“God is a wild man. Doesn’t give a damn about camel toes.”
[Originally published on MySpace on July 16, 2010.]
I’ve worked as an editor. You cannot shock me with mere typos, bad grammar, creative spelling, or even malapropisms (in fact, I’m actually rather fond of same). As an editor, it’s my job to help with those things. In terms of metaphysics, it’s all grist for the mill. I like high falutin’, high brow language, but then I also like to solve Sudoku puzzles–mainly because I’m attracted to intricacy.
Nonetheless, the folks at Wal-Mart–who are a joke in danger of becoming a cultural phenomenon in this country–manage to get their points across, double negatives and all (which by the way only works in math), and the way they express emotion and experience of life is just as valid an expression of humanity as any other, and serves to forward, however backwardly, the human condition. Being insufferably self-absorbed, I often find myself asking “What has this person just taught me about myself?”
I recall seeing a young woman at Wal-Mart who did manage to shock me. She was dressed in the wispiest of negligees stretched over a body so perfectly rotund as to be nearly preternatural, and there was nothing at all left to one’s imagination (think “camel toes”). My first hysterical thought was, “I’d shoot myself in the head before going out in public like that.” This despite the fact that she was completely fascinating and I couldn’t keep my eyes off her. Then I thought about it. The problem was not that she was dressed inappropriately. The problem was that she might as well have gone naked and painted a big target on her back with a sign that said, “Take your best shot” because MOST of the REST of the properly dressed patrons in the store were not adult enough to handle her state of deshabille, because ALL of them, including me, would immediately take it personally. It’s a kind of “there but for the grace of God” thing, only we leave out the “grace” part, eh? I watched her for a minute or two. At one point she turned, threw back her head, and laughed at something her companion said. Completely abandoned, unmitigated hilarity. I found myself smiling involuntarily in response. I was enchanted.
As I mentioned in my previous blog, I went to the ER several times recently. The first two visits nearly cost me my life. Why? Stringy haired, no shower, no make-up, skin greasy and pallid with sweat and breath sour from unmitigated pain, dressed in my “jammies” (sweats and a T-shirt, creased and stained with hard use), and in such debilitating active pain that I was not able to keep silent about it—like I’d been shot in the head, imagine that. In short, I was a perfect vision of pathetic white trash who had no doubt brought her debilitation down upon herself. My sister, who had brought me to the hospital, was in little better condition, because it was the middle of the night, no sleep, and she was worried sick about me. The repugnance on the faces of the staff in the ER was nearly as palpable as the pain in my head. One of them even remarked to my sister, “you know, just because she moans about being in pain doesn’t mean we’re going to get to her any faster.”
To make a long story short, they rationalized their fear and disgust and disenfranchised me by deciding I wasn’t worth their effort, being stupid white trash, and shuffled me back out the door as quickly as possible with a diagnosis of “sinus infection.” By the time I finally was admitted to the ICU at another hospital–with a raging case of bacterial meningitis!–I was within just a few hours of reaching the point of no return.
Hours. Toast. Dead. And for what? Because I wasn’t a fashion plate? Because I failed to adhere to the dress code? Because I wasn’t like you?? What are you afraid of?
You see my point? God is a wild man. Doesn’t give a damn about camel toes. None of us has to live there, and no one’s asking us to. If they are, they have no right to ask. On the other hand, if I ever see that little round woman in the negligee again, I’m going to throw my arms around her and give her a big smack on the forehead with both my lips. Almost learned my lesson the hard way, you dig?
“…I find a beauty in all who deign to expose it…”
Pay attention to the first two words in this quote especially. How you think and what you do has an effect. Where does our responsibility lie? Is it black and white? Is it always the same?
Go ahead and laugh. But don’t forget compassion. Not a one of us has the right to deprive others of their humanity, regardless of the provocation.
And whereas I grant you that there is no categorical imperative to refrain from doing so, there are nonetheless consequences, which these days have the potential to be threatening on a scale of beyond nightmare. Be careful what you ask for.
