Monday, May 30, 2011

interest aroused

How pleasant it is these days to pick up the newspaper or view internet news sites that say something that catches my attention. Bit by bit, the stuff that used to be 'important' just seems repetitive and incapable of salting my eggs.

Today, there were a couple of things that tickled my willingness to engage.

The first was a front-page article in the Hampshire Gazette, our local newspaper. The hard-copy headline read, "WFCR newsman Bob Paquette dies unexpectedly." The internet version read, "Respected longtime WFCR newsman Bob Paquette dies unexpectedly." The story was the same, but the exegencies of hard-copy and internet headline writing are different.

"Dies unexpectedly" was the first thing that caught my attention. How can anyone die unexpectedly? How reasonable is a 'reasonable expectation?' As a social convenience, I can understand the wording, but as a matter of fact, it just struck me as odd and probably a catalyst for sorrow ... unexpectedly -- imagine that! Expectations have a way of running into facts and looking into such train wrecks is probably worth the price of admission, I think. It was a small munchie of interest.

But within the story itself were these words:

Martin Miller, CEO and general manager of WFCR and its sister AM station WNNZ, said in a statement released Sunday that "There are no words to express our shock and grief over the loss of our colleague and friend Bob Paquette. Our heartfelt condolences and sympathies go out to Bob's husband, Michael Packard, and to their families, friends and colleagues."
Homosexual marriages are legal here in Massachusetts, but I have never quite nailed down the etiquette of who is the "husband" and who is the "wife" in same-sex marriages. Are both men the "husband," are both women the "wife?" Or do the designations accord with the socially-popular definitions of "masculine" or "feminine" behavior -- i.e. if one party is more "masculine," s/he is the "husband" and if the other party is more "feminine," s/he is the "wife?"

But more interesting than my personal ineptness, I liked the fact that the article acknowledged a same-sex relationship without pussyfooting or aggrandizement. Sorrow, like love, is an equal-opportunity employer. Sex, color, political affiliation or the car anyone drives is secondary stuff.

The other article that ignited a jet of interest was a story from The Washington Post, something headlined  "Wikipedia Goes to Class." The story, as I get it, is that students studying a particular topics are being encouraged to submit their findings to Wikipedia, the internet encyclopedia that is increasingly a source for research information. Students and non-students find a lot of the data they want on Wikipedia. It is a kind of 7-11 for research.

But the question Wikipedia raises, no matter how many checks and balances the site may profess, is, "Who's minding the store? Is this really the best information anyone could get on the subject?" In the days when people used encyclopedias, individuals who had studied topics for years were invited to submit articles. Their observations were checked and rechecked and the result, while not claiming to be exhaustive, had a kind of heft and substance. But now high school research will be submitted as a means of informing the less informed? It all strikes me as another example of the kind of diaphanous and widening net of acceptable mediocrity.

Oh well ... I guess everyone has to do the dumbed-down before they decide to smarten up. Or, as American observer and humorist Will Rogers put it,"There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves."

Isn't spiritual endeavor like this too? I think it is. Scriptures and temples and rituals and beliefs and eventually ... well, you just have to pee on the fence and find out.


  1. The emerging consensus around the usage, as I see it among my gay and lesbian friends is that among the married, male couples are both husband and female couples are both wives.

  2. Thanks James. I plan to research a little further with Donna and Kathy, my nearby married neighbors.

  3. In my experience, words such as "husband" and "wife" are somewhat foreign. Others feel much more significant, such as "friend", "companion", "partner" or "lover". But then we're not "married", on paper at least and after 10 years living together...

    I hardly give marriage any thought, since I feel that what is really important is our commitment to each other. The bond is there, whether it is official or not. The only times I have given marriage any thought was when I contemplated on the possibility of him suffering an accident or falling seriously ill, needing to be hospitalised and me not being allowed to visit and be there by his side.

  4. Thank you at least for having the courage to express your ignorance.

    A man cannot be a wife and a woman cannot be a husband. In same-sex marriages, the spouses take on the terms appropriate to their gender. So in a male same-sex marriage, both spouses are husbands. In a female marriage, both are wives. It's a very simple concept when you think about it.

    I hope this is helpful.

  5. As I saw a video about French people protesting in the streets asking for social justice, and while similar protests are happening in the streets of Spain asking for “democracia real” (which ironically reads both as real democracy or royal democracy), this whole "gay marriage" issue suddenly felt like "small talk" and very distracting. It was a passing feeling and thought, a very arrogant feeling and thought perhaps. After all, who says it is big or small? I don’t have to make much of an effort to see how, for some of us at least, this is no small issue at all. In fact, for some of us, "same-sex marriage" is a flag to hold, whether as way to ask for humane treatment, to argue that the foundations of life and family are in danger or even to do, write or stand on a soap box (as you sometimes say) to say whatever we feel like, with whatever intention, for whatever reason or with whatever predicted or unpredicted consequences that may come as a result.

    Just yesterday, I saw another video, with a politician denouncing the publishing of a school pamphlet apparently titled “how to be homosexual” (I haven’t really bothered to check). He argued that this pamphlet alone will transform schools into “academies of homosexuality”. As a result, other politicians (likely with more religious views) are now publishing “antigay pamphlets” in schools. As I watch people playing dangerous political and religious games and Nature balancing itself out, I find myself asking what the real intention in publishing the first pamphlet was. Whatever it was, it’s seems clear that this piece of paper quickly became fuel to a very persistent and dangerous fire.

    Perhaps a much more urgent pamphlet for all of us might be “how to respect each other” but, who am I to say what this world needs most… In any case, we have plenty of that already in religious and spiritual bookshelves. Maybe we’d all do better to do as you so often recommend; shut up and sit. Who’s to say?