Wednesday, July 29, 2015

"'Brave - An Introductory Inquiry"


Snippets and Snobservations – Not suggesting these are the observations of snobs – it just tickled me to put the two of those words together. 

My step-grandson Milo – three-and-a-half – is taking swimming lessons.  Before the lessons started he wore inflatable plastic “floaties” encasing his upper arms and adamantly resisted jumping off the side of the pool into the water and stubbornly refused to swim under the water as well.  (Note:  I myself am unable to do either of those things.  Though I’ve been swimming without “floaties” since I was fifty.)

After an astonishingly few number of swimming lessons, however, Milo has abandoned the “inflatable floaties”, jumps enthusiastically into the pool and propels himself under the water like a nuclear submarine. 

In a couple of weeks, “The Magnificent Milo” has moved from the “not brave” side of the ledger to the triumphant home of the aquatically courageous. 

Conclusion:  “Not brave” is hardly a permanent designation.  Under appropriate circumstances, you can comfortably change teams.

What explains Milo’s miraculously speedy relocation?  

Apparently, swimming lessons.

Before them, Milo’s response to his parents encouraging him to jump into the pool and swim under the water had been a tearful, non-negotiable “NO!”  “Teacher I-forget-what-her-name-is” says, “Jump into the pool, Milo” and he jumps.  She says, “Swim under the water, Milo” and he submerges and off he goes.

Why?  Because “Teacher I-forget-what-her-name-is” gave the order.

What it looks like is that being brave alters depending on who it is that’s telling you to.  If an experienced “Authority Figure” tells you to jump in the pool and swim under the water, you jump in the pool and you swim under the water.  If, on the other hand, your parents or proximate relatives tell you to jump in the pool and swim under the water, you do neither and cry.

“Brave”, relationship-driven in that case, seems situationally as well.

I recall a show runner I once worked with – a notorious “Ladies Man” although the appellation may reflect a certain jealousy on my part – returning to work on Monday, suffering from excruciating lower back pain. 

Inquiring into the origin of his discomfort, the show runner explains that, over the weekend, he had participated in an informal softball game and he had wrenched his lower back performing a heroic maneuver at shortstop.

For reasons I cannot adequately explain – or justify – I continue badgering the man, insisting he come clean concerning the real reason he incurred his injury, which I already suspect, but I need him to acknowledge it out loud.

The beleaguered invalid parries my aggressive probing with evasive clarifications, concerning having forgotten to “warm up” before the game, admitting to age-related vulnerability, stressing the importance of that play to the encounter’s ultimate outcome.

Instinctually, I am certain there is more.

“What was the real reason for your heroics?” I proceed doggedly, convinced that there’s a secret he is reluctant to reveal. 

It turns out I am correct. 

Heaving a sigh of frustration at my unwillingness to “let it go”, the man finally – and truthfully – reveals why he had athletically overreached and had contorted his lower back.    

“Because there were girls watching, okay?!?

“Bingo.”  Viola.  And “Case closed.”

Another factor underlying courageous behavior:

There were girls watching.

Neither (post-swimming lessons) Milo nor that libidinous show runner may, in reality, be inordinately brave.  What they both did, however, was overcome their trepidations, one in response to professional direction, the other, risking it all for the attention and admiration of gender-specific onlookers.

This observation, I believes, gives hope to us all.  Because it proves that…

You do not necessarily have to be brave to behave bravely.

In fact, frankly, I find the “un-brave” behaving bravely substantially more admirable. 

Assuming the existence of a naturally brave personality, a “naturally brave” individual behaving bravely is equivalent to an inordinately tall person behaving “tall…ly.”  This is hardly “Stop the Presses!” newsworthy.  That is generically what they do. 

A generically cowardly person behaving bravely? –  Now you’ve got something!  That’s a “Dancing Chihuahua.”  That’s something for the archives.  (Or “Social Media”, which are the archives of today, until malevolent hackers jump in and make them abruptly disappear.  You cannot “disappear” archives.  Though they are uncomfortably dusty.)

Do I have an appropriate example of a generically cowardly person behaving inordinately bravely?

Funny you should ask.  (Tipping an acknowledging chapeau to comedian Morrie Amsterdam.)

A visitor to a beach town in coastal Turkey (pardon the redundancy – where else would they have a beach town?) enters a local barbershop, to enjoy the uniqueness and exoticness of a Turkish shave.  There, he discovers that, as a “finishing touch” to the straight-razor procedure, Turkish barbers traditionally burn the hair off the edges of the customer’s ear peripheries with fire. 

Though this final procedure is optional, the visitor – on whom the smart betting money overwhelming favors “coward” – courageously bellows, “Let’s go!”

Yes, there is another man taking his picture.  But the visitor has no idea he would be doing so.  (Otherwise, he would have definitely covered his bald spot.)

No.

There was an unexpected “Moment of Truth.”

