Saturday, May 6, 2017

The State of the Zeitgeist (2)

If you're new here, this is a weekly column consisting of letters written to my grandchildren (who exist) and my great-grandchildren (who aren't here yet) -- the Stickies -- to haunt them after they become grups and/or I'm dead.

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Irregularly Appearing Imaginary Guest Stars
Marie-Louise -- My beautiful muse (right shoulder) and back scratcher 
Iggy -- Designated Sticky
Dana -- Designated gentlereader (left shoulder)

Dear (eventual) Grandstickies & Great-grandstickies,

Zeitgeist: the general intellectual, moral, and cultural climate of an era (Miriam-Webster).

Interesting word, zeitgeist. I'm a word lover (you best get out of Dodge, word lover! we don't want yer kind 'round here!) and there are many words I like, zeitgeist for example, just because of their sound and irregardless of their meaning.

Irregardless is another, which, according to the word police, isn't even a word. The word regardless, which means without regard, does not require the prefix, ir-, because it's redundant. Prefixes aren't supposed to be redundant.

For the record, I obtained this information from a website called While I'm willing to concede that they may be technically correct, I have a valid poetic license and I'm not afraid to use it.

Anyway, they also maintain that sneaked is technically correct (as opposed to snuck), so, grain of salt. I sneaked some candy from the Stickies Easter baskets? Seriously? Obviously, snuck is the proper choice.

And we're back. I confess I'm slightly uncomfortable with the way I have used/ am about to use the Z word. Merriam-Webster uses the word era and this implies a large, dusty tome with many black and white photographs and voluminous footnotes.

I'm offering up a snapshot from a smartphone (with a decent camera) that probably will never generate a hard copy. Which is my way of saying that I acknowledge that defining a period of history as a particular era, while one is living in it, may be a fool's errand.

A sudden, dramatic, world class development, like WW3, because the chubby charmer currently enslaving North Korea wakes up in a bad mood because he failed to launch his missile the night before in spite of the best efforts of a drop dead gorgeous bed warmer/slave (I've heard rumors) and initiates a complicated series of events beginning with all of the sushi restaurants in Hawaii being contaminated with radioactive fish and ends in our next world war (hey, it could happen) and snap! we're living in an entirely different era than the one we woke up to this morning.

However, I maintain that my poetic license permits me to use zeitgeist because we're living in an, well, era, that at least to those of us who are attempting to cope with it, is marked by daily floods of dizzinformation and an ever increasing velocity in the pace of our lives. In fact, a never-ending sprint would seem to be the default pace, even for those of us who are trying to drag our feet.

So, it doesn't feel like we're living in the _______ era (that's like, so yesterday, but please feel free to insert the word of your choice) because we're moving so fast that we not only don't have time to catch our breath, we must maintain a heads-up posture at all times so as not to be flattened by some new technology that's about to disrupt our lives.

In other words, it feels like we live in a succession of mini-eras (an era of eras?) because things, the zeitgeist, can change so rapidly and dramatically.

In other words, I plan on regularly writing state of the zeitgeist columns and everything above explains why, and justifies the fact, that I plan on using the word zeitgeist instead of using a boring word like snapshot.

And now, grandstickies and gentlereaders, a zeitgeistian observation based on a news story I recently stumbled on that completely coincidentally continues the theme of my last column, How to Build a Snowflake.

[Waitwaitwait, this will just take a sec', and after all, I AM the Flyoverland Crank and this IS the "wit and wisdom of a garrulous geezer. (Garrulous: given to prosy, rambling, or tedious loquacity; pointlessly or annoyingly talkative -- Miriam-Webster). 

If you google the word zeitgeistian, not only will no dictionary defend its legitimacy, Google will ask you, Did you mean: zeitgeist? However, there are several entries that use the word AND an "images for zeitgeistian" entry that will provide you with hundreds, perhaps thousands of pictures.  
Therefore, I, the future King of America, declare zeitgeistian to be a word.]

Last week's column, How to Build a Snowflake, was about a trend in some colleges and universities to emphasize social justice and protecting the delicate sensibilities of their students. This new development is quite different from the fearless pursuit of truth and the development of the intellectual tools needed to discover it as practiced by old school schools.

On the delicate sensibilities front, it just so happens that the students at Youngstown State University are in midst of taking finals.

Youngstown, Ohio, is a formerly vibrant rust belt town that is still bleeding population 40 years after the steel mills started disappearing. To their credit, many locals who don't plan on leaving refuse to accept the status quo and are trying to create a renaissance. Some who left, and achieved success elsewhere, have returned and joined the struggle.

This is a not uncommon phenomenon in Flyoverland, which is why I find the following, which made the news this past week, depressing.

In order to help the students cope with finals, which is apparently, for Millennials at least, the equivalent of trying to swim across the Mediterranean to escape the carnage in Syria, puppies and kitties -- via a sort of pop-up petting zoo -- and massage therapists are being provided to help the delicate flowers through this difficult period. Can finals cause PTSD?

I wonder if this class, whose "final projects -- which includes history boxes, interpretive dance, poster presentations, video presentations and more -- ..." also included a stressful final.   

My parents, who had to deal with the Great Depression and the Second World War, thought they had it tough. Poppa loves you.

Have an OK day.

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©2017 Mark Mehlmauer   (The Flyoverland Crank)

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