Sunday, May 29, 2011


Perhaps the allure of immodesty lies as much as anything in the fact that there is little or no imperative to think things through -- to pay close and investitgative attention. It's cozy and quick. Truthfulness goes begging, but who, in their right mind, ever wanted to tell the truth? If everyone is a winner or a hero, everyone gets dragged down, but it is comforting ... the matter is settled. Whoever or whatever they may be, the gods are enthroned ... until the immodesty that seated them cracks and our laziness and mediocrity is revealed.

I guess I got to thinking about this because of the glut of war movies on TV. Monday is Memorial Day and the weekend here in the U.S. is devoted to remembering those who made great sacrifices ... and to tag sales and family barbecues. On the TV, those who served in battle are remembered as heroes. Suddenly, everyone who was there is a hero -- World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan. Military personnel are lumped together under the enthroning moniker, "hero." It feels a little like the touchy-feely 'kindness' of grade-school administrations that hand out awards to everyone because, dontcha know, "every child is special." Of course the kids and the military personnel know otherwise, but the immodesty of those who don't know from experience is so comforting and kind and ... stupid.

What's wrong with honoring those who are heroes and special? Nothing ... as long as we take into account the fact that heroes rely for the definition on those who are or were not heroic, are or were not special.

How curious it is that in creating heroes, we long to bring ourselves closer to that which is honored, but the creation only re-emphasizes the separation from it. For this reason, perhaps, people turn up the volume -- volume of praise, volume of appreciation, volume of adoration. If I talk loud enough, maybe I can convince myself of my nearness to the latest god. It doesn't work, but it's not for a lack of trying. Joseph Goebbels, Glenn Beck, the Ku Klux Klan, politicians and all manner of pugnacious 'news' casters raise their modest gifts to immodest heights: "I know who the heros are. I know who the special ones are. I can make you feel comfortable and assured with my volume."

Immodesty sails blithely by the facts. Spiritual endeavor can frequently do the same. Gautama was "enlightened," "Jesus died for our sins," etc. These and others like them may be comforting assertions, but they is immodest in the sense that by elevating what is special -- those rare, rare individuals and beliefs and philosophies and religions -- we abdicate the responsibility that would make the truth come true.

Ah well ... more tilting a windmills. The social tapestry that immodesty infests is an easy target. But it is more important to assess and challenge the immodest one within -- the one who insists that if I say it often enough or loud enough or sincerely enough, it -- whatever heroic it it may be -- will come true. Every alleged hero who ever took to the stage for a round of applause was modest in his or her accomplishments. Why? Because if you had been there, if you had engaged in the action or thought you praise, it would have been just that -- an action taken within the circumstances provided.

I see nothing wrong with pinpointing things that are special or heroic. But without the willingness to investigate what is adored, without asking who enthroned this god, what chance is there for any honest excellence?

It's hot and sticky today and I am a bit cranky. Perhaps, or perhaps not, that is an excuse for my immodest prattling.

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