jeudi, octobre 21, 2010

Big Mouth Strikes Again

A friend was about to tell me to keep something secret. This friend seemed to be under the impression that I tell people things.

At first, I was offended. Because people have entrusted me with hundreds of secrets that I have never revealed. Never even THOUGHT of revealing. People have confided in me. They really have. On top of that, I have secrets of my own, which, despite occasional ribbons of revelation, I am quite content to keep to myself. I'm quite sure the world is a better place with most of its information classified.

So I tried to go back through time and find the reasons why someone might have this low opinion. The occasions were found.

INCIDENT THE FIRST: During some bizarre sleep over in some cabin, or condo, or something, in Tahoe, apparently a bunch of people crashed together on a sofa bed. The next morning, I reportedly "sold out" an engaged friend to his fiance. Given that there was no alcohol involved, (don't drink; never have) my complete inability to remember any part of the entire affair was a little odd. I had to meditate extensively to recall even vague impressions. But the salient details and concrete facts are simple to recall: 1)The friend in question had nothing to hide or be ashamed of, as nothing happened on the aforementioned sofa bed; 2) I was, at the time, completely unaware of any history between said friend and any other participant in the innocent sleep that occurred; 3) I considered the relationship between the friend and his fiance to be more solid than any I had observed; and 4) A joke about the proceedings under the circumstances must have seemed, I can only suppose (as I don't remember) completely harmless. If I made a mistake, it was being wrong about the solid footing of the relationship, or mistaken in my perception of the "innocence" of the proceedings. In which case, sue me. But clearly there was nothing in the occasion to merit a reputation of being a blabbermouth. There didn't seem to be any secret to keep. I seem to have spent the subsequent years in a constant state of apology for leaking non confidential information about how nobody did anything.

INCIDENT THE SECOND: During the "State Fair" era, wherein we all worked summers building exhibits at the fair, we had the pleasure of working with a skilled carpenter we dubbed "Safety Dave." We liked the guy; and I, for one, admired his dedicated use of eye and ear protection. At some point during one of many commutes, or lunch breaks, I made a reference to Safety Dave. My "friends" literally used the following words: "We're calling him 'Sweaty Dave' now." There was no further explanation. Later that day, I politely called him Sweaty Dave. He was slightly confused and offended. My bungled apology must have included something stupid like: "I thought that's what we were calling you now." It was a faux pas on my part to underestimate the insulting nature of the nickname and misjudge the situation. It was worse to implicate anyone but myself in the fiasco. But it was certainly no breech of confidence. At no point did anyone say: "We're calling him Sweaty Dave, but that's top secret, so only say it behind his back." I seem to have spent the subsequent years fighting the constant accusation that, based on this incident, I cannot be trusted with information.

If anyone can think of anything else, then I'll eat these words. But it seems to me that based on this meager evidence, the reputation is unfounded, and I do have a right to take my place in the human race. People around me will probably find at least one slip for every secret kept. Which is an embarrassing possibility I'm willing to entertain.

Because, come to think of it, that's not my point.

Initially, I wanted to defend whatever illusion of Honor I might have amongst the people who seem to delight in calling me unworthy of trust. But even as I constructed the defense, I came to realized the HUGE advantage of the reputation, (however egregious.) The fact is, when people think you're going blab it all over, they tend keep the sordid, awkward, potentially draining, crap details of their lives to themselves. And when they're keeping such to themselves, they can't possibly expect you to entrust them with anything potentially embarrassing. While it is important for me that people consider me worthy of trust, it is equally important to me that they save the gossip for people who give a crap.

To be clear:
1) If you tell me to keep it a secret, I will. (But be clear about it, as I am often aloof enough to miss the point when you're blabbing to me and you want the blabbing train to stop there.)
2) If you have developed the habit of keeping so-called "secret" information away from me, I'm fine with that. I don't live in a world where a friendship is based on how much you can't talk about. Keep it to yourself. It honestly improves my quality of life when I can go on thinking everyone is open and honest and realizes the value of George Bernard Shaw's axiom . . .

"The only real secrets are the secrets that keep themselves."

vendredi, octobre 08, 2010

No-Man's Land

I'm a man without a country, so to speak. But it didn't start politically. As always, my social/emotional/physical/political state has philosophical roots. Let us re-trace our steps.

