Saturday, March 3, 2007

Saturday and a Question about War and Peace

After today I have sixteen Saturdays left before I retire. Or maybe fifteen, if you don't count the last one, since I'm not working that day.

All week I've been getting up earlier and earlier to make sure I get some writing done before school. And I've been telling people that when I retired I was going to get up even earlier.

And then the crash came. I slept until eight, and then laid in bed and watched a movie about Caesar and Rome and Paul. Paul was an advocate for peace and Caesar was an advocate for war. Caesar fell in love with a woman and, rather than winning her over with kind words and flowers, wanted to "own" her as a slave.

Yesterday a supervisor was lamenting that so many of his employees were at war. Another was lamenting that we have a "them and us" mentality. Even with the Gideons putting a book about peace in every hotel room, and even with some of the worst offenders going to church each Sunday, we still fight to the death to main our territories and our prides.

My college has twice the number of students in Criminal Justice than we do in Teacher Education. Yet most of us know that education is the means to keep people out of the criminal justice system (i.e. jail). As in Caesar's time, more choose to fight than to be an agents of peace like Paul.

Why?

Friday, March 2, 2007

Ideas, Digestion, and Garlic

All day long I think of ideas for the next blog. I try to write them down, but often they fleet out of my mind as quickly as they appear.

And yet, it is against my rules to look back at my list for an idea. The list is just a safety net. Suppose I wake up one morning without an idea. All I would have to do is to check my list and pick one of the ideas.

I could write about my rules, i.e. the fact that I make rules (perhaps some brand of mild autism) so that I don't have to make choices about the little things in life...like what to eat.

Or I could write about being lost. I was talking with a friend yesterday that I'd rather be lost than found. Someone asked (trying to be friendly) if I was lost, and could they help me? I replied that I'd rather be lost. For me, it is the process of finding one's way that makes life exciting. Who wants to be told how the book ends?

But instead I want to write about digestion. Or maybe about garlic. Both of these are not proper subjects for discussion. For me, the more garlic I eat the less I sleep. When I go to a dinner I ask for a vegan or vegetarian selection. Chefs must be trained to think that garlic is a favorite among vegetarians. And unfortunately, most of the recipes in vegetarian cookbooks contain garlic, by the cloves. And most of the vegetarian selections at Whole Foods have garlic. Buddhists do not eat garlic (or onions). Why don't we listen to them?

Remember, though, that I'm not going to write about garlic either. My wife doesn't like it when I eat garlic, and this is her computer, so I have to honor her wishes.

It is digestion that interests me. It is digestion as a metaphor for how we process experience. And it is digestion as one of those very elemental processes (like sex) that we should only mention to our very best of friends.

Except, that is, if your parents were psychoanalyzed by a Freudian. Then it is fine to make reference to the entire eating process, and since eating is really sublimated sex, the only subject we really can talk about (either directly, or by inference) is sex.

Hey wait, this was going to be about digestion. A friend used the word "digestion" in the sentence "art is good for the soul and the digestion" and her friend thought she shouldn't have used the "d" word. I suspect her friend's parents are not psychologists, so she doesn't quite understand how the word was used. These "bodily" processes are for some the elephant in the room. We all know they are there, but we should never mention them.

I took someone to see some drawings I am exhibiting. They immediately were taken aback because the figures were sexual beings. At an attempt to explain, I told him that we were all made that way (with sex).

One of my creative writing teachers in college told me that I needed to get rid of the toilet paper. I never asked him what he meant, because I understood that this was more about him and the fact his parents weren't Freudians.

The challenges remain. How do I tell the host that I eat everything except food with eyes, cheese, wheat, eggs, sugar, onions, and garlic without seeming a little bit overbearing and obnoxious? And, in a world of non-Freudians, how can I mention words (or images) about digestion and sex without making the reader a little (or a lot) uncomfortable?

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Continuum

Photographers (my mindset) have a special affinity for grays. That is, photographers raised in the black and white tradition abhor pictures with too much contrast because they lack in detail. We never really meant black and white as the only tones. In fact, when there is excessive contrast we take the appropriate measures to lower the contrast (add a fill light, reduce the development, etc.).

Yes and no are parallel in many ways to black and white. I'm not sure if yes should always be associated with one or the other. In the question, should we be in Iraq? (one of my proposed topics for the day), yes may be black (we fight until one side is dead) and no may be white (we leave, the smoke clears, and the sun shines brightly).

One of the problems with yes or no is that it polarizes two people in a debate. One says yes, and another says no, and neither acknowledges that gray (somewhat, maybe, sometimes, often, etc.) is probably a much better answer. Often I'm asked a "yes/no" question, and I give a maybe answer. I'll say that "I'll look into that" or "we'll see" or even "that's a good idea." Then the requester will go away thinking the answer was yes, and all sorts of confusion and disappointment may ensue.

Will John Edwards be a good candidate for the Republicans? He'd probably be better that the dumber of my two dogs, and he'd probably be worse than an ideal candidate that we might imagine. So why don't we ask "how good will he be" or "how bad"? Photographers speak of high key (predominately white) and low key (predominately black) images. Suppose the debate became more about the tones of gray rather than about black or white?

Even such seemingly absolutes like marriage are continuums. We know of people who are "married" to the extent that they hold a license and occasionally go out to dinner. And there are others you can not imagine life without the other person and desire a simultaneous death should the other decease. When we get down to our knees, perhaps we should be asking, "how much will you marry me?" Marriages all end up as a range of tones (perhaps high or low key), though we often don't discuss "what kind of marriage" from the start.

I believe that compromise and continuums may not be good friends. Compromise comes from black and white and often comes with disappointment. It is not always the win win that it is touted to be. Instead of saying, should I work today? should we say, "how much should I work today?"

Is this now the end of this defense of the gray scale? Maybe, somewhat, close, yes, for now.