Friday, April 19, 2013

no 15 minutes of fame

This morning, before opening this page, I had a note from a very old friend, an economics professor at the University of Hawaii. He and I were stationed in Berlin in the early 1960's as German linguists and somehow our friendship has lasted despite infrequent meetings and great distances. He asked for news and I told him the thing that was uppermost in my mind. I am too confounded to reprise it in some more coherent way, so here is the first paragraph of the note I sent in return:
Barney -- As always, I am glad to hear you survived ... birthdays, condos, whatever. At this end of the world, less and less is new or news. Today, my younger son, Ives, graduates from basic training with the Army National Guard. He's at Ft. Benning. On Monday, he starts advanced infantry training. In the midst of a swirl of gnawing reactions within, I talked with him on the phone last night and he told me that during the 12-mile hike that was some sort of apex exercise, he stayed back beginning at mile 4 to help another guy who was weeping in pain from his blistered feet ... stayed with him the whole way ... and they made it together. And that is the son I know -- kind-hearted in ways that are unlikely to be easy as he moves forward in life, whether inside the army or out. It made me think how little decency and kindness -- just ordinary, day-to-day stuff -- makes the social headlines and yet that unremarkable world is really quite remarkable and noteworthy... and worth nourishing despite the fact that there are no 15 minutes of fame.
In a matrix of destruction and cruelty, there are always bright lights of warmth and kindness.

I find it infuriatingly saccharine and smarmy and demeaning when wondrous bits of common decency and kindness are elevated and praised. They are worth noting, but will always remain impossibly secret when they are any good. The light is not lighter because of the darkness. The darkness is not darker because of the light. The light is the light. The darkness is the darkness. They dance ... but there is no "they."

Cut the Gandhi or Jesus or Gautama sales pitch!

Don't speak to me of heroes when there are heroes all around me!

But here I am ... another smarm-meister and purveyor of drizzle and ick.

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