Playing by the Rules

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Tennessee Williams once wrote, “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.”

It’s a terrible approach, and apt to get you killed.

Of course, there’s another thematically similar, yet significantly different expression from an unknown source, “You’ll end up really disappointed if you think people will do for you as you do for them.”

Pretty disparate points of view, to be sure.

Why is this?

It presents a strange conundrum. People, in general, try to be good. This can certainly be disputed, and there’s no doubt there does exist some number of people who are simply, downright rotten. But we can all agree on our strong dislike of those jerks, so let’s not hang ourselves on that point.

As a very broad rule, I believe it can be argued that people tend to try their best to play by the rules. For the most part, we do try. We try to be honest, to do the right thing, and to stick within the general moral boundaries of the society in which we reside.

That brings us to the topic of these so-called ‘rules’, and just where we tend to go wrong. In its simplest form, the problem is that the rules are agreed upon by all, but interpreted by the individual. Each in his or her own heart decides in the moment what is right. Therein lies the issue.

All red tape and political shenanigans aside, it’s not the most difficult task to agree on a simple set of principles behind which almost all of us may stand. The most fundamental values are very similar on every side. No one really wants innocent people to get shot, or children to be hurt, or women to be victimized, or minorities to be afraid. Admittedly, this is a broad generalization, and in this wide world there is no shortage of morally bankrupt imbeciles, but once again, we’re talking about the general population here—not those creeps.

I do believe you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who would object to any of the simple values above, nor to a litany of others we could easily agree on.

The problem then, becomes how we define these ‘rules’ in the moment, and how we react to prevent these things from happening.

When it comes to immediate interpretation, it’s an easy thing to draw exceptions based on personal mindsets, current context, or any other number of feeble yet potent personal justifications. This is wrong in every scenario. It is by drawing these distinctions for our own actions that the entire social contract begins to break down. If we cannot expect decency from our neighbour, even the best of us will falter in our application of decency ourselves.

The other side of the coin, then, is how we react to prevent these universally defined tragedies. This bit is a little more complex, and happens to be where we find the concept of political polarities. More often than not, our reactions or views on prevention are defined not by logic, values, or virtue, but rather by who we surround ourselves with, and what we are told.

Let’s use the simple example of not wanting innocent people to get shot. No matter if you are on the far right or the far left of the political spectrum, the prevention of needless death is a fairly ubiquitous desire. The response is something entirely different.

To use somewhat hyperbolic examples for the purposes of this argument, we will say that the left tends to prefer the elimination of guns, while the right prefers their propagation—arguing that the only defense against a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. Both are reasonable interpretations on the surface, and both are driven by the shared value of not wanting innocent people to get hurt. That last bit is essential here.

The same—or a very similar—analogy can be made for gender neutral washrooms, minimum wages, and most any other issue being dragged across the fetid political landscape at any given moment.

Is there any solution to this madness? That’s a far more complex question. When it comes to the universal interpretation of rules, I suppose that’s where lawyers come in. If they are up to the job, then the courts can handle those who think they’re an exception.

What about the reactions? Well, as established, this tends to be a matter of what we’ve learned. If we are taught that guns protect, we’ll favour increasing ownership. If we’re taught that guns kill, we’ll tend to favour prohibition, or something in that vein. Neither approach is unreasonable on the surface, but both require a great deal more investigation, testing, and above all—knowledge.

That’s what it all comes down to in the end, as it always does. Education, and access to accurate, replicable data is one of the—if not the absolute—keys to finding a clear and actionable way to fixing the dreadful state of our society.

Sadly, in a world where science and fact are as viciously disputed as all the rest of these issues, we find ourselves in dire straights indeed.

To teach the wrong thing, or anything motivated by a pre-defined political agenda, is propaganda. And, considering where we get the vast majority of our information, this tends to be the case more often than not. Access to legitimate, unbiased information is among the only changes that can set us back on the right course. The final question then, becomes how?

That, unfortunately, is a question above my station. So, I turn it over to you the readers—what do you think? Is education truly the key to solving these problems? Is unbiased education still possible at this point? If not, what other options do we have? Weigh in by posting your comment below!

-Brad OH Inc.

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Another Day

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

At the top, you’re looking down,

It’s all that you can do,

And from below, they gather around,

And stare back up at you.

But when you see them they look small,

Their hopes seem far away,

The top to them is not so far,

Yet for another day.

But if you meet them, you will find,

Their dreams were always clear.

And so you hope, and wish, and pray,

That day is not yet near.

 

-Brad OH Inc.

The Evocation Series- ‘Landslide’

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

The following post is part of ‘The Evocation Series’. Click Here for more information about the project, and to learn how to get involved yourself!

Fleetwood Mac- ‘Landslide’

Song Link

I can remember the view from the top. Looking down upon where I’d started from was humbling and inspiring, and before me the world spread out—an unending stretch of wonder and potential.

Climbed a mountain and I turned around,
And I saw my reflection in the snow-covered hills,
‘Til the landslide brought it down.

It all went sideways fast. Then upside down. Uncertainty, and then sudden panic. It doesn’t last long, but it does stay with you. Ambition can be funny that way, especially when coupled with time and chance.

Can I sail through the changin’ ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?

Then, there’s nothing more to be done. Just let it slide away, and see where you end up. The lesson can take a lifetime to come, but ultimately, it’s learned in an instant.

But time makes you bolder,
Even children get older,
And I’m getting older, too.

