Monday, May 11, 2009

your Dutch uncle

As much as I may cuddle and counsel myself that language is mutable and really does fall into the secondary and that therefore I shouldn't give it too much credibility, still there are bits of language that send me around the bend.



And there are others I can't think of right now. Each of these bits of language seems contrived to make the person using them look better, more 'educated,' more sensitive. Well, horseshit in a blue suit is still horseshit. Such usages suggest the speaker might somehow be capable of distancing him- or herself from whatever matter was at hand. It's slick, chic, suave ... and can drive me around the bend.

What in god's green earth is wrong with having a "problem?" Everyone has problems. No one has an "issue." Does having an "issue" make something any less a problem? Of course not ... except for the blue suit laying claim to some higher, more distanced, more sensitive ground.

And are "behaviors" any different from behavior? How many behaviors can anyone have, however many the aspects of that behavior may be? By divvying up those aspects, it suggests the speaker has an analytical handle on things and is therefore closer to some honest understanding. Is there really a difference between the behavior of a drug addict or a pope and his or her "behaviors?"

Why I enjoy allowing all this to "impact" me is beyond my understanding. But it's like anchovies: I just don't like it. I'm not large on hypocrisy, linguistic or otherwise. It's hard enough to communicate without adding other problems.

Of course much of this has to do with age and the crankiness that can come with it ... living in some imagined past. And while I was busy grinding my teeth about the imagined past of less slick language this morning, an old chestnut popped into my mind as well: "Dutch uncle."

In the old days -- which is to say, days I can remember -- a Dutch uncle was someone who would cutthrough the poses anyone might don. A Dutch uncle would tell you the hard truths in the face of those prancing poses. A Dutch uncle might love you, but that love was not constrained by convenient praise. A Dutch uncle would support you but would not lie down for idiocy. A Dutch uncle was all about facts and responsibility and less about the self-serving designer labels of this mind.

I imagine everyone has run into people or circumstances that acted as a Dutch uncle in their lives. But what occurred to me this morning was how nice it is to run into a Dutch uncle ... how nice, however hard. And yet an aspect of your Dutch uncle or mine is this: When first encountered, a Dutch uncle is likely to be someone or something else, some separate entity, some wake-up call that is 'out there.' While the lash the Dutch uncle may administer is 'out there,' the stinging pain is 'in here.'

How hard it is to discover our own best Dutch uncle. It's so much easier to imagine that a Dutch uncle is someone or something else. Easier to rely and criticize and adore. And how much harder to acknowledge and nourish the Dutch uncle within. If there is no one else to praise or blame or thank or disdain ... whoa mama!

I guess that's part of the tale told by Zen Buddhism's Ten Oxherding Pictures: It's easier when it's the ox creating difficulties, when "monkey mind" is the culprit, when salvation is found through an unpleasant effort that addresses something "else." It's easier when there is some Dutch uncle called "suffering." It is harder to nurture and nourish our own straight-shooting Dutch uncle, the one within ... you know, the one who knew what to do all along.

And it's hard to remember, I guess ....

Your Dutch uncle loves you.

What the hell ... someone's got to tell the truth, right? It might as well be you.

No comments:

Post a Comment