And staring that “Moment” directly in the face…

The visitor had accessed the strongest and grittiest part of himself…

And he was brave. Snippets and Snobservations – Not suggesting these are the observations of snobs – it just tickled me to put the two of those words together. 


My step-grandson Milo – three-and-a-half – is taking swimming lessons.  Before the lessons started he wore inflatable plastic “floaties” encasing his upper arms and adamantly resisted jumping off the side of the pool into the water and stubbornly refused to swim under the water as well.  (Note:  I myself am unable to do either of those things.  Though I’ve been swimming without “floaties” since I was fifty.)

After an astonishingly few number of swimming lessons, however, Milo has abandoned the “inflatable floaties”, jumps enthusiastically into the pool and propels himself under the water like a nuclear submarine. 

In a couple of weeks, “The Magnificent Milo” has moved from the “not brave” side of the ledger to the triumphant home of the aquatically courageous. 

Conclusion:  “Not brave” is hardly a permanent designation.  Under appropriate circumstances, you can comfortably change teams.

What explains Milo’s miraculously speedy relocation?  

Apparently, swimming lessons.

Before them, Milo’s response to his parents encouraging him to jump into the pool and swim under the water had been a tearful, non-negotiable “NO!”  “Teacher I-forget-what-her-name-is” says, “Jump into the pool, Milo” and he jumps.  She says, “Swim under the water, Milo” and he submerges and off he goes.

Why?  Because “Teacher I-forget-what-her-name-is” gave the order.

What it looks like is that being brave alters depending on who it is that’s telling you to.  If an experienced “Authority Figure” tells you to jump in the pool and swim under the water, you jump in the pool and you swim under the water.  If, on the other hand, your parents or proximate relatives tell you to jump in the pool and swim under the water, you do neither and cry.

“Brave”, relationship-driven in that case, seems situationally as well.

I recall a show runner I once worked with – a notorious “Ladies Man” although the appellation may reflect a certain jealousy on my part – returning to work on Monday, suffering from excruciating lower back pain. 

Inquiring into the origin of his discomfort, the show runner explains that, over the weekend, he had participated in an informal softball game and he had wrenched his lower back performing a heroic maneuver at shortstop.

For reasons I cannot adequately explain – or justify – I continue badgering the man, insisting he come clean concerning the real reason he incurred his injury, which I already suspect, but I need him to acknowledge it out loud.

The beleaguered invalid parries my aggressive probing with evasive clarifications, concerning having forgotten to “warm up” before the game, admitting to age-related vulnerability, stressing the importance of that play to the encounter’s ultimate outcome.

Instinctually, I am certain there is more.

“What was the real reason for your heroics?” I proceed doggedly, convinced that there’s a secret he is reluctant to reveal. 

It turns out I am correct. 

Heaving a sigh of frustration at my unwillingness to “let it go”, the man finally – and truthfully – reveals why he had athletically overreached and had contorted his lower back.    

“Because there were girls watching, okay?!?

“Bingo.”  Viola.  And “Case closed.”

Another factor underlying courageous behavior:

There were girls watching.

Neither (post-swimming lessons) Milo nor that libidinous show runner may, in reality, be inordinately brave.  What they both did, however, was overcome their trepidations, one in response to professional direction, the other, risking it all for the attention and admiration of gender-specific onlookers.

This observation, I believes, gives hope to us all.  Because it proves that…

You do not necessarily have to be brave to behave bravely.

In fact, frankly, I find the “un-brave” behaving bravely substantially more admirable. 

Assuming the existence of a naturally brave personality, a “naturally brave” individual behaving bravely is equivalent to an inordinately tall person behaving “tall…ly.”  This is hardly “Stop the Presses!” newsworthy.  That is generically what they do. 

A generically cowardly person behaving bravely? –  Now you’ve got something!  That’s a “Dancing Chihuahua.”  That’s something for the archives.  (Or “Social Media”, which are the archives of today, until malevolent hackers jump in and make them abruptly disappear.  You cannot “disappear” archives.  Though they are uncomfortably dusty.)

Do I have an appropriate example of a generically cowardly person behaving inordinately bravely?

Funny you should ask.  (Tipping an acknowledging chapeau to comedian Morrie Amsterdam.)

A visitor to a beach town in coastal Turkey (pardon the redundancy – where else would they have a beach town?) enters a local barbershop, to enjoy the uniqueness and exoticness of a Turkish shave.  There, he discovers that, as a “finishing touch” to the straight-razor procedure, Turkish barbers traditionally de-folliculate the aural peripheries with fire. 

Though this final procedure is optional, the visitor – on whom the smart betting money overwhelming favors “coward” – courageously bellows, “Let’s go!”

Yes, there is another man taking his picture.  But the visitor has no idea he would be doing so.  (Otherwise, he would have definitely covered his bald spot.)

No.

There was an unexpected “Moment of Truth.”

And staring that “Moment” directly in the face…

The visitor had accessed the strongest and grittiest part of himself…

And he was brave. 

