Friday, July 24, 2015

"Take A Bow. On Second Thought, Don't'

I was going to write about this today and then this morning I found this definingly “on point” quotation about it in the paper.  This is hardly an infrequent occurrence; it’s like somebody’s reading my mind.  Nah.  Who am I to have somebody reading my mind?  Or believing for a second that they might.

Anyway, here’s what I read in the paper.

Zach Johnson, a 39 year-old professional golfer from Iowa City won the British Open, an enormously prestigious golf tournament.  As a breath of fresh air from other champions, Johnson ingratiated himself to reporters with his self-effacing representation, describing himself as, 

“Just a guy from Iowa who has been given some talent.”

This reaction hit home, as it reminded me of something I had alluded to in a recent blog post, though in an alarmingly less praiseworthy formulation.

In “A Follow-Up From Wendy” (7/21/15), contributing what I could to the “Are Women Funny?” conversation, I felt, post facto, the nagging suspicion that I had inadvertently been bragging.

In that post, there was an unmistakable suggestion – bordering on an assertion, I no longer remember which – to the fact that, among other personal survival techniques, there was the proclivity for comedy, and that that proclivity was rare and by implication special.

I subsequently thought about what that quasi-assertion implied.

A return visit from “Logic Man.”
“Good day to you, sir.”

Go to work.

“All righty, then.”

“Comedy is special.”
“Earl Pomerantz does comedy.”
“Earl Pomerantz is special.”  

And now I’m embarrassed.  (He used my actual name.)  With that logically exposed implication, on the “Zach Johnson-Donald Trump” continuum, ranging from “genuinely humble” to “asinine blowhard”, I had careened shamefully in the less admirable direction.  I can almost feel my hair swirling.

I had broken my own rule.  Not about bragging – which was merely the consequence, although also a rule and I had broken that one as well.  What I am talking about is I had confused being gifted with having personally generated the gift.

I will explain.  Starting with the backwards version of this arrangement.

You’re an alcoholic.  You start drinking and you can’t stop.  Which means trouble for your liver as well as the people around you, from your family:

“You drank away your whole paycheck.”

To the person sitting beside you at the bar. 

“You just stabbed me with your olive toothpick for no reason.”

For a time – an unfortunately long time – alcoholism was perceived as an issue of moral insufficiency.  “Logic Ma…

“At the ready, sir!”

Go for it.

“Alcoholics are morally insufficient.”
“You are an alcoholic.”
“You are morally insufficient.”

And there you have it. 

Who called alcoholics morally insufficient?  Non-alcoholics.  Teetotalers – who are generally though not always annoying pains in the butt.  But even more annoyingly, moderate drinkers who can stop whenever they want to, the implication being,   

“If I can do it, why can’t they?”

Scientific investigation reveals the answer:

Because they can’t.

That currently accepted conclusion changed everything.  Stigma gave way to understanding, supplemented by rehab programs fertilely embedded in that understanding. 

The problem was solved.  Not alcoholism itself – that’s a continuing battle – but our opinion about it.  Some people biologically cannot handle alcohol.  They require support, not condemnation. 

Going from the inappropriately blamed to its mirror opposite, non-alcoholic drinkers deserve no pats on the back for exhibiting “self-control” because, for them, drinking in moderation is not a self-control situation.  In the “Genetic Lottery” – Subsection “Alcohol” – they simply lucked out in the “Ability To Stop” department. 

Why can some people “hold their likker”? 

Because they can.

Likewise – and where I was going with this all the time – an ability to do things better than other people – or just having things, like remarkable bone structure – Why are these people that way?

Because they are.

And, like the alcoholic who can’t drink or the non-alcoholic who can,

They had nothing to do with it personally.

And yet, when you happen to be the possessor of valued “You-had-nothing-to-do-with-it” attributes,

Money, attention, effusive praise, attractability…

Land directly onto your lap.

Like you deserve them because you actually did something.  When in fact it is the entirely-out-of-your-hands equivalent of,

“Some people can drink and some people cannot.”

It is the same situation:

“Some people are funny and some people are not.”

If you are fortunate to fall into the “are” category, it is because you are genetically programmed to be there.  And there is no reason for you to take a gigantic bow.

True, there is definitely effort and discipline involved in honing and perfecting those advantages.  But if you are not granted the necessities…

You will never win the British Open.

“Just a guy from Iowa who was given some talent.”

I tip my hat to Zach Johnson.

And not primarily for the golfing.

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