Conform

Conform: (v) to comply

In case you occasionally slip up and start thinking there is some sanity in the actions of our social order, let me remind you of the greatest piece of hypocrisy ever hatched in the henhouse of clucking. Here it is:

“Be yourself but follow the rules.”

It is the message of America.

Both of us–you and me–are encouraged to be creative individuals, and then are informed that the advice given is faulty.

There’s an ancient piece of philosophy which challenges us: “Be not conformed but be transformed.”

In 1962, if you were living anywhere in America, the general consensus would have been that segregation of the races was not only the norm of the day, but funny wisdom on words that begin with a C
actually proper.

In 1966, you would have been struck down as anti-American if you suggested the war in Vietnam was anything other than a bold act of patriotism.

In 1971, you would have been laughed out of the room if you had proposed that black athletes should be able to play college sports in the Southeast Conference.

In 1981, the thought of homosexuality being part of the mainstream would have brought you criticism and cost you many friends.

In 1998, you would have been totally out of step to insist that oral sex was actually sex.

In 2003, suggesting that the war in Iraq was a foolish ploy would have brought the house down on top of your head.

And as I have recently found, in this day and age suggesting that the archaic American voting system is an insult to the notion of democracy, makes me an enemy of God, America and most ingredients in the apple pie.

You can conform–as long as you’re willing to be considered foolish within twenty years.

 

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Apartment

dictionary with letter A

Apartment: (n) a suite of rooms forming one residence typically in a building containing a number of these.

When I run across people who appear to like me as I am today, I am certainly cognizant of the fact that if they had met me decades earlier, they would have disliked me totally.

Now, I don’t mean this to be either critical of my new-found friends or myself. I have taken a journey. Because it is a journey, the road was rarely straight and certainly never free of construction.

To a certain degree I can chronicle my progress and my respectability based on just a simple review of my apartment selections.

Graduating from high school and immediately getting married, I had no money, appreciation of money or desire to make money. I was of the firm conviction that high school should continue and all groceries should be supplied, and preferably, food prepared and set before me. Since I did not go to college, where such an arrangement is possible, everyone in my small town felt that I needed to become “responsible.”

I did not agree.

So my family, in an attempt to get me on the “strait and narrow,” rented an apartment for my new wife and myself, where we could live. It was quite lovely. It sat on the second floor in the middle of town and had several large rooms, which continued to mock us due to our lack of owning furniture.

We were able to stay there exactly forty-five days, since we had no money to pay the next month’s installment of rent.

At this point we were forced to go to a cheaper location, which also ended up having previous tenets. Cockroaches.

We had so many in our apartment that they began to be incestuous, leading to mutations and even the development of an albino clan. After a while, it was the cockroaches that evicted us from our apartment, feeling that we were unsuitable roommates.

At this point some success greeted my creative efforts, and we were able to move into a better apartment, and then a better one still. Finally, on about my fourth excursion into this cave dwelling, I was able to occupy an apartment where I could pay the monthly rent. It was larger, also had a dishwasher, and as far as I was able to tell, had no previous hairy-legged dwellers.

So every time I hear the word “apartment,” both a chill goes down my spine and a giggle in my soul.

For I realize that it is a benchmark of being a citizen in this country. And lo and behold, after awhile, I was deemed worthy of escaping apartments and live in a house.

God bless America, strike up the band, John Phillip Sousa is a great composer … and apple pie is the only dessert for a true American..

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Anytown, U. S. A.

dictionary with letter A

Anytown, U.S.A.: (n) any real or fantasy place regarded as being typical of American small-town appearance or values.

As a verified vagabond who has done my share of stopping at the local convenience store to inquire about the best diner in town, I will tell you that the similarities which exist among these little burgs are few and far between.

I know we would like, for the sake of political or spiritual agendas, to categorize certain locales as possessing the true crust of the American apple pie, but just as in the case of that delicacy, the fruits that fill them are varied.

I grow weary of listening to pundits portraying America as a conservative nestling of Puritanical, family oriented souls huddling over a common fire, exchanging “favorite scriptures.”

Likewise, America is not a bustling metropolis of cosmopolitan, creative beings on their way to the next cocktail party to discuss the brush-strokes of a new, controversial artist.

People are magnificent as long as you understand them. And here are three things I have learned which reflect the only commonality in the human family. They bring me both comfort and a bit of comic relief:

1. We are obliviously self-centered.

Even though we would be offended by the notion that we are highly focused on our own thoughts and lifestyle, it is just the way we survive. Without it, we probably would spend too much time correcting mistakes or being hit by buses.

2. Our values change as our problems mount.

It amazes me that someone who insists they are against some particular vice will suddenly become more forgiving when one of their children commits it. You can call that hypocrisy if you want to, but to a certain extent it is a necessary blending of survival, mercy and inconsistency.