By the end of the teenage years, most people have a pretty clear idea of whether they are a "morning person" or a "night owl." It usually has something to do with how late they like to stay up, relative to how early they are comfortable getting up. Most people have a pretty clear preference. Both lifestyles have their advantages. Early risers get to live out Franklin's "early to bed, early to rise" axiom. They get to enjoy the glory of the morning, the clear stillness and palpable hope inherent in the dawn. Early morning mountain bike rides are cool even in the summer, and you have the trail all to yourself. The morning is serenity.
Night birds, on the other hand, get to wrap themselves in the mystery of the night. To revel in the misty truths that are seen unseen. A kiss while the world sleeps has twice the passion. They also get to share precious moments with comedians, who, for some reason are not allowed to make people laugh while the sun shines. (I speak of Craig Ferguson, and, recently, SNL, and hopefully, Conan). I know how rare it is that anything truly good, or noble, happens after sunset, but even Mozart, who owned the sun, wrote a Little Nacht Musik.
Clear advantages on every side--the problem being that they are mutually exclusive. It simply isn't practicable to indulge in both as a matter of course. Yet here I am, a nocturnal morning person. I love (even need) them both, and cannot choose. So I'm doomed. Their combined magic most often adds up to misery.

Then there's shaving. I have no desire to be lumped with the modern scruffy slacker aesthetic. But that's what happens. It doesn't matter how often I want to say to myself: I'm not trying to look like EVERY Hollywood actor or magazine model, from Jack on Lost to whoever appears on the cover of Esquire. I like a smooth face. Yet I also hate shaving. So I play a game of cat and mouse with my whiskers and always end up on the losing side. Shaven/unshaven and liking/hating it.

Likewise with vegetarianism. I've never minded being the top of the food chain. I think meat tastes good and when produced on a small scale it's not immoral to eat other living things morally and sparingly. And yet, after watching and reading some accounts of how meat is produced, I decided that eating it was not a moral option--indeed, that you cannot be christian, or karmically positive, or enlightened, (insert whatever you believe), and also be part of the meat industry in any way. But I don't want to be one of those vegetarians, the judgemental, evangelical, activist vegetarians who think that a religious person should keep their damn mouth shut but a vegetarian should tell the world how to live. I don't really want to discuss it. But time and again, it comes up. People see you not eating it and have to know. And the next thing you know you're telling them about the toxic pools that kill people and poison the water table as fixtures at mass production pig farms all over the country. I guess if you wait for someone to ask, you're not technically trolling for converts. But let's face it, no one--NOT ONE PERSON--has EVER stopped eating meat because a vegetarian told them where their bacon came from. Even so, my approach leaves me unsatisfied. A vegetarian who likes meat, who cannot and must discuss it with people who ask, but don't really want to know.

I could go on, but why? The philosophical underpinnings are obvious at this point. The reader cannot help but perceive why I am trapped in political limbo. As it is with the night and the day, so it is with my position on the political spectrum. No party represents me. And while I hate dipsheists who display posters of the president with a hitler mustache, I also hate the smug ignoramuses who dismiss people who advocate responsible, limited government as "tea baggers." I know for a fact that people who watch Keith Olberman are precisely as mentally impaired as those who can stand the sound of Sean Hannity's voice for long periods. I understand your need to affiliate with a movement or party, but think you're a complete idiot for thinking the democrats or republicans represent anything but fascism and party-line intellectual cop-outs. I can see how you might think FOX news has a bias; I think you must have fecal matter for brains if you think that the other news networks even approach journalistic neutrality. I admire your clarity and dedication; I despise your feckless, loud-mouthed activism. I applaud your skewering of the power structure when Bush was in office; I mock and deride your blind allegiance to the blundering, power hungry, image obsessed Obama regime. I honestly don't give a tinker's damn about the president's race--on the other hand I think it's really cool that we are half a step closer to having a leader who resembles the chief executive in "The Fifth Element" and various other Hollywood classics.

See? I'm a man without a country, looking around for a third America I can call my own. A man, floundering between extremes, hoping a house divided unto itself can somehow stand.