Tuesday, November 30, 2010

ginger snaps

Funny to think how gingerly anyone might approach the uncertainty of their own lives. It does seem to have a pattern, though I suppose generalizations are too facile. First there is a great deal of training about how to do things right, how to keep them under control, how to keep secrets, how to make a good impression, how to appear sane and competent. And with all that training, who would be exempt from believing such things were possible? It's as if we molded our own Joseph Goebbels, the WWII Nazi propaganda minister and a man who recognized that if you say anything long enough and loud enough, people will actually believe it. Goebbels, of course, told a lot of lies, but a lot of people believed them and our own interior propaganda minister does the same. I don't mean to criticize this function ... just notice it.

Yes, everything is under control and then one day, somehow, the well-trained panorama seems to slip its leash. There are facts that defy our coddling and codifying efforts. Suddenly, in little or large ways, everything is not all right, everything is not under control, everything is not under our command. The initial reaction, given past training, is to try to rein in this new panorama ... find a box in which to place it, a philosophy with which to explain it, a leash that will assert a continued control. What the hell, that's what we have trained for.

But life doesn't buy in to our training. Death, disease, drugs, divorce, delight (to cite an alliterative list of examples) seem to smash our neatly-tended suburban gardens.

Last Saturday on the peace picket line, an over-educated doctor chum told me that during the summer, when he and his wife went to Europe, he had lent his house to his 37-year-old daughter. By the time he returned, she had sold off many of his possessions in aid of a drug habit. He is well-enough off so that the possessions were not his main concern. But the revised dynamic of the relationship was explosive. At first, he want to have her committed, but a forced commitment is easier said than done. Finally, he told his daughter to steer clear of him until she got straightened out. This angered the rest of the family, which thought he was being cruel. He told me he had read a book about Al-anon and I told him that books were not really enough.

This example is of course dramatic... and allows people to feel safe because the incident "is not like me." But I think there are a hundred-hundred other small, eye-opening events that bombard the well-coiffed mind-set ... the liberal who discovers his/her own conservatisms; the lawyer who recognizes the law is not enough; the psychologist who runs into his or her bits of consuming craziness ... the surprise when a friend who never swore in the past explodes with a resounding "shit!"

Gingerly, gingerly we acknowledge because we have to ... all that training may have been very good, but training just doesn't cut it. Ginger ... snap!

Trying to get the genie back in the bottle once it has escaped is ... well, difficult is putting it mildy since it is impossible. But isn't it luckier to acknowledge the loss of kool, the ineffectiveness of our propaganda minister, and seek out some more clear-headed approach? Bit by bit, moment by moment, as gingerly as seems necessary ... acknowledge and watch?

Of course there is no cookie-cutter answer to the ginger-flavored events that come along. But one thing's for sure, the propaganda minister is not the (wo)man for the job when things go


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