3. If given the chance, we really don’t want to hurt anyone.

The trouble is, there is so much animosity in the air that we are continually tempted to be assholes. But if you can separate people from the media, politics and religious arrogance, they generally have enough heart that they want to make sure to give the other guy a chance.

If you comprehend these three things, you will find them anywhere you go, with anyone you meet, at any time.

If you have a mission to separate the “good people” from the “bad people,” to create a superior chosen race which is more “American,” then you will be a contributor to the insanity that divides us … instead of the understanding that unites us.

 

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Anti-intellectual

dictionary with letter A

Anti-intellectual (n): a person who scorns intellectuals and their views and methods.

I ain’t sure, but I just may be one. Darn tootin’.

Can there be anything more annoying than someone who claims to be an intellectual, or on the other hand, some other varmint who insists “they’re just country.”

It all revolves around this nasty-dastardly deed of feeling the need to be right.

I would never call myself an intellectual, but I would never make fun of progress or science just to prove that I’m “one of the people.”

I often wonder, as I view my society, if we have all just gone crazy–and the process was so subtle that no one picked up on the nuance.

After all, the things we now accept as common sense tend to avoid any reasonable commonality and reject the need to be sensible.

I will tell you this–you will never get anywhere with anyone by insisting that you’re an intellectual. The goal of the whole room at that point will be to find the chinks in your armor and insert a spear deep into your self-righteous breast.

Likewise, you don’t gain the appeal of anyone who has an IQ above 75 by insisting that you eschew new discoveries, revelations which contradict the fables and lifestyle choices that you promote as old-fashioned, apple-pie American thinking.

Of the profiles afforded in the human experience–those being rock, cement and sponge–I choose to be a sponge.

I do not want to stand on the rock of mere intellectual pursuit, portraying myself as an agnostic, self-involved pursuer of education.

On the other hand, I don’t want to have a brain that’s cemented with superstition, fear, religion and political nonsense, and pass around another bucket of chicken with my equally stubborn brethren.

I am a sponge.

  • I do not fear science because God made it.
  • I am not afraid of the turmoil of nature because they are in the chemistry of our world to protect us and simultaneously teach us how things work.
  • And I do not deny the existence of God because I’m perfectly unwilling to believe that the whole system of the Universe is run on chance and chaos.

I do not care if I’m in the minority. I happen to know that minorities fare very well in the historical account.

As it turns out, I am not anti-intellectual nor pro-homespun. I want to absorb what’s true because I need to be free.

And rumor has it that truth is the only mechanism that delivers freedom. 

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Antagonist

dictionary with letter A

Antagonist: (n.) a person who opposes someone or something; an adversary.

I guess I should rate this particular column PG-13.

I am not the type who likes to use colloquial or street language just to be colorful, yet sometimes there is no word that communicates quite as clearly as one that threatens to dribble off into the gutter.

Here are the facts, at least as far as I know them:

Some people are antagonists for a good reason, and some folks are just assholes.

The difficulty lies in knowing the difference.

Because certainly, to over half of the U. S. in 1861, Abraham Lincoln was an asshole. He was making a stand against an institution that had cemented itself into the Southern culture, and even into the minds of many Northern politicians. It seemed like he was urinating on apple pie and had slapped Mom and America in the face.

Yet by the same token, in the 1960’s, Dr. Timothy Leary introduced LSD to our culture, insisting that it was equally as mind-expanding as the Emancipation Proclamation. But really, he ended up just being a weirdo and bringing grief to a lot of unfortunate, gullible souls.

There are many antagonists in our world today. With whom should we side?

  • Supposedly if you take into consideration the feelings of the Palestinians, you’re against Israel.
  • If you express your empathy for the state of Israel, you become a Zionist pig.
  • If you have misgivings about the gay lifestyle, you’re a homophobe.
  • Yet if you promote an entirely liberal, open-minded agenda, history may place you in the “leary” category.

Is there any way of knowing what is truly being motivated by an asshole and what is the necessary work of an antagonist, who’s come along to prophetically shake up our world and better mankind?

I have three ideas. (They are no better than yours, but since I have you reading, I guess you’re stuck with me for the time being:)

1. Great ideas don’t make us more dependent. They cause us to declare our independence from things that are not necessary.

2. Great ideas have a sense of the common good without making fun or humiliating the adversary.

3. Great ideas have appeared in history before. Even if they’ve been shoved to the rear, they still have a lineage in truth.

For instance, slaves being freed has always been a positive throughout mankind’s journey.

Drugs actually expanding our minds and making us more intensely involved have not proven to be such.

I believe this: we must question everything with gentleness, allowing the truth to come to the forefront, instead of just reading aloud, in unison, the press release.

I, myself, am an antagonist.

Will history find me on the right side–or a mental dinosaur?

We shall see.

Of course, I won’t really care … because I won’t be here.

 

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