Sunday, February 26, 2006

Essays From the Slush Pile

Here's another piece you won't find in the Atlantic Monthly. Laugh and learn, everybody.


The Best of Both Worlds:
An Argument for Hypocrisy

Once upon a time, as I chomped down on a gooey maple bar in the lunchroom, a coworker shuffled in for a snack. My mouth happily collapsed around the pastry, I glanced up, noticing that the center of her face seemed to cave and pucker, like a drawstring in her head were pulled tight. So she says “You know how bad that stuff is for you, don’t you?”

Well, of course I knew how bad it was. I had told her the very same thing a not a week before. Oh yeah, I went on and on about the evils of dairy, caffeine and sugar. I threw out words like ‘mucous’ and ‘heart attack’ and there was even mention of intestinal parasites. Now, caught with the goods—or rather the bads, I cowered in my tall mint mocha, unable to respond. Red faced, and red handed, I felt guilty and hypocritical. But it got me thinking. Yeah, I’m a hypocrite. So What? Why is that so horrible? I’m not a bad person, I just hold two opposing views simultaneously. From that juncture of logic, I set out to prove that hypocrisy wasn’t so much a character flaw, as it was a wrongfully maligned coping mechanism, essential—yes I did say essential, to one’s mental health.

Nobody wants to be thought of hypocritical. We do our best to pick a stance and stay with it, striving for consistency in everything we do and say, but occasionally we fall short. Sometimes, unwittingly, other times deliberately, we interrupt that steady-as-she-goes, uniformity of principle, walking-the-talk-integrity. If we’re caught, the ensuing self-reproach infects the psyche, allowing guilt to fester there, unnecessarily.

Mr. Webster believes a hypocrite to be a charlatan or fraud; one who practices deception. When I told my coworker the skull and crossbones facts about sugar, caffeine, etc., I wasn’t in any way trying to deceive her. I believed then and do now that those and a host of other additives are toxic ka ka. I had eliminated these very poisons from my diet for a whole year and felt terrific. Then Halloween came around. I stocked up on fun-size everything like the end of the world was coming. Realizing at one point that I had eaten nothing but sugar and caffeine for an entire week, I thought that because sugar is burned for fuel and caffeine is a stimulant, as long as I consume them, I can’t die. I would have continued in this fashion, but my teeth started to hurt.

My point being that one can believe and practice two opposing ideas. Characterizing my actions as hypocritical was incorrect. A more fitting word would be paradoxical, which Webster defines as inconsistent behavior; contradictory, ironic. So call the behavior what it is, folks: Paradoxical. I rather like the sound of that. I’ve gone from social pariah to ironic in one brilliant word.

Some may insist that paradoxicallity is a personality detriment. I’d call it an ability, a gift.* Life has much to experience, so many things to like and dislike. So many roses to smell and desserts to savor. There are concepts and edicts galore to hold or refute, to scoff or defend, to ignore or to canonize. Because we don’t have a lot of time to do it all in, paradoxicalists have evolved with the capacity to see not just one side of an issue, but all sides, and adherence to a number of views is normal—commendable even. We are capable of being multi-factioned due to our extraordinary broad vision and wide open emotional capacity. Unfortunately because of a misnomer, we’ve been persecuted for this exceptional trait. Why pick just one side of an issue and have a flimsy 50/50 chance of being right? You know what that is folks? It’s gambling. And where I come from, gambling is a vice.

Many of us exhibit ‘hypocrisy’ to some extent. Let me help you down off your high horse with a demonstration. Not all pedestrians are drivers, but all drivers are pedestrians on occasion. How many times have you—the driver, been waiting to make a turn, while a pedestrian dawdles across the road with the leisure of molasses? “Hurry up you bloody so and so!” Shouting seems to make them walk even slower. You’re thinking “If only there were a thirty second time limit, no—make that twenty seconds, that would permit me to make the turn, lawfully rendering the slowpoke into a speed bump if necessary after they’d timed out.” Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?

OK. You’ve parked your car and need to cross the street. The blue “WALK” sign bids you step into the road. You’re about halfway across when some jerk almost takes you out in the middle of a sloppy left turn. He is so close, you could see which radio station he’s tuned to. “Where did you learn to drive? You f****n JERK! Oh yeah, you’re in such a BIG Hurry! What a self-important big shot you are!”

See what I mean? Not five minutes ago, you were ready to write your congressman about the “fifteen-second rule.” Now it seems that you’ve exceeded your 45 seconds in the crosswalk. This is an instance where you have to have it both ways, otherwise you’d combust under the pressure of lopsided reasoning.

Hypocrites! Paradoxicalists! Come out of your closets and be proud of who you are! Because, you can have your cake and eat it too, even if you say that you don’t like cake to begin with.

* It is my hope that I can use my paradoxicallity for the good of all. In the event I cannot locate all, I shall use it for my own benefit.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

I'll Show You Mine
If You Show Me Yours

Across the street from Stickers and Springwater grill in Sellwood are a number of antique shops and boutiques, divey bars, and more antique purveyors. An office building is nestled between these businesses, with foot-high gold lettering advertising the name of the building, which is
C. A. Butt.

Yep. That's what it says. For reals.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Hallelujah, It's Raining Air!

It is so freakin' beautiful today I can hardly stand it. Just went for a walk and the air smells fantastic!

I ran into a woman this morning I had met some months ago. She is the most delightful, optomistic, sunny creature I've ever encountered, and she suffers from dementia. Well, I shouldn't say she 'suffers', she seems to be pleased about most things, most days.

She's always astounded to find herself at appointments or shoppping for groceries or whatever she's doing at the time, and accepts everything as happening in its perfect time and place. She can't remember what she said to you just a moment ago, but she lives in the present because she can't dwell on the past even if she wanted to. And when her friends see her out and about and come up to her, greeting her with wide smiles and jubilant salutations--people who call her by name though she can't remember them for the life of her-- I imagine she must feel a little famous.

Every second is a miracle to her, again and again and again.



Sunday, February 12, 2006

Borrowed From A Missive

This is from an email exchange from last year, at about this time. Today feels just this way:

What a beautiful day today. I went for a walk, and
didn't get rained on. My neighbor discovered violets
in her lawn. Spring can't wait to get here. It wants
to surprise us, trying to psyche us into thinking winter's
here to stay, but its green and budding joy is leaking
in little smirks. By the time it's ready to jump from
behind a bush, throwing lilac confetti at us, its
secret will have already seeped out in daffodil
blooms. Sneaky Spring. I'll act surprised if you will.


Monday, February 06, 2006

It's Called Western Civilization
For A Reason

This is why people hailing from or living in arid regions should NEVER, EVER, for any reason, make policy of any kind. That means no creating of dogma, dreaming up new religions, writing legislation, or uttering any manner of decree. Leave these things to the more level-headed, frontal-lobe-using inhabitants of northern, cooler climes, who don't wipe their asses with their bare hands.

It's a FUCKING CARTOON, for crying out loud. Get OVER it!


Sunday, February 05, 2006

If Spring Could Defrost
In A Microwave...

It would be just about ready.

What a gorgeous day; where are my sunglasses? Today is my only day off, and as good luck would have it, it' stupendous: Sunny, mild, dry. My temperment should aspire to such conditions, not to mention my swampy girl parts.

About to breathe in the newly greening world,


Thursday, February 02, 2006

To All You Superstitious Folks--

Happy Groundhog Day.

Choosing to leave hibernating animals alone,

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