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Archive for the ‘culture’ Category

The Grinch.
The Prodigal Son.
Scrooge.

What do these fellows have in common? For one thing, these central characters all behave in a way that goes against what their peers consider socially acceptable.

“At this festive season of the year, Mr Scrooge, … it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir.” – A Christmas Carol

 

“Santie Claus, why? Why are you taking our Christmas tree? Why?” – How the Grinch Stole Christmas

They may not be considered out-and-out villains, but they’re seen as misbehavers at the very least. Then, they all have dramatic transformations of their core personalities and perspectives, and afterward are enthusiastically welcomed into the fold.

Those I was always more curious about in these stories are people like the gentler Whos in Whoville around the table at the big feast. They perhaps never experienced an extreme change, but certainly many have tried all their lives to do the right thing. They’ve had quiet struggles – because anyone trying to do the right thing will sometimes struggle with it – and they’ve mostly succeeded. What of their stories? I think most of us are like these folks in the background – no showy celebrations for our small wins. Who’s our character to rally behind?

I understand the need for a big redemption in order to add interest and drama to a plot. The endings of these three fellows’ stories are quite satisfying, if you don’t overthink like I do. Maybe the main takeaway is that us quieter, small-win folks can see that, if seemingly wretched folks like those dudes can soften their hearts and choose a better path, well, so can we.

We may all have latent heroes quiet or otherwise inside of us; but a villain waits there too.

What is a hero, really, but a villain that struggled and succeeded?

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I would say that blogs are the new confessionals: anonymous tale-tellers offloading their thoughts to an anonymous listener. I would say that suggestions offered in blog Comments are the new Penance for Sins committed.

I would say these things if I still believed in the concept of Sin, but I do not.

I do believe in the idea of misguided choices; in the concepts of kindnesses withheld, dysfunctional adaptations, poor coping skills, cognitive biases, and overwhelming frustration. But sin, no, not any more.

Life is complex, and relativity reigns. If an overarching and judgmental construct such as sin even existed in any tangible way, what constituted a sin would be enormously subjective! Perspective on this could probably vary by generation, religion, gender, and culture, and in reviewing history it seems those in power at the given moment get to choose who is sinning, and how.

Even a simple directive such as the Christian commandment to Honor your Father and Mother becomes a messy gray area if your father or mother is ordering you to break a different commandment, yes?

What content creator was naive enough to believe there could be 10 such rules that would never intersect? For instance, could a fib never help you better honor a parent? Is it not possible that stealing, a la Jean Valjean, could keep a child in your care from starving to death and thus you would then not be in any way responsible for the child’s “murder”?

I think we all yearn sometimes to live in a world that is certain, one as black and white as we believed it was when we were children. But that is not the world we occupy, and tightly gripping that ideal past its point of usefulness will help no-one.

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You Better Not Pout

While driving in to work this morning I was realizing I’ve experienced several different phases of close surveillance.

As a youngster, it was Santa: he sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake, yadda yadda.  Earn valuable prizes yearly for obedience and self-control.

After that was busted open, I believed it was a Judeo-Christian God spying on me: watching me half-ass practicing piano; shaking his head as I talked back; possibly snorting at my lame church confessions (I couldn’t really keep track so I guessed based on what I figured most kids my age were doing wrong).  But then I grew into an agnostic who has a sense that it’s unlikely anyone is keeping such a close tally and if they are, I find I don’t much care what their opinion is.

But now….now,  it’s the scariest viewer of all.  My kid.  She doesn’t see everything, of course.  But she sees plenty and she’s watching closely.  For hypocrisy and discrepancy.  For lessons.  The biggest difference, and the scary bit, is that I didnt have to be held responsible for influencing Santa’s and God’s paths.  They would not potentially base poor decisions or family negotiations on my actions.

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When it comes down to it, I’m a bit of of a rube.  Online articles keep reeling me in and then disappointing me.  Damp squibs, if you will.

They will say things like, “The Real Key to Happiness (Spoiler: it’s not more stuff!)” or “A Simple Way to Dial Your Anxiety Down”.  And the answer is always (drum roll please) . . . mindfulness and/or meditation.

Look.  I’m not saying mindfulness and meditation aren’t effective.  I might even be able to corroborate these claims if I could stick to a practice with the same diligence as seeking out Clefairies in Pokémon Go.  I’m just saying it would be refreshing if we could all hear a bit more about the OTHER things that help to make humans happy and let off steam.

I want to see the article whose answer is:  “Limoncello!”  Or, “Punching stuff!”  Or, “Exploring Awkward Family Photos!”

Or maybe I don’t need to see it.  Because maybe I just wrote it.

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Everyday Complications

Folks, when did things like lunch and haircuts get so complicated?

Lunch

I had some chowder and a bagel at the eco-friendly bagel shop in the college town. I was finished with lunch, although had not exactly licked everything clean. With trepidation I approached the waste station. I’ve been to this rodeo before, I thought with a sigh.

If any of the millennials had looked up from their devices, they’d have seen a confused middle aged lady muttering and slowly moving fistfuls of detritus first above this trash hole, then that one. Each hole had what appears to be synonymous labels. Is my soup-covered fork Compostable? (Is this the place that uses the utensils made from corn or is that the other place?) Does the bagel paper go in Recyclable, Semi-soiled, Biodegradable, Locally sourced goods, or Decaying matter? I wanted to avoid putting anything in the one marked “Defiler of Mother Earth” – the one that actually goes to a landfill.  I need a Waste Sherpa, I thought.

Lunch can feel more stressful than the work you return to sometimes.

