Monday, September 15, 2008

Understanding My Place in this World

"Know Thyself"

Normally, I do not post an image that I did not take or produce in some way. Yet with regards to what has been on my mind, I found it appropriate to post this image by Immanuel Giel of a stained glass window outside a building in Ludwigshafen, Germany. The inscription reads gnothi sauton or "know yourself" in ancient Greek. The Greeks had many philosophies built around this notion. Sun Tzu advised “Know your enemy and know yourself and you can fight a hundred battles without disaster.”

Unfortunately, the past few years, the only battles I have fought are with myself. Though I have studied much and accomplish much, I've always felt out of place and out of time with the rest of the world. I am more likely to identify with Di Vinci, Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin than I am with Barrack Obama, Sarah Palin, or (enter random scientist name here). Not to say that these are not people with worthy traits and accomplishments or that Di Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, or Ben Franklin led untarnished lives (quite the contrary). I'm saying that if you were to line up my attitudes and beliefs with my fellow politicians and thinkers of today, we would not match.

At one point, I surrendered to the fact that I might deserve the criticisms in which people dished. I am outspoken. I no longer follow the common dressing fads, acquire technology recklessly, spend money like it's going out of style, or believe the status quo is the way to go (oo spiffy). I long ago realized that I am about change. Once upon a time I would have used the word "charismatic" to describe my personality, but now I use "catalyst." Unfortunately, people who rock the boat for the sake of change are thrown overboard. I could not understand why people would refute change so vehemently when I was willing to listen to their hate-speak against our fellow human beings, or in lesser cases, listen to them call liberals "half-brained twits." I never went around calling my conservative counterparts "backwards idiots." I listened for a nugget of evidence that supported an opinion different than mine because I believe that sometimes the conservative half has a good perspective. I would be an idiot to rule out any opinion that was not my own.

This year has been all about rebirth, or at least learning about myself and dispelling mis-truths that I accumulated from that "nurture" part of my life. I wanted a more secure sense of self as I tackled the most important duty in my life, that is parenting a teenager, and wrapping up projects that I threw aside with frustration. When I started this process I believed that the more I knew about myself, the more people would like me. It turns out that a weak catalyst is tolerable, but a strong one unbearable.

An Enigma

I live in a town that prides itself on its small town "friendliness," morals, ties, etc. and shuns those city slickers in Anchorage, Seattle, and anywhere else with a thriving economy/population. It's not that I don't mind living in a small town, it's that I don't particularly buy into the whole image of the Alaskan survivalist (we have a Walmart, Barnes and Noble, KFC etc.) or the nature loving Walt Whitman types that spout poetry that lack any type of metaphor or relation to anything else. Most people here complain about the "box stores" in the same breath as they wish Nordstroms was still around. I have no qualms admitting that I am truly a Townie (or G.urbon as explained in a previous post). This perspective is one in which I relate to Ben Franklin. Jerry Weinberger in his article "Benjamin Franklin: City Slicker" explains how a person associated with a country bumpkin image was really one of America’s first great urbanist.

Ben Franklin was also a catalystic nature. He patented a lot of useful inventions, he discovered many scientific concepts, and (the big one) contributed to the Revolution. Franklin did not bat an eye at the cultural war happening at his time. This got me to thinking about present day society. We are at war off American soil, in the middle of an election year where there are as many young voters and old voters. We have two drastically opposite candidates (though nowadays you would think Palin was running for president instead of McCain) and it seems as if society is playing generational tug-o-war. This is, of course, nothing new. We saw it with the hippies, we saw it with the yuppies (who were formally hippies) and we saw it with Gen X (the older children of the Baby Boomers or the younger children of the Silent Generation). Again it seems as if a cultural war is brewing, or maybe the brew is just waiting to erupt. Generations X & Y are of voting age and perhaps need to act fast if the persona of the New Silent Generation is so. Thomas H. Benton in his article "On Stupidity" holds a rather fatalistic perspective of that generation:

"For academics on the political left, the last eight years represent the sleep of reason producing the monsters of our time: suburban McMansions, gas-guzzling Hummers, pop evangelicalism, the triple-bacon cheeseburger, Are You Smarter Than a Fifth-Grader?, creation science, waterboarding, environmental apocalypse, Miley Cyrus, and the Iraq War — all presided over by that twice-elected, self-satisfied, inarticulate avatar of American incuriosity and hubris: he who shall not be named."By THOMAS H. BENTON

Benton does recant a bit in Part 2:

"Nevertheless, I am still suspicious of studies that proclaim the inferiority of the rising generation. We've all been the young whippersnappers at some point, frightening our elders, and many of us are, no doubt, destined to become grumpy old nostalgics in turn."

"When Republicans say that Democrats "just don't get it," this is the "it" to which they refer. Conservative positions on gays, guns, god, and immigration must be understood as means to achieve one kind of morally ordered society. When Democrats try to explain away these positions using pop psychology they err, they alienate, and they earn the label "elitist." But how can Democrats learn to see—let alone respect—a moral order they regard as narrow-minded, racist, and dumb?"--WHAT MAKES PEOPLE VOTE REPUBLICAN? By Jonathan Haidt

Perhaps I will always take flack for my liberal views. I've always admitted that I have to keep my elitest perspective in check. Maybe I will never see immigration the same as my counterparts because they do not have family struggling in another country. Maybe I will always be the enigma: the G.urbon who lives in a small town, who is a free-thinker willing to listen, a feminist in a skirt and lipstick, a smart, pretty girl, a parent who wants her child to live by his own rules.

I will close with one of Ivan's favorite quotes:

In my many years I have come to a conclusion that one useless man is a shame, two is a law firm, and three or more is a congress.- John Adams

Ironically, Ivan wants to be a lawyer and is wild about politics.

Write more later... Peace... RK

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