6:00 PM 30 Comments 5 Kudos
Update December 3, 2012
This blog may be a little naive in scope, but I think it still makes a really excellent point that can be extrapolated into a wider context, which is that how you feel about others, and how you subsequently treat them, can have serious consequences for them and for you–in particular as we’re not ever only just “dealing locally,” we’re also always dealing with “normative narratives.” Cultural assumptions–which can have wide and even unpredictable (or at least harder to predict) consequences for people at further removes which will then eventually swing back around to you.
A friend recently brought the following article to my attention. I began thinking about it, of course (I also began wishing I could get blind stinking drunk). Following the link are a few additional remarks on this general subject.
Read the article, folks. Seriously.
“This is the first moment in the history of our planet when any species, by its own voluntary actions, has become a danger to itself – as well as to vast numbers of others.
It might be a familiar progression, transpiring on many worlds – a planet, newly formed, placidly revolves around its star; life slowly forms; a kaleidoscopic procession of creatures evolves; intelligence emerges which, at least up to a point, confers enormous survival value; and then technology is invented. It dawns on them that there are such things as laws of Nature, that these laws can be revealed by experiment, and that knowledge of these laws can be made both to save and to take lives, both on unprecedented scales. Science, they recognize, grants immense powers. In a flash, they create world-altering contrivances. Some planetary civilizations see their way through, place limits on what may and what must not be done, and safely pass through the time of perils. Others, not so lucky or so prudent, perish.”
I think that last bit might be a bit optimistic, begging the question of whether anything like human sentience (and there isn’t any other kind of sentience) can exist anywhere, or by any means other than human.
The problem with no longer having God running the show (as it were) is precisely that there are no longer any external–i.e., natural–limits that keep us safe from ourselves (at least in terms of continuing to exist as a species, if not in terms of certain portions of various populations or individuals). Instead, it is required that we ourselves figure out how to make our destiny manifest, and in what regard. This is somewhat problematic (*stifles hysterical laughter*), because that “we” I just mentioned has tremendous difficulty actually coming to and then sustaining any sort of agreement as to what constitutes an appropriate limit. Sentience and its expression is a temporal dynamic process–any agreement is all but intrinsically transient. In order to curb this (assuming that doing so is desirable), it becomes conceivable that a way must be found to establish a static limit (a “hard” limit) within this dynamic–a limit that we create, as opposed to relying on nature to curb our impertinence or, rather, our boundless enthusiasm for failing to also fear to tread where angels already do. And this all by itself has potential for disastrous consequences equal to those that plague us if we DON’T manage to come up with some sort of limit.
Need a static limit that doesn’t act like one. Feel free to imagine that.
Meticulous self-respect. I dunno if that can happen fast enough on a broad enough scale to save our bacon (assuming, again, that we need to be saved). But then this is where I came in to the discussion/endeavor, and where the idea of “curative virus” entered into the picture: you can make rules, but if you can’t enforce them, then they’re not worth much. On the other hand, it seems to me that TRULY rational self-interest recognizes that we can’t live without each other, and that assigning a negative value to warts is actually suicide.
“…it seems to me aesthetics and ethics are intertwined, but that there is a dynamic in place, such that while there may be a temporary or an overall stability, nonetheless there is always also change and creation of meaning. Iteration, reiteration, and that fine, often not readily and more often overlooked nudge of the creation of new meaning as a result of the recursive operation of any process, in particular as no process ever runs quite the same way each time. Gestalt is also a factor, wherein you have more and different than you started with. Aesthetics, as I painfully understand it from a popular western view, typically has to do with a narrow definition, and anything outside that field of possibility is not regarded in terms of what it is in itself, rather in terms of how it fails to be what it isn’t. Hence, the degradation of anything outside that narrow field of possibility. For me, ethics has to do with a deliberate aesthetics which seeks to avoid that degradation.”
It’s not just a matter of superficial courtesy. It’s life and death.
People do shit because of how they feel, and most of the time they have no idea how they feel because they don’t realize that being aware of it is important–so, it’s not on their consideration checklist–that unspoken means by which each of us keeps track of what’s going on and makes adjustments accordingly–which means it doesn’t get checked, and thus it doesn’t get taken into account.