In the end, you’re left with whatever remains, and you’d better make the most of it. Broken or not, you will have to make do. That’s the thing about life, and about potential—it doesn’t come easy. It was never meant to.

And if you see my reflection in the snow-covered hills,
Well the landslide will bring it down.

Sooner or later, we all fall down.

-Brad OH Inc.

Above

Under the Green Desk Lamp

Dreary doldrums dominate the distance.

My ravaged hands hold the rudder right.

I search the skies and solemn stars,

Looking for that luminous light,

Hanging hallowed high above.

Such serenity, that long sought sight,

That points my prow to proper place,

Yet never negates the night.

 

-Brad OH Inc.

I’ll Meet You There

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Hey you, I hope you’re well. I imagine you are, for the most part.

As I’m sure you can imagine, I’ve been wondering about you. What are you up to? What last made you laugh out loud? What song’s stuck in your head? Just where are you, anyway?

Have you been getting the same questions I’ve been getting lately? From friends, or yourself? Is it a matter of age, or the circumstances of those around you? How does it feel when you hear those things?

“Are you doing what you love?”

“Do you think you’ll ever get married?”

“…Have kids?”

Do you stutter briefly, trying to mentally separate those into three different and distinct questions?

I have a strange feeling that you do. But I guess that makes sense, doesn’t it?

Most everything I do contributes to what I love in some way or another, and of late I’ve seen greater success and recognition in all those regards than I have for a long time. It’s good to stop and remember that. People do that too seldom these days.

Still, there does remain this looming sense that something is missing, and I suppose that’s where those other two questions come in.

But you knew that already. You always do, I’m sure. After all, nothing worth having is unimproved by virtue of being shared with loved ones.

As usual, there’s no grand theory here, no epiphanies or oaths to offer, not now at any rate, not yet. It’s all just idle chatter, because I wonder about you sometimes, and thought I’d just throw this out there to say hello.

I hope you’re well, whatever you’re doing. Take care of yourself, and I’ll be keeping my eye out for you, as always.

I expect you’ll do the same.

-Brad OH Inc.

Making Contact?

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Looking down on you. It’s the only vantage point available. Such a fascinating bunch you are…so many questions arise. You are a brilliant sort, unlike so many others. Such a depth of feeling, your passions run wild to the furthest reaches of imagination. A blessing to be sure, but often a curse as well.

You build wonderful works, but almost always for the wrong reasons. To celebrate hubris over humanity, to set one above the rest. It’s disconcerting to an outsider, but perhaps not entirely surprising.

You are dominated by your moods, motivated by your fears, and shackled by your doubts. You learn more from what hurts you than what moves you, and habituate to the divine too swiftly to ever appreciate it. Yet you will cling to the mundane and worthless like they’re totems of yourselves.

But it’s the language that’s most interesting. So much of your reality is defined by the words you have to apply to it. I wonder what you’d think of me? ‘I’, ‘me’, are those even the right words?

I suppose that would be up to you, and therein lies my cause for concern.

What would you call me? What would that make me? There are hundreds of words you might choose from, though none of them quite right. The choice however, would be essential, as so much of your lives are defined by the limited terms you cling to. It sets one against the other, and would almost certainly set you against me in turn.

Perhaps that would be the best thing for you. To hate something truly ‘other’ might show you all just how united you have always been. Would you finally be brought together? Or would you lose all sense of self? What would become of your stories and beliefs, if some small, unknown part of the mysterious expanse was so suddenly made visible to you?

I shudder to imagine.

What must I present you with? What can I give you to help? My very existence could bring you together or forever tear you apart. My knowledge could break you, my words would be lost on you, my abilities could poison your potential, and my compassion would be wasted against your paranoia and discord.

You kill over skin tone, draw lines on planets, and think more about mythologies than you do about your neighbours.

And so, here I am, wondering these things. Sometimes, you get what you ask for, and sometimes, you get the last thing you expect.

But there are other times, rare but relevant, when you simply get what you deserve.

…I believe it’s time for me to be going now.

Good luck.

-Brad OH Inc.

‘Guess Who’ is for Fascists

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Many of us have fond childhood memories of ‘Guess Who’, that old and brittle game of identifying faces. Of course, by ‘identifying’, we really mean a brisk, yes/no question-race to hastily break someone down into a unique list of physical traits…forever proving to your opponent that you are smarter, more deductive, and vastly superior at placing people into tiny, individual sized boxes.

I tend to play a lot more childish games than most, and already I’ve begun to see the chinks in its heretofore impenetrable armour.

Does your person have…

Red hair?

A hat?

A mustache?

Blue eyes?

A bald head?

Are they a boy?

Are they a girl?

And somewhere around there—or perhaps well before—it begins to get sort of awkward. Kids’ faces begin to scrunch up, and you can almost see them wondering, “How do I say this?”

Children balk at many of the potential questions… and refuse others entirely. Often, I’ve seen them cringe when I ask if their person has dark skin. Blush when I ask about baldness.

I expect the day is not entirely distant when I ask if their person is a girl, and am told that they clearly cannot just assume that.

Ultimately, ‘Guess Who’ in its original form may become almost entirely unplayable.

And perhaps that’s for the best. After all, the game is essentially a race to put labels on people and break them down into the sum of a few notable parts. These days—fortunately—children are increasingly taught not to do this. Eventually (aside from some of the clever expansion sheets the game has available) the basic ‘Guess Who’ will devolve into a chilling stalemate of uncertainty and checked assumptions, until it is finally flipped over, and the children are grounded.

Just like Monopoly.

-Brad OH Inc.