Sunday, May 22, 2011
Sorry. Had to take a moment to recover from that largely maudlin #16 - i didn't start out for it be like that, but when I start going on about In Flanders Fields, you know it's time to run away. When I was a kid we went to Gettysburg for a school trip nearly every year so I know the place pretty well, and my children now know to run away whenever I get started on the Civil War and Gettysburg, or on WWI in general. My grandfather had trained to be a pilot in WWI, but the war ended before he got a chance actually to fly. The children were, however, fascinated when I told them about how it took a while before airplanes could have machine guns on board, because until they figured out how to synch to propellers and the machine guns, they had an unfortunate tendency to shoot their own propellers off.
Now, back to my Special Quality #17:
I am a very tolerant person. It isn't, as someone said to me long ago, that I don't understand people and I don't give a damn. I actually am simply quite tolerant of others and their ways. Okay, maybe part of it is that I don't care: I don't care what consenting adults do in the privacy of their own bedrooms, nor do I care with whom they do whatever it is - and I'd prefer if no one enlightened me, thank you.
I don't mind people having belief systems that are different from mine, and I don't want to argue about whose god is better. If you believe that the earth is carried through space on the back of a giant turtle, I think that's lovely for you and I'd love to hear about it. Just don't try to convince me, about the turtle or any special human or set of humans (and if you don't think that they were humans, that's fine with me too.)
I don't especially care what you wear, as long as you have shoes on in my restaurant. (If my restaurant is a dressy one, I'll have a couple spare sport jackets for you if you "forget" yours.)
i don't care what you eat, as long as it's not me or my cat. If I'm serving something objectionable for dinner, please don't go on about how dreadful it is. A simple, "No, thank you" will suffice.
I don't care what you read, watch on television or in the theater, or print in your magazines as long as you don't force me to read /watch it or forbid me from reading/watching what I prefer.
While I might think it's stupid of you, I don't especially concern myself with what sorts of substances you put into your body. As long as I don't have to pay for it with my tax dollars or lug your overdosed self out of my bathroom, your body is yours to do with as you please. Oh, yes, and I don't want to be forced to breathe your smoke in public places - smoking is optional, breathing is not.
In my tolerant little world, I only insist (at the moment, anyway) on one thing: no one else is allowed to be hurt, either intentionally or accidentally, either physically, mentally or emotionally, in your pursuit of whatever it is you're pursuing. In other words, we don't go to war to prove whose god of love and mercy is more loving and merciful. We also do not indulge in Substances and then drive, nor do we wear T-shirts with sayings on them that demean or inflame others. Despite our private belief that someone's ideas are pretty far out there, we keep them that way - private - and don't tell people how silly/stupid/irrational/unevolved or whatever we feel they are. We realize that none of us - not king, not saint, not billionaire, not genius, not the beautiful, not the talented - no one is inherently better or more right or more entitled than anyone else. We speak respectfully and wait our turn.
And Fulgham was, I believe, (see how we slip that disclaimer in there?) right: everything we need to know, we *did* learn in kindergarten.
Sunday, May 22, 2011
I spend quite a bit of time thinking about some of these, partly because I'm running out of exceptional qualities, partly because I don't want to offend anyone, and partly because I can't decide if a given attribute is something that makes me Special in a Human sort of way, or just, well, quirky. The second one here is a good Human one, I think. The first may just be a quirk, but let's see if we can develop it a bit...
I know the words to lots and lots of World War I and Civil War - some even pre-Civil War - songs. I also know the words and tunes to lots of ...lord, I don't know what to call them.... the beautiful songs sung by black slaves. I have *no* idea how I came to have this knowledge, but I suspect I was sung to, as a very small baby, by very old people (largely white), including Clara (who was not white), my grandparents' maid/cook/housekeeper. During the past six months of bereavement, I've found the slavery songs particularly comforting. I have no idea of their lives or their pain, I only know what I hear in the music, and I connect with that.
I think one of the reasons radio doesn't appeal to me, for the most part, is because when I do connect with music, I do so at a fairly deep level, and I want to *listen*, i don't want it just to be in the background. It seems disrespectful to both the person I'm speaking with and the person whose music we're ignoring. I don't like popular music much at all, because it doesn't seem to me to have anything to say beyond, "Oh, poor me!" and the occasional, "How pleasing all this is!"
People who know my musical taste think it's weird and random, but I don't think it is at all. I like punk - real punk, not the overprocessed hyper-accessorized pap that is passed off as punk today. Punk was about anger, and I got that.
I like blues, but I want an old blind black man on a small stage with his dog (and. yes, I've seen that many times), not a bunch of suburban kids whose dads sprung for expensive monitors and seem to feel they know what blues is about. I want honest emotions about pain and poverty and loss and also the good stuff, which tend to run towards the excesses humans are capable of. But it's humanity in all its glory and ugliness, and as humans we can connect with one another in it.
