Posts Tagged ‘obstinate ignorance’

“You know, George Burns smoked all his life and he lived to be 100″ she said, as she puffed away on her cigarette., squinting at me through the haze of smoke.

It wasn’t the first time I’d heard my mom say that.  She always drew on his example whenever one of us complained that she was shortening her life with her habit.   I don’t think any of us were feeling the need to get all up in her business about it though:  she lived a hard life with a cruel and vicious husband.  So what if she had this one vice?  This was something she clearly enjoyed, so who were we to cause her any angst?

Though she died at a young age (71), I’m still not sure I’d change anything.    She knew the score.  She was an intelligent woman, and she knew full well that George Burns was the exception not the rule.  She knew she was playing a form of Russian Roulette – which she ultimately lost.

I wonder though:  if she had known that 71 was her magic number, would she have changed her mind?   There was so much left that she wanted to do.  She was fascinated by computers and the internet, and never got a chance to have one or get on the other before she died.  She expressed interest and I had promised to get her set up.   It didn’t happen.

Spilt milk.  Barn doors and horses.

The past is done.

Enter the present.

I was on Facebook and the subject was Chris Christie.   He is one of the few die-hard Republican for whom I hold a hearty respect.  (No worries, I’m not here to talk about politics.  You can stay and read on.)

Christie

The group was mostly conservative, though there were a few independents there, including myself.  We all seemed to like him, and a few of us thought that maybe he’d be a good candidate for a future Presidential election.

One guy – we’ll call him “Ace” said:  “well u should like christey cause he will be prez in 2020, and rubio as the vip”

(Naturally my spelling and grammar Nazi hackles went up after reading that.  I stifled those reactions, repression being the healthier choice.  May have sprained something though.)

“Peter” said: “I frankly wouldn’t bet heavily on a 300lb 50 year-old seeing 2020.”

The conversation went back and forth between them.  Ace thought it was unfair to pick on the man because of his weight, and I jumped in with a note that the weight thing wasn’t a political or partisan slam; that it was a real factor.  Quite apart from the politics, being morbidly obese has a number of highly probable consequences.  I felt that his running for office in 2020 would be an exercise in optimism.

Then, “Ace” came back with this erudite observation:  “hell i am obesed and 54 and I am very much alive”

I don’t normally comment on anyone’s health habits, whether it involves weight or smoking.  And I am loathe to comment on anyone’s cerebral faculties:  the written word is not always the best indicator of a person’s mental capacity or resources.  A person might have learning disabilities or a mental condition which precludes accurate and graceful discussion.  This is also why I refrained from commenting on Ace’s spelling and grammar.

However, using one’s own obesity to bolster a point that Chris Christie’s morbid obesity does not pose a health risk struck me as slightly obscene.

I said “well you should be worried too.”

“In addition to heart problems, there are potential health risks to be considered, such as stroke and diabetes”, I added.  “This isn’t a personal shot against you though:  it’s just a reality.”

The man replied “i am not ignoring anything ohave the heart rate of a 20 year old and the b/p of a 20 year old, so yes i plan on being here along time” (sic)

To say I was amazed would be an understatement.  The more I argued with him, the more he denied any potential issues.  It was like talking to an emo teenager.

I said “do you even know what being ‘morbidly obese’ means?  Or for that matter, do you understand the meaning of the word ‘morbid’?”

Eventually though, I gave up.  There wasn’t any point, especially after he bragged about being a smoker too.

It just amazes me that anyone can be so neck-deep in denial as to honestly believe that he can live that way and not suffer consequences.  The hospitals are filled with denial-based consequences.  In fact, doctors will say that most patients aren’t in there for exotic or unusual diseases; most are dying from preventable behaviour-based illnesses.

I would have understood if he had argued the way my Mom did. If he had said “look I know all of the statistics and the dangers, and I’m okay with them – just shut up about it”, it would have been easier to drop the topic.  The fact that he used his own stupidity-based beliefs to justify his stance that Governor Christie has nothing to worry about seemed bizarre beyond belief.

I finally said “You’re insistent upon your march to the grave. Eat as much as you want and smoke as much as you want. It’s not my business, Ace.”

It really isn’t.   I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to tolerate obstinate stupidity or wilful ignorance though.   It’s the itch you can’t scratch, or put balm on.   And you can’t take a knife to it, and cut it out of your psyche.  It’s there and you have to pretend it isn’t.   Like foreign matter dangling from the boss’s majestic nose.

There was a time when ….

We were limited to our interactions with just a handful of friends.

When the sum of what we “knew for sure!”  consisted of what our teachers said at school, and what our parents said at home, and what our priests said at church.

We unknowingly carried prejudices, and assumptions.   We were arrogant and obstinate in our ignorance, and we were sure we knew it all.

The fact that our immediate circle of friends and acquaintances shared so many of the same beliefs reinforced our assurance of exhaustive knowledge.   The passion of our parents and teachers put an exclamation point on our dogma.  And we were fine with it.

“Catholics go to heaven.  If they confess before they die.  All others probably go to Purgatory if they’re lucky”

“Eat fish only on Fridays.   Go to Mass every Sunday.   Confess your sins on Saturday.  Take communion on Sunday”.  These were the building blocks for salvation.

