Thursday, September 15, 2011

Stifle your emotions, most of which are inappropriate

            The guy had died young – 48 – of cancer. He was a fellow of little pretense who, while fundamentally decent, was impish and fun loving. I was enduring the fitful progress of the funeral receiving line by looking back on some of our good times. And I started chuckling.
            Heads turned. “I’m in a good mood,” I explained. “He wouldn’t have wanted us to be dour.” The others weren’t quite sure. Actually I wasn’t quite sure; he might have liked some dourness. But I couldn’t arrest this giddy phase which I ascribed then, and still do, to the rascally spirit of my dead friend.
            My mood was not infectious. Nobody else picked it up, and I heard my friend telling me, as he had in life, to shut up and have a little respect.
            Which I did. I suppose an emotion is not less real if one puts a lid on it until later.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Argue with Martin Luther

    The two of us loiter together in the coffeehouse of my imagination, arguing like a couple of old friends.
            “I wish that the expression ‘free will’ had never been invented,” he remarked the other day. “It is not recorded in Scripture and should more justly be called self-will, which is worthless.”
            This was Marty at his most pedantic.
            “Which is to say that the self is worthless?” I parried. “You seem to preclude the possibility that my will can be in concordance with God’s.”
            Concordance indeed, he spluttered, going on to ask how dare I equate myself with God – which I hadn’t meant to do, as Marty well knew.
            “I only meant that free-will or self-will can be divinely instigated,” I suggested. “Would God have men be puppets, our will superimposed?”
            He left, saying he’d just as soon have me be a puppet, which remark, whoever’s will it reflected, was certainly on the testy side.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Being pseudo-intellectual means always having to say you’re ambivalent

Bad attitude about
Gray Areas
            I asked my friend Ed, a thinker of balanced clarity, to advise me on a business dilemma. He pondered as the waitress refilled his coffee cup. “I don’t know,” he said. “It’s one of those gray areas.”
            “Yeah, but what do I do?” I asked.
            He carefully and cogently outlined all aspects of the problem but refused to make a recommendation. “It’s up to you,” he said.
            “I know it’s up to me. I’m not abdicating responsibility; I’m asking for advice.”
            “It’s a gray area,” he repeated.
            I’ve always hated gray area-ism. It’s for suckers who, finding they don’t know an answer, accept the pop assumption that no answer exists, or that it’s mired in impenetrable gray muck. I fantasize getting drunk and threatening to duke it out with the next guy who says, “gray area.” Somebody’ll throw a punch and I’ll parry by asserting that if morality exists, it cannot tolerate areas of ambiguity. Right or wrong is often difficult to discern, but it doesn’t cease to exist!
            That afternoon, Ed called to say he’d left his briefcase at the restaurant and did I have it – I did – and could I please drop it off on my way downtown?
            “It’s a gray area,” I told him. “Shall I go out of my way to correct your oversight? To some questions, no answer exists. It’s a gray area.”
            He was really sore, like people get when you purloin their pet rationalization, but he cooled off later when I showed up with the briefcase.