I am my Father’s son. In so many ways! I never know whether to say I’m proud of that — pride in that sense is something I don’t think is a good thing. I love him, treasure the time we had together, and owe more of who I am to him than to my mom, perhaps, but I don’t use the word pride.
The one serious point of difference mom & dad had in life was about mom’s faith. Dad was not anti-religion, nor even anti-whatever-mom-believed; dad was anti-hypocrisy. Both of them had the same basic religious training as young folks and both of them lived through similar socio-religious turmoil. The impact on the two of them took them to very different places intellectually. Mom continued to embrace her faith and attended studies and meetings and worship with a vengeance. Dad did not, though he encouraged her to follow her heart, our home was always open to anyone and everyone she wanted to entertain and of the congregation our home hosted more visitors to the church than any other. Not something I say with any sense of pride — merely as a matter of fact.
On the other side of the coin, after seeing the church he attended as a youth divided by what were called doctrinal issues — but which he could clearly see were as rooted in personality as they were in dogma, he decided he didn’t want to be like those who said one thing and did something else. So, he lived his life with a lot less fanfare, and he tried to be precisely who he said he was. He wasn’t much for hiding anything he did or said; and he did and said what was on his mind in a gentle and sometimes abrupt manner. Mostly, though, he was quiet. Probably, he was quiet and watching, but he and I never talked much about that part.
He was around for those times in my own life when I was both extremely active in church, and through the time when I withdrew and went through a period of healing, as well as a time when I struck out in new directions. He was universally supportive of my ideas — even if I never got him excited about helping out financially. When it came to my crazy ideas he’d just as soon I spent my own money on them, rather than asking him to help fund them. That was a tough bullet to bite at the time but I’ve never felt ill towards him about that — it made me stand on my own two feet!
He never told me or taught me to be skeptical, nor did he ever advise me to pay more attention to what people did than what they said, but that trait seemed to follow as naturally as night follows day. But over the years I’ve come to realize that like him the one thing that drives me up the wall is hypocrisy. That bugaboo lead me increasingly to live a life that admitted my faults and weaknesses, sometimes even to celebrate them.
Some might say I lost my filter. There were things I had downplayed in my life — literature and art among them — because they weren’t sufficiently spiritual in the way I then saw spirituality. I came to terms with my inconsistencies and decided that I was who I was. I refused to say things I didn’t agree with, or didn’t believe, I spoke out more and more vocally about what I did believe in. It was a very different life in some ways, and yet in others I was still exactly the same person. A boss at the time once told me that “not many people care for your kind of Honesty, Peter” and he was right. But I did my best to make that honesty work for me instead of against me.
Clearly, I didn’t go into politics. That is an arena where anyone watching any side of the political contest in the U.S. right now can see that lies and hypocrisy are part and parcel of the game. We live in a time when winning is more important than ideals — or so it seems when men and women who have proclaimed loudly that certain things are wrong ignore the wrongdoing if it’s done by someone of their own party.
Which brings us back to the reason for this post. A long time friend felt that I was being unkind on Facebook the other day. I suppose I was. To be truthful, kindness was no part of my concern. At the moment — well, longer than a moment — I was incensed at public behavior. I guess I have come to believe that ‘To whom much has been given, much is expected” and I suppose I could have mollified my opinion in the interest of being kinder. I’ll be honest though… I had absolutely no interest in softening my tone.
There’s this part of me that says when a person seeks celebrity or power; when a person spends outrageous amounts of money to achieve an elective goal; by virtue of doing so you have put yourself in a position to invite critical review. If you tell the world: “Hey World, Look At Me” — then you deserve the attention you get whether for good or ill. After all, the only way we really have of knowing “who” a person is in life is by the live they live. There are no laws that govern thought; the laws we have are laws that govern actions and to quote an old reliable source: by their fruits shall you know them.
I think kindness is important. But I don’t think kindness is the be all, save all, solve all solution to the world’s problems. (Not that I’m in the business of solving the world’s problems) There are times when it’s right to stand up and be counted; there are times when it’s right to speak your mind, to draw attention to behavior — because none of us can just a person’s thoughts — only what they have done. And sometimes doing so means you aren’t appreciated by your peers, are seen as a troublemaker, are intolerant, etc.. And that’s Ok by me.
The one thing about losing my filters is that who I am and what I do is out there to be criticized. That’s Ok too. If I get upset about hypocrisy then it’s Ok if people call me on it. Or on anything else they choose to comment on — my life is pretty much ‘what you see is what you get.’ But the one thing I won’t be doing any time now is pretending that wrongs are right, that falsehood is truth, that injustice is justice, that intolerance is tolerance, that racism is acceptable. I’m too old for that nonsense. Other people can do what they want, even unfriend me if they choose, but I will be who I am. I’ll err and flub and screwup for sure. But I’ll be darned if I’m going to pretend to be what I am not.
I was thinking whilst writing this that I really AM a lot like my dad. I don’t think I realized before now that even in my shunning of large groups and my liking of interacting with one or two at a time I am more like him than I thought. I used to joke that before retirement he was a recluse but that after retirement he’d speak with anyone. You see, he worked for Wisconsin Electric Power (now WE Energies) in a large plant, but a small office with one other man — and that was his work-life for much of his 30-ish years with the company. For 8 hours a day he watched gauges and listened for sounds — alarms, and subtle changes in the noise the machinery made — often his ears picked up problems before the sensing devices (this was a long time ago when monitoring equipment was a lot less sophisticated). After retirement he was still a quiet man but I’d come upon him out in public sitting with one or two folks chatting up a storm; something I really have little or no recollection of him doing when I was younger. (and I suppose part of that was because when I was younger I didn’t have opportunity to see him in those circumstances — but that’s another story). We’re both ‘small group people’ — Oh, in my day I did enough lecturing and public speaking when I needed. I didn’t hate that because I had a reason to be there — I had something to say, something to share and for the sake of sharing I stepped to the podium and said my piece. It wasn’t anything I longed for. It was a means to an end: to share. I’m still sharing — in this blog among other places. I find this easier. I never did like being the center of attention.
I don’t ask for promises from other people. If someone feels moved to do a thing, then do it and don’t publicize it. But if you’re going to tell me about it, if you are going to make me a promise, then you jolly well better fulfill your promise. I can’t just your thoughts, your intentions, your motives. But if you commit yourself to words those can be held accountable. If you make a promise, or declare your intention, and then lie to me about it then I’m jolly well gonna be upset. That’s just life with Peter. Scripted, or Unscripted. 🙂
Thanks for stopping. I’ll be here again tomorrow. Why not stop and say hi!