There were variations on that theme in other churches, involving the “Four Spiritual Laws” et al.

Not to worry though:  I have no intention of wandering down those paths.  There is no intention to complain about them or brag.   This is all just background.

The internet did not yet exist.   We had no reason to even imagine there was more.  We played outside until it was dark, and our mothers called us in for bed.  We laughed, and played and we felt comfortable.

It’s an amazing thing – how this paucity of awareness seems so real and true.  It was innocent too:   how can you know that you’re missing anything, when you have no point of reference?   When the gas gauge always reads FULL, only because the gauge doesn’t know the capacity of the tank itself?

Then, to coincide with college and university courses,  the internet came along.  We were shocked.  Appalled.  Amazed.

Some of us realized we had a wick, and a limitless well of kerosene that looked suspiciously like curiosity.  And we had a match.

We struck the match – and like THAT – Pandora’s box was opened.   Eve bit deeply into the apple.   New thoughts flooded in – and we discovered we could never go back to our innocent ignorance.

But then, we didn’t want to, did we?

We looked up into the sky of knowledge and found we couldn’t see the end of it.   Just when we thought we saw the boundary  – marked by a flicker of light that we assumed was the northern star – we realized that *just beyond it* was another star.  No, a bunch of stars.

No.

A galaxy.

——–

Like many of you reading this, I really and truly believed that movies and television were mostly there just for entertainment.   I would never in a million years imagine that any TV program or movie would have an element of the spiritual to it.  A meaningfulness that went beyond ratings.   I guess that was part of my prejudice, which was born of cynicism.   TV shows – like major corporations – existed solely to make money.

I remember being in a meeting in a car factory.  I remember when the general foreman – who was probably the biggest bigwig the factory grunts would ever see – stood at the front of the room and asked “why is our company in business?  What’s our purpose?”

Several hands shot up, and one guy proclaimed “to make cars!”

The general foreman shook his head.   Then said “no!  We’re not here to make cars.”

He waited while we looked at each other.   Then he added “we’re here to MAKE MONEY”.  He shouted that last part, just to be sure we got it.

We did.

I have long assumed that was true for the entertainment industry too.

Until one day when I saw a completely irreverent film, by Kevin Smith, called “Dogma”

Up until the film came out, various religious groups campaigned and complained about it.  They thought that he – Kevin Smith – was being sacrilegious and disrespectful.  And they had come to that conclusion long before the film even played in a single theatre.   I went anyway – I was a bit of a film nut.  Plus I wanted to see what the fuss was about.

I *never* expected to get blown away by it.

The film was crass, and it was filled with swearing and adult situations and ……

God was in it.   God had several forms though.  In one scene, God was an old man.  In other, He was Alanis Morissette.

I squirmed, a little uncomfortable with the idea of God as a woman.

But then she – God – noticed a bunch of flowers near a tree.  And She went over and sniffed them.  And then she got down and balanced Herself into a handstand, feet up against a tree.

And I fell apart.  Completely overwhelmed and done in.  I sat in the theatre, tears streaming down.

Kevin Smith (the guy who wrote this film), in my opinion, had been touched by God.  He freaking *knew*.

God is not a construct of dogma (despite the film’s name), nor is He/She limited by what our pastors had to say.  He/She is beyond our imagination.  Yet He/She is right there, mixed up in the little things that make our lives so joyful.   He/She is inextricable from those things that bring us joy.  He/She defines our tears and laughter.

I realized that we don’t have to go to astounding lengths to get His/Her notice.   The things that bring us laughter do the same to Him.

It took me years to figure out that the DNA that comprises our makeup is the same as His/Hers.   “We are wonderfully and fearfully made” goes the verse.   “We are made in His image” goes another.

It takes time, energy and effort to throw off the chains of our ignorant assumptions about Him/Her.   (Let’s just leave it at Him for now, shall we?  It’s easier, and traditional and I don’t want to distract from the thoughts here)

If we throw out everything we thought we knew about God and started with just the basics – that we are made in His image – where does that take us?

When we throw a baseball and our son hits it – or doesn’t – is that Him?   Sure it is.  I think He laughs when we swing and miss.  And I think He sorrows when our beloved cat dies. And I think He sits there with us, when we struggle over a science problem.

And I fucking well KNOW He sits and closes His eyes and drinks in the notes we play when we soulfully strum our guitars or play our piano.   I think He smiles when we dance, all alone in our living room, when an awesome, driving song comes up on the playlist.    I think He covers his ears, laughing, when we hit a wrong note while singing as we drive down the freeway.

He’s not offended when we have sex.  Alone or with someone else.  He’s not shocked.  And He shakes his head ruefully when we tell jokes.  I imagine Him chuckling when we bite our lips to keep from laughing when something awkward happens at a funeral.

That’s the God I know and love.

I think that questions of sexual preference (gay or straight) or politics, or a host of other things doesn’t matter at all to Him.   I think He looks deeply at our souls.   When we decide to live life instead of just enduring it, putting in time until we die, I think He pumps His fist in the air.   He knows we GOT IT.  We freaking well GOT IT.