 

Haircuts

Later that night I tried to read a bit of my paperback before settling in to sleep, and kept having to blow shaggy bangs out of my face. I have managed to find yet another hair stylist who is so petrified of creating a Mullet that I pretty much get a Tellum – an anti-mullet. The back is practically scalped and the front is long and unruly about a week after my cut. So I “trim” the front part, of course (I randomly cut pieces, but with tiny delicate snips like at the salon, so it feels legit).

When I do return to get my hair cut, the stylist assesses my head, wrinkles her nose, and asks, “Who trimmed your bangs?” She wants to know if I cheated on her with another stylist. She knows the trim is bad and can’t wait to insult the Other Woman. But fear not, I paid no money for this.

“So, the thing is . . .,” I begin. And she knows I’ve been tangoing with dull scissors.

“You know we do discounted bang trims between haircuts,” she will say. “Just pop in.”

Yes. The trouble is, it’s at 10:30 pm on a Sunday that I can no longer take the sheepdog situation. I can’t just pop in. Seriously, what working parent “pops in” anywhere? We schedule pee breaks in advance.

Not that a haircut is just a haircut lately anyway. I was getting my hair shampooed recently at the salon, and the stylist asked, “Would you like a complimentary paraffin hand treatment?” She said it in a way that assumed I would know what the words “paraffin” + “hand” + “treatment” mean, perhaps because I am female. (The wrong sized hand-me-down corduroys I wore should have been a giveaway that I’m not much into “beauty treatments”, or “appearance”, but that’s another story).  I DO, however, know the word “Complimentary” and I like it a lot.

I said, “I don’t know what that is, but I’ll try it!”

She brought me and my sopping head to a station with a bowl of hot wax. She directed me to dip my hands in 3 times, one at a time. I kept forgetting to splay my fingers when dipping, so my fingers fused together as one hardened, waxy unit. Then she slipped oven mitts on my hands. I was wondering if I should tip her for this additional service when I realized there was no way in hell I could wrangle cash out of a wallet unless I used my feet.

Which made me think that this would be a great mugging scheme for a high-class area! Offer someone a complimentary paraffin treatment, and once the wax and mitts are on, sha-bam – she’s immobilized and you run off with her Kate Spade bag.  Or whatever it is the fancy ladies carry these days.  I was trying to figure out how much the paraffin and a means of keeping it warm would cost – would the investment be offset by the profits?  If you need a second person to collect the bowl and heating equipment while you escape with the purse, then you’re already splitting the take.  Hmm.

I was lost in this imagining, smirking and spaced out in the fancy salon in my hand-me-down cords and oven mitts, until I was roused and directed to a chair for my next Tellum.

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I’ve been enjoying Kathy A. Johnson’s blog “Catching Happiness” at www.catchinghappiness.com. She recently participated in a meme started by Simon at Stuck in a Book.  His instructions were:

I’m going to kick off a meme where we say our favourite book author, song, film, and object beginning with a particular letter. And that letter will be randomly assigned to you by me, via random.org. If you’d like to join in, comment in the comment section and I’ll tell you your letter! (And then, of course, the chain can keep going on your blog.)

I requested my letter at her post at http://www.catchinghappiness.com/2014/06/brought-to-you-by-letter-g.html.  My answers are below. What fun!  Please play along.  A bloggy, asynchronous playdate if you will.   If you want me to assign you a letter, let me know in the comments.  Even if you don’t have a blog, you can leave your favorites in the comments.  (I promise not to give you Q or X!)

My randomly generated letter from Kathy was “C”. Here goes!

Favorite “C” book author – this was instantaneous, as my favorite author of all time is Truman Capote. I haven’t read everything he has written, but close to it.  For any “Lost” fans out there, it feels a bit like when Desmond has a Dickens book on the island but is hesitant to read it, because he has read all other Dickens works and that would be it.  I own, but haven’t yet read, “In Cold Blood”, the book he’s best known for besides “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” I think my favorites are his short story and essay collections, especially “Music for Chameleons.”  I love the way he twists language.  He bends language like so much taffy, in a way I’ve only otherwise encountered with my second favorite author, Nabokov.

Favorite “C” song Crucify by Tori Amos, on the album of the same name.  (1992).  That entire album was so eye-opening and inspiring.  I love this song, although I wish a pal of mine never asked me, “What does she mean, that her heart is in cheese?”  “Chains,” I said.  “Her heart is in chains.”  But now all I hear is “cheese.”

Favorite “C” filmThe Commitments. (1991). “Heroine kills.”  “I never pictured God with a fat gut and corset singing “My Way” at Caesar’s Palace.”

Favorite “C” object – Card, Library !  Still feels pretty miraculous that you can find wonderful books and media and take them home to enjoy.  I would live at the library if I could.

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I was searching on Elizabeth Warren today on Amazon.  Because she is awesome and I love her and want to read more of her.

So, I clicked on the link for her book “Two Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Parents are Going Broke” (http://www.amazon.com/The-Two-Income-Trap-Middle-Class-Parents/dp/0465090907/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1398875870&sr=8-4&keywords=elizabeth+warren), intending to add it to my wish list.  (Sometimes my amazon wish list fuels purchases.  More often, it builds my “look for at the local library” list).

Anyhoo, there was also an option to add this title to a “Wedding Registry” or a “Baby Registry.”  How gd depressing would it be to buy a book with this title for a baby or wedding shower?

Good luck to you guys!  Even if you both get great jobs chances are you’ll still be scraping by!  Hope this shindig didn’t set you back too much!!

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