Monday, July 16, 2007


Someone did me the courtesy tonight of telling me about an odd little story that was circulating about me. A fellow had gotten himself a new gi, and it seems that I was somehow angry about this. That’s it. That’s the rumor. Someone must have misinterpreted a look on my admittedly austere face, perhaps as I was staring off into space in a certain direction. It just makes my head twist, like a puppy’s. Huh?

There’s only one thing that I care about, that bothers me there, and that’s not getting to roll. I don’t need to win. I just need to work. Last week I finally spoke to K about it. Not a confrontation -- not my style -- but it was direct. I said, “So K, are you never going to roll with me again?” “Oh, no, I’ll roll with you.” “Really? It sort of seems like you made a rule for yourself.” “No, no.” “Well, when? Cuz it’s been since winter.” “Oh, I will. It’s just that I’m too busy...” It isn’t my purpose to shame anyone, so I ignored that. “…It's not personal. There are lots of guys I won’t roll with.” “Yeah, that’s understandable. Some guys aren’t safe. I’m safe. I could not be more careful. How am I going to get better if I don’t roll with higher belts?” “I understand. I’m just too busy.” Ah. He repeated it. “Yes, too busy. There I am just sitting around waiting, and there you are sitting around, doing calculus in your head. Too busy.” What he meant was that he wouldn’t get over the soreness of rolling with me, before he had to compete.

And today he came up to me and said, “So you’re not crying now about my not rolling with you tonight.” “But you didn’t roll with me tonight.” “Oh, Jack was all crying last week about how I don’t roll with him.” I let it pass.

So. Was it humor? A sort of social lubrication to ease some imagined tension? Was it his perception that I was distraught as I spoke with him last week? It seems unlikely, but people don’t always read motives and demeanor accurately. Like today. A new guy asked K what his name was. Well, it’s an unusual name, pronounced with an initial “h” sound. K said it, and the fellow stumbled over mispronouncing it. I butted in by saying it, broken into clear syllables. Simplify. Later K and some of the fellas were commenting on the aggressive and unpleasant attitude of this new guy, and this name business was adduced as corroboration.

Perceptions. My perception was that he was trying to get the name right. Theirs appears to have been that he was making some hostile or nasty point by asking about it. Somebody said this guy was mad-dogging him -- staring him down. I didn’t see. But while