Saturday, March 24, 2018

Life's a Bitch & Then You Die (Pt. 1)

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.

                                   THE AGE OF UNLIGHTENMENT?

[Blogaramians: Blogarama renders the links in my columns useless. Please click on View Original to solve this problem and access lotsa columns.]

Irregularly Appearing Imaginary Guest Stars
Marie-Louise -- My beautiful muse and back scratcher 
Iggy -- My designated Sticky
Dana -- My designated gentlereader

Dear Gentlereaders,
I've written a few columns, three to be exact (1,2,3), titled The State of the Zeitgeist. This was supposed to be an ongoing thing, but it hasn't been. Well, it's back (tell your friends) and it's now called May You Live In Interesting Times. M.Y.L.I.I.T. (2) will appear in a few weeks.

Also, going forward, you'll find that I will be (well, trying to) limiting my columns to 755 wpc (HT: Gloria A.). Till now, the (theoretical) limit was 1,000 wpc (words per column) but I've often gone over that, occasionally waaay over that.

While the primary purpose of my feeble scribbles is to leave a written legacy for my grandstickies & great-grandstickies, I confess I wouldn't mind generating a buck or three for my efforts, "No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money." -Samuel Johnson

Most writers don't make much money, if any money, to speak of; the competition is fierce, competitors numerous. But I confess that my No. 1 fantasy (I am getting old after all; my fantasies ain't what they used to be) is to generate a few bucks for my efforts.

However, the market has spoken. Being a wild-eyed free marketeer I semi-gracefully accept it's verdict. I've managed to secure exactly one Patron who supports my efforts to the tune of $5/month. But I'm a patron of four others, all of whom deserve donations more than I, which costs me $6/month, I've written roughly 140+ columns and my cash flow is: (-)$1/month.

Which is why I'm going to spend less time on my column so that I can spend more time working on my version of the great not too shabby American novel. Easy peasy, right? I'll be rolling in the big bucks in no time.

Oh, and for the record, the "four others" are Jordan B. PetersonDave RubinCrash Course, and Quillette. And now, on with the show.

"The aim of education is the knowledge, not of facts, but of values."
                                                                                 -William S. Burroughs

Dear (eventual) Grandstickies & Great-Grandstickies,

Last weeks letter, It's Not What You Know, was about two different ways of applying that maxim (ha'maxim?) in the world. First, for lack of a better word, to secular phenomena, i.e., financial/occupational. For these sorts of cases I completed the maxim with the well-known suffix it's who you know.

Being a  man of the real world (more or less) I also mentioned that, um, who you suck up to, is a valid way to complete the ha'maxim under discussion.

The second way was about the application of the maxim in question to psychological/emotional/ethical conundrums. "It's not what you know, it's the relentless pursuit of who you might like to be." This is the official, authorized and licensed version of The Flyoverland Crank, LLC, ABC, M.O.U.S.E., inc.

As to the second, I told Iggy that the primary point of the relentless pursuit of who you might like to be was to cultivate one's virtue. I also mentioned that when I was in school in the Black and White ages I was taught virtue cultivation by Sister Mary McGillicuddy and her colleagues.

"The idea is to develop a given kids character by teaching them to be virtuous so that they don't need to memorize 1,001 rules, so they'll likely know the right thing to do in a given situation." -me

"That's that Seven Virtues thing you talked about, right? I got a question. If I'm a bad guy and I know it, maybe even like it, ain't choosing to do the wrong thing the right thing?" -Iggy

Hmm. That, as they say, is a damn good question.

When I was but a fresh-faced callowyute several thousand days ago in the Black and White ages, Iggy's question would have never occurred to me. Good guys were, good guys. Bad guys were, bad guys. In any given fictional conflict between good guys and bad guys, in any given media, the good guys invariably triumphed.

Yes, I was quite naive. The real world was as full of bad guys then as it is now. Contrary to the plots of the movies I watched every Saturday afternoon at the Arcade Theatre — two movies and a cartoon, 35¢ — bad guys often win.

But why did/does the good guy v. bad guy, good guy wins (GGvBG-GGW) narrative feel so... right?

Propaganda? Brainwashing? After all, not only were all those movies I watched at the Arcade based on the triumph of good over evil, so was TV at the time. I confess I was raised in the glow of the talking lamp. When you're the fifth of seven kids a mom's gotta do what a mom's gotta do.

But I don't think that propaganda, or even the carrot Toll House cookies or the stick school of parenting that was in vogue at the time, now politically incorrect, explains GGvBG-GGW. They reinforce it, but they don't create it.

We're born that way

There's been a good deal of research done and the current consensus is that the factory default settings for H. sapiens include empathy, compassion, justice — and GGvBG-GGW. This video from a Sixty Minutes broadcast nicely, and succinctly, explains the science. Good. 

The bad news is that Us v. Them is also one of our default settings, we arrive prewired to prefer those who are most like ourselves in major as well as trivial ways. Sheesh... that explains a lot. Not so good.

However, as far as I'm concerned this reinforces the value of virtues-based education. Live and let live might be a good virtue to cultivate first. Learning to share a playground makes more sense that having to build and maintain multiple playgrounds.

[Thats swell Sparky, but I note you haven't actually addressed Iggy's question, which I'd reframe as — fuggiden, why not just embrace the/your dark side? particularly if you believe that when life ends it just ends, or you've been kicked in the face one too many times?]

Your more perceptive than I look, Dana. However, I do have a specific answer to Iggy's question which I'd reframe as — given that any grup on the planet Earth understands the significance of the title of this weeks missive, why keep getting out of bed in the morning?

However, till I wrote, rewrote and thought about the above a time or ten I didn't have an answer I was satisfied with. I now do, but since I'm at, excuse me a sec'... 754 words, it's gonna have to wait till next week, rules are rules. Poppa loves you.

Have an OK day.

[P.S. Gentlereaders, for 25¢ a week, no, seriously, for 25¢ a week you can become a Patron of this weekly column and help to prevent an old crank from running the streets at night in search of cheap thrills and ill-gotten gains.

If there are some readers out there that think my shtuff is worth a buck or three a month, color me honored, and grateful. Regardless, if you like it, could you please share it? There are buttons at the end of every column.]

©2017 Mark Mehlmauer   (The Flyoverland Crank)

If you're reading this on my website (where there are tons of older columns, a glossary, and other goodies) and if you wish to react (way cooler than liking) — please scroll down. 

As to comments...Patrons can click on the community button of my Patreon page and post any comment they would like (be gentle with me). They are also given an email address for the exclusive use of Patrons (again, be gentle) when they sign up.  

Everyone else is welcome to go to my Facebook page. Scroll down to the relevant posting (I post new column announcements every Sunday morning) and have at me.