I like jazz, particularly earlier jazz, because these guys (almost universally men - there were female vocalists, but few female musicians) had that same bone-deep understanding of misery and longing and joy and all the biggies of our human condition, and they put it in their music without, for the most part, attempting to put it into words. It came out in notes and in the way several musicians could play together. Listen to Miles Davis' Kind of Blue sometime if you don't know what I mean about this.
I like classical. My favorites tend to run to the Baroque, like Glenn Gould doing the Goldberg Variations, but I also really like modern classical (or maybe there's another name - I don't know). I like, for example, John Cage - I loved how brave and intellectual his silence and outside noise pieces were, and I like people who enjoy blowing things out of the water in general.
And I love bagpipes. They always make me cry, no matter what they're playing. Maybe it's like a genetic memory or something.
During the Civil War, one of the most popular songs was "When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again." Those people knew damned well Johnny wasn't any too likely to come home again, marching or otherwise. But the songs kept up a brave front.
As for the World War i songs, I like the era that they invoke. A great many of those songs demonstrate pain pushed aside in order to present a strong, brave front and sense of duty to mankind in general. You want to know what real horror is about? Read about the Battle of Ypres, and consider that the only memory we have of that today is when old men in uniform outside WalMart sell us paper poppies for a dollar.
I've gotten way more involved in this than I had intended. We'll do #17 tomorrow, maybe. Right now I feel as though I ought to stop what I'm doing, go outside, and pour a libation on the ground.
Friday, May 20, 2011
I am a wearer of gloves. I don't just mean I wear gloves in the winter, the way most people around here do. I wear gloves from September to May, leather driving gloves that I have in at least five colors (black, brown, navy, red, tan...I had a fuchsia pair, but I seem to have lost one somehow.) I also have ski-type gloves and mittens.
I have work gloves - lined, unlined, rubber-palmed, canvas, tall gloves for roses, goat-skin, waterproof, water-resistant (which I've discovered means nothing at all.) If I know I'm going to be getting wet, I'll wear latex single use gloves under my canvas gloves, to keep my hands not only dry but also warm. Unlike virtually every other professional gardener I know, I never go into the garden bare-handed. Never.
In the house I have the regular dish-washing gloves, of course, but I also have nitrile gloves for solvents and a pair of tall welding gloves. I also have special gloves with which to pet cats that are shedding (don't work.) I have probably three boxes of those single use latex gloves - I rarely clean without them, and I even will use a pair if I have to mess around extensively with raw poultry. I don't put my hands in water to wash a single cup without sliding on gloves first.
I don't have OCD (I do keep hand sanitizer in the car and a teensy one in my purse, but doesn't every one nowadays?) I don't have Reynoud's Syndrome, although outside my hands and feet do tend to get uncomfortably cold before other people's seem to. I do have sensitive dry skin, which is probably where this all started.
I even have *drum roll, please* an extra pair of gloves in each car's glove compartment. Hey, you never know.
Thursday, May 19, 2011
Good Lord, I'm only halfway? This gets more difficult every day, which, I suppose, is rather the point of the exercise.
Number fourteen is such a basic part of my character that I don't usually think of it as special, or unique, but I suppose it is: I am extremely good at entertaining myself, and can Wait with calm, which was particularly useful when the children were at that age when they had to be driven everywhere. As we live pretty far from anywhere at all, it was rarely worth the effort to drive them someplace, come home, and then drive out again to retrieve them.
If I thought about it ahead of time, I'd pack a book or a magazine, some sketching supplies and a snack. If not, as was usually the case, I could rummage around in the car until I found something of that sort. I could also just sit and watch the people or walk and watch the people or whatever happened to be around me. If it got dark, as often happened, I could go back to my car and nap - I've always been able to fall asleep any time, anywhere. People have remarked, "You mean you just sat there for two hours, *waiting*?!?" as if it were unthinkable to be able to do so. Sure, why not?
I rarely turn on the tv in the house, unless there's something specific on I want to watch, and almost never the radio. In the car, assuming I'm going somewhere alone, I immediately switch on NPR, but in the house it rarely occurs to me to do so - probably because my radio has aerials that must be fussed with and positioned, which is a bother. If I have a passenger in the car, I *never* turn on the radio, in case they wish to converse; if they don't, then I'm perfectly content to cruise along in silence. I'm always surprised when a passenger leans over and turns on the radio, saying, "Let's have some music, shall we?" I rarely snap it off, but I almost always want to. The reception out here is sketchy at best, and the radio is rarely, it seems, playing something we want to hear, so we have to go through that whole "scanning" thing, which I find to be irritating in the extreme.
