out that there were some people that were faggots and that it was a bad thing. And I think he actually got the meaning right. That is exactly what the kids meant. It was just saying, "I want to hurt you." I am sure my father would have been fine with same sex marriage if he were still alive. He was against DOMA.
The point is that we don't automatically live and learn. It takes some effort to learn but there are great rewards if you do. Want to teach your children well. Teach them that. The rest will follow.
I had no idea what I was going to write when I sat down here. Maybe that's why I cribbed a conversation. But it was a conversation worth cribbing. I love conversations like that and the people I have them with.
Brother Brothers in Arms - October 01, 2017
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