Today, I offer some “behind the scenes” action, in which I reveal how I prepared a post for future publication and then, while taking a walk, I realized that what I had written the day previously was wrong.
Sound exciting to you? If not, I’ll see you tomorrow. If it is, away we go.
I had this idea to talk about how the constitutionally guaranteed expression of free speech gets shut down, without the necessity of censorship or physical coercion.
You just do it yourself.
The explanation I originally posited for ending the conversation was “Shame.” You express an opinion, someone calls you a name for promoting that opinion – like “cynical” or “unrealistic” – and then you “shamefully” clam up.
An illuminating side trip (as you will eventually discover)…
You hear it all the time in show business. You fashion a particular “moment” or try some accessorizing piece of “business” and the person in charge of the operation replies, “That’ll work.”
“That’ll work” as a standard of acceptability is fine. But it is hardly the loftiest standard; it’s merely one rung above “Let’s try something else.”
The “Standard of Unsurpassable Excellence” is an admittedly daunting leap upward, conveying not “That’ll work” but “That’s exactly what I intended.”
This is often a (literally) unimaginable plateau. It is not called the “Standard of Unsurpassable Excellence” for nothing. Sometimes, “That’ll work” is the best you can come up with. But it does not mean you give up entirely on shooting for the moon.
Okay, so I write this blog post on Friday. Saturday morning, I take a walk at the beach, my effort of Friday feeling signed, sealed and satisfactorily delivered.
I elect to turn right on my sojourn along the sand, in the congenial direction of a refreshments kiosk whose amplified sound system plays Sinatra (as I head north) and Billie Holiday (as I return south), rather than turning left in the direction of Venice, where, on my previous excursion, I passed a neglected homeless person wearing a t-shirt reading, with saddening irony:
“Lords of Prosperity.”
I walk because it is (reputedly) healthy. An unexpected bonus of this aerobic activity is that, surprisingly often during these walks, inspirations for new blog posts come suddenly to mind. Sometimes, in bunches.
(Note: I never deliberately go for walks to receive blog post ideas. I want to be clear about that. In case whoever supplies those ideas reads this and, to teach me a lesson, stops doing it.)
On this particular walk, I get no new ideas. Which is fine. It was invigorating just to be out there. Despite the hoards of “L.A. Leggers” participants, preparing for the upcoming marathon, whose team leaders call out “Walker on the right!” as they approach me, bolstering their self-esteem as runners, versus unmotivated losers, like myself, who just walk.
It’s okay. I walk, my invisible mariachi band serenades me, I spot an attractive puppy, or whatever. Even without – let me make this perfectly clear – the never expected creative inspiration, I am totally content and happily grateful.
(In Toronto, I’d be raking leaves today. Using an implement familiar to rakers of leaves from the Fourteenth Century. Except they’re metal. Science apparently has better things to do than focus on upgrading the functional efficiency of rakes. But if they have some spare moments… I mean we’re not plowing with oxen anymore.)
And then it comes to me. Not a new idea for a blog post – which is okay, believe me – but an illuminating awareness that I had messed up on Friday.
It isn’t “Shame” that shuts people up when expressing unpopular opinions and somebody calls them a name, I suddenly realize. Nor is it the rebuttal of their opinions. It is the disqualification of the opinion expresser themselves, owing to the punitive pejorative.
You call someone expressing an opinion “overly simplistic” and that’s it. Their credibility is out the window. Being “over-simplistic” terminally neutralizes their opinion. The discussion is ended. There is nowhere to go.
Who’s going to take seriously a man or woman labeled “painfully out of touch”? The conversation is over. A determined defense makes you indelibly “defensive”, the finishing “haymaker” of the pejorative “one-two combination.”
It is time to go home. Not because you’re ashamed, or legitimately defeated. But because you have been personally invalidated and there is nothing more you can credibly contribute.
I did not see that on Friday. (I had written the blogatorial equivalent of “That’ll work.) But it was crystal clear on the walk.
My unavoidable next step: “Unlock” my “completed post” and correct what I had written. Having no transcribing equipment along with me, I had to repeat my “beachside inspiration” over and over until I made it back home. (Like the Ellen DeGeneres routine where she talks about going to bed having left money in her pants, and to insure she removes it in the morning before they go to the laundry, she repeats, falling asleep, “Money in the pants!” “Money in the pants!” “‘M’ in the ‘P’!” “‘M’ in the ‘P’!”)
What can I tell you? Sometimes you just get it wrong. (Though you consciously believe you got it right.) This time, as they say with serious diseases, I successfully caught it in time.
The darkening concern is…
How many others have I gotten wrong,
That went out carelessly uncorrected?