Friday, October 28, 2011

Allergies of the Soul

I had intended to visit my local purveyor of fine coffees this morning. I was looking forward to sitting at one of the tiny tables while writing or reading or observing human coffee house behavior while sipping the special blend of the day. It’s one of the simple pleasures that I enjoy immensely. A coffee house excursion gives me a sense of purpose without giving me anything specific to do. What more could a young-ish retired job-hunter ask for?

As it usually happens, life’s plans didn’t coincide with my own. Instead, I awoke with a headache. I hate when that happens! It slows down the day and slows down my mind. It’s an allergy thing. Something unidentified seems to enjoy sneaking up on me and striking me when I’m defenseless, like when I’m watching the World Series or trying to be creative with words.

After a couple of Excedrin Migraine caplets, I decided that it was time to take the dog for a walk. Maybe a dose of brisk fresh air would help. Also, Maya was giving me that goofy grin and acting like a puppy instead of the supposed 2 ½ year old adult that she is. So I hooked up the leash, grabbed a jacket and hat and off we went, looking at squirrels and stray cats, sniffing anything and everything (her) and looking for quiet inspiration while ignoring an ache in the brain (me).

After our stroll through suburbia, we returned home and the sneezing started. Not only had I not shaken the headache, I had apparently walked through some invisible plague of which sneezing fits are the first sign. Can becoming one of the living dead be far behind? Sigh. Allergies strike again. So what’s a frustrated writer to do? He considers what gives him various types of grief and writes about it. In my case, I began wondering about all the things in life to which I’m emotionally and intellectually allergic. As cruel as nature can be to me sometimes, there are other things in life that give me an even more adverse reaction. Today, one of them seems to leap to mind – Cruel Intolerance. We are a society that, no matter what we say or what’s written on the base of the Statue of Liberty, desires conformity and uniformity. We have little patience or compassion for different points of view or the people that hold them. You say you want examples? Here’s a small taste of my heebie-jeebie hit parade:

- Reactions to Occupy Wall Street. This is a grass-roots movement that has spawned similar events in other cities. People have taken to the streets to make public their displeasure in the injustices of the corporate system in America. Some agree with their stance while others do not. I have no problem with the ones that don’t agree. The same America that permits dissent permits disagreement with said dissent.
My problem is with the ones that are contemptuous of the Occupiers. Instead of simply disagreeing with the conclusions or strategy of the movement, some have resorted to name-calling and questioning the patriotism of the participants. Some have even called the movement un-American. Really? It seems to me that demonstrations were at the heart of the beginnings of our country. Perhaps if the Wall Street occupiers had called their movement a tea party, they’d be more popular with conservative pundits, politicians and Wall Street champions.

- Religious litmus tests. More and more these days we use religion to determine if someone is worthy to be elected to public office, worthy to do business in a local community or even worthy to be a friend. It’s not about personal faith, integrity or honor. It’s about religious labels. If one is labeled “different” in their professed religion, the chances of being accepted or even treated with decency decrease dramatically. Being too “liberal” or “un-Christian” (which is different depending on which Christian you talk to) is enough to make you a pariah these days. People aren’t interested in you – they’re interested in the convenient label you’ve been given. It’s the kind of thing that will get you nailed to a cross.

- Reality TV. Do I really need to elaborate?

- Televised panel discussions. Whether it’s about current events or football, the so-called creative minds of television have decided that adding more and louder people to the mix will somehow give us more insight. Now it’s not about the subject whether it be political, social or something else. Now it’s all about being loud, super-opinionated and talking over one another. If you can shout someone down, you’re obviously right. We don’t need reasoned discourse. We need vitriol and volume. When did this happen? When did we become a society that elevated loud-mouthed pundits to the status of sages? All any of us needs to be an “expert” is a childish attitude and a good vocabulary.

This is only a limited list of the things that give my soul the allergic heebie-jeebies. The list grows longer as we become more fragmented and intolerant as a society. Where will it all end? Probably when everyone has his/her own TV show and an audience of one. After all, if things keep going the way they have been, we won’t be able to accept anyone except ourselves.

Won’t the world be lonely then?