 

(An Alternate Explanation:  I was embarrassed to "wimp out" in front of the barber.   But I prefer the first one.)

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

"'Earl' - The Historical Novel"


I am currently listening (on CD, as I exercise on the treadmill) to “The Smoke At Dawn” by Jeff Shaara, a 546-page (or 16-disc) historical novel concerning the events surrounding a pivotal Civil War encounter close to Chattanooga, Tennessee.  I have reservations about the historical novel.   Although meticulously researched, the included impressions and suppositions are entirely manufactured, giving us 546 pages (or 16 discs) of educated conjecture.

Today, I imagine what a similar undertaking focused on my life might look like.  (Note:  For this exercise to succeed – and there is a chance it might not – you have to pretend that today’s writer is not me, but is instead, someone who knows me inside and out, and feels no hesitation about putting thoughts in my head and motivations to my behavior.

And now, “Earl” – The Historical Novel.”  Today’s Excerpt:  “Earl Eats Breakfast And Reads the Paper.”  Factually, that is the sum total of my activity.  I ate breakfast and I read the paper – that’s all there was to it.  It is the writer’s research-driven imagination that fills in the specifics.

“Earl’s Santa Monica Bungalow – Living Room – Seven A.M.”

Earl descends gingerly to the bottom of the stairs, mindful of the gnawing callus marring the bottom of his left foot.  Earl looks absently down at his sports socks.  He notices they are from two different pairs.

Earl wonders if he should go back upstairs and change them.  He decides not to bother.  He will wear the other two mismatched socks tomorrow.  Which will immediately even things out. 

Earl smiles secretly to himself.  He has made his first decision of the day, and he is content with his determination.

Earl moves to the living room couch, to kiss wife – who as is usual, has arisen before him – and to retrieve the newspaper, which he will read while he eats his breakfast.  He collects the entire paper excepting the “Calendar” Section, which contains the daily crossword puzzle, whose completion is a favored pastime of his beloved, and whose furrowed intensity reveals that she is still working on it.  Earl will peruse the “Calendar” Section when she is done with it, hopefully before he has completed breakfast.  Though he knows better than to hurry her along.

Earl heads into the kitchen.  He sets the newspaper down on the table.  Almost trancelike, as the procedure is habitual, he goes about gathering the necessary accoutrements.

Obtaining a bowl and a cereal spoon and placing them on the table, Earl goes to the refrigerator for the almond milk and the blueberries. 

Earl notices two containers of blueberries.  He strains mightily to remember which container was purchased first, so he can polish them off before initiating the fresher batch.  He snatches the larger of the two containers, his confidence belying the uncertainty of his selection.

Earl opens the pantry, extracting the box of gluten free flax cereal that has become the centerpiece of his breakfast.  He has sampled the gluten free Chex cereals– the Rice Chex and the Corn Chex – as well as the gluten free Puffed Rice – but has settled on the sturdy flax kernels, relishing their resiliency in milk.

On top of this flax-and-blueberries concoction, Earl sprinkles a handful of roasted almonds – not a specifically-counted but an experientially eyeballed amount, though it varies day-to-day by no more than a single almond.  He pours in a never-varying inundation of almond milk, sits down to at the table, and he considers the newspaper, his mind abuzz with trepidation and concern.

Earl’s decisions concerning which newspaper stories to avoid are no trivial calculation, as they can affect his temperamental demeanor for the rest of the day.  Earl’s delicate sensibilities must be protected at all costs.  A strategic misstep can trigger a debilitating funk.

Earl’s decisions concerning which newspaper stories to avoid are no trivial calculation, as they can affect his temperamental demeanor for the rest of the day.  Earl’s delicate sensibilities must be protected at all costs.  A strategic misstep can trigger a debilitating funk.

The Dodgers won the night before, so it is emotionally safe to peruse the game’s coverage. 

An unguarded glance at the death announcement of a notable football player reveals that the deceased was exactly Earl’s age. 

That one is going to be costly.

Earl’s eye is caught by an editorial about Donald Trump, a man whose self-aggrandizement, Earl believes, reflects an egregious insufficiency of maternal hugging.  What comes to Earl’s mind is director Cecil B. DeMille, who made biblical epics decrying sexual licentiousness, while offering graphic scenes of the precise licentiousness of which he claimed to disapprove.  A reminder of the media’s claiming that Donald Trump is unworthy to talk about, while expending unlimited airtime and newspaper ink talking about him. 

Earl looks up at the clock.  “Better get a move on”, he thinks.  It is almost time for the treadmill, and that credulity-challenging historical novel he cannot wait to get back to.

Seeing the time, Earl steps up his eating and newspaper reading, wondering, “What blog post I shall write today?”

In the back of his mind, an idea is beginning to take shape.

Okay, so I got everything right.  But I have a distinct advantage.  I’m me.  And even then, I am not sure I was totally correct.

Jeff Shaara? 

I have no idea how he does it.