I know people who always have either the television or the radio - or both - on in their homes. They snap it on first thing in the morning and fall asleep to its sound at night. I think if I had that constant nattering away in the background, I'd be thoroughly 'round the bend in a matter of days. One of the things I've always enjoyed about drawing - and I don't draw particularly well, as artists go - is how very quiet it gets inside your head when you're concentrating on line.
Maybe it's the way I was raised - largely in the quiet, the way I am now - or maybe it's because there's so much chaos inside my head that audio "noise" overloads me. I honestly don't know. My children have escaped my special quality/affliction, and can spend days with things in their ears, listening away to whatever it is. My husband used to have the NFL network on during football season so much that I could recite the various opinion segments.
I suspect that the folks who always have to have noise in their surroundings are afraid of the silence, afraid of what they might hear their own brains say to them or observe. I don't know, really - maybe they're just a lot more outgoing and people-friendly than I am. Or afraid they'll miss something. I get a daily newspaper (I admit, mostly for the cartoons and the crosswords, but I do glance through the important bits) so I'll find out eventually if it is something important.
There are two times I watch a lot of tv: when I don't feel well - then I'll catch up with the Kardashians, see what's cooking on the food network (invariably something is being sprinkled with goat cheese - I really ought to get some goats), watch bros hunt ghosts or watch people bring curious things in to pawn. And the only other time is when I miss my husband too much and the house is just too quiet, then I'll use the noise to distract me.
I just realized I've been sitting here a good five minutes, listening to the cat snore and watching the chickadees argue with the goldfinches over who has first dibs on the seeds. If you saw me, you'd think I was actually watching, or thinking some deep thought. Honestly, I'm just sitting here. In the words of Satchel Paige (one of my heroes, incidentally), "Sometimes I sets and thinks, and sometimes I just sets." Me too, Satch, me too.
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
These two are related - I could probably make them one quality, but I'm getting dangerously close to the stage of "I can tell a daffodil from a dandelion" for a special quality - so I'm stretching them into two separate Special Qualities.
My first entry here is that I can readily admit when I don't know something. It doesn't puncture my ego in the least to ask for help, even of the most basic nature, or to look for information. This became most apparent when we moved to the country ten years ago.
In academia, you're expected to know the workings of your own field, and that's it - if you're in Mathematics, no one expects you to know about European History. Out here, though, it seems that you're supposed to have this vast, overarching knowledge of All Things Agricultural, from being able to identify chickens (and I don't mean like, "Look there's a chicken!" but more like, "There's a Rough-legged Joneses Matterhorn chicken!") to being able to tell if an electric fence is electrified without grabbing it to see if you get a shock *cough*
I've found that most people are willing, even eager, to demonstrate their knowledge of things, ("Me: Does this take gasoline or diesel? ..... long pause....Other person: Diesel. Most tractors take diesel..." ) and for the occasional wise-ass who insists on smirking and commenting, "You didn't know that, huh?" I've been known to reply, "No, and thank you for fixing it for me. The next time you need help with generative grammars, don't hesitate to give me a shout." Gracious, no. But with my upbringing (Northeast urban all the way) they're lucky they didn't get ... an entirely different reaction.
Part two of this is my ready willingness to admit that I was wrong about something. It can be anything from purchasing the wrong item, ("Oops. Wrong part.") to naming the wrong singer/rapper,( "Fifty cents? Fifty cents for what?") to completely misconstruing someone's intentions,( "Wow....I'm so....totally off base. I'm sorry.") I am also capable of repeating my apologies until the other person stops telling me every detail of my transgression over...and over....and over... (see above about upbringing.)
I think part of these is based on the fact that, as a voracious reader and general collector of trivia in addition to - and at the expense of - useful stuff, I know a fair number of things. But hand in hand with that is a growing awareness of just how much Stuff there is to know about, and the impossibility of knowing any but a teensy slice of that whole. The other part is a dislike of contention and wasting of time - I really *don't* want to argue about whatever it is, and if I confess immediately, then we can both get back to what we were doing.
Mostly, though, I think it's because, as I get older and see more of Life, I recognize the number of times I was absolutely certain about something and turned out to be dead wrong, sometimes with fairly disastrous results. I've learned that being right, at the expense of someone's feelings or a great deal of your own time, isn't worth it. I've realized that allowing someone to believe something inaccurate isn't always a bad thing: John's mother was sure that we'd named a baby after her - we hadn't, but what harm did it do to allow her to believe it?
We waste too much time arguing about silly stuff - who knew what, said what, meant what, where it came from, when we got it - that could better be spent on fun stuff, ("Who cares where we got It - let's weld It to that Thing! Won't that be awesome?!") and appreciating our beautiful world.
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