Tuesday, December 18, 2007
In an ongoing discussion over on Rory's blog, it seems that we have come to an impasse. Getting, I think, to the agree-to-disagree stage.
I'm reminded of my old hippie days, when, full of ourselves and insufferably smug, my generation of counter-culturists sought to lay waste to the old mores. My parents' bumper sticker was "America -- Love or Leave it!" and ours was "America -- Change it or Lose it!"
Eventually, I learned Mark Twain's lesson -- about how incredibly stupid his father was when young Sam was sixteen, but how much smarter his father seemed to have gotten when Sam was twenty. Amazing that the old boy could learn so much in just four short years ...
We would wrangle with our fathers, and righteous to the core, tell them that their entire lives had -- save for bringing us into the world -- been a waste. That the corporate bullshit and the consumerism and bigger-house-Republican values were all meaningless, and they need to wake up and smell the roses, shuck off their proletariat chains, and get with the program!
The Age of Aquarius was about to land smack on top of us, and we needed to get ready.
God, how thick we were. Well-meaning, idealistic, so certain we were going to turn it all around, oh, yeah, but the only thing more obnoxious than a nineteen-year-old-know-it-all is a whole bunch of nineteen-year-old-know-it-alls ...
We were a wave, and we did wash ashore, maybe further than most, but we ebbed. As George Harrison said, "All things must pass ..."
Of couse, that's how youth works. What is the saw? If my son was not a communist at twenty, I'd disown him. If he was still at communist at forty, I'd disown him ...
What I came to realize is that offering my father such an argument was doomed from the start.
It left him nowhere to go. If he bought it, then he'd wasted half his life, and he wasn't going to smile and agree to that because I said so. He had been young once himself, and had likely said stupid things to his own father. Listening to it from his long-haired son in patched bell-bottom jeans probably wasn't too impressive.
In the matter of deeply-held convictions, be they religious, political, or the taste of vanilla versus chocolate ice cream, people don't simply throw those away because somebody disagrees with them. The important ones? I suspect that most people come to believe and institutionalize those after more than a casual glance.
If I believe something to my soul, then you may be sure I have walked around it, prodded it, poked it, and examined and re-examined it in minute detail. If I am willing to defend it to others, then I have to be as certain of it as I can be. It has to withstand attacks -- from within more than without.
Whatever your belief about, say, abortion is, you probably came to it over time, and the chances of you changing it once you are grown are apt to be slim. The more rigor you have applied to arriving at your belief, the less likely you are to give it up without some kind of major change in the way you look at the world. The older you get, the fewer opportunities for those major life-changing things arise. Or, if they do, you chose to turn a blind eye to them.
For me, I have found paths I like, and I walk those. Doesn't mean I can't change to another one, but I'm gonna need a really good reason, since the ones I am on have been taking where I want to go for a long time.
And, of course, anybody who says that his path is better? Well, that's only natural, we all believe that. But if he says his path is the only way?
Not no, but un uh. Ain't going that route. I've been here long enough to know better. I know where that road leads, and I don't want to go there.
Thus the discussion on martial arts versus "real" violence. Having spent forty years in assorted forms of martial mayhem, I am not disposed to toss it all away just because somebody said, "Hey, it doesn't work." Granted, some arts are better than others. If want to concentrate on swordplay, probably archery wouldn't your first choice. But when push comes to shove, I'm confident that I have something that will serve. Might not be the best, nor the be-all, end-all, but I have faith in it, and faith can move mountains -- with a little help from some bulldozers and dynamite ...
[EDITOR'S NOTE: I'm going to table this discussion until Rory and I have a chance to have a cup of coffee and discuss this further. Sometimes, the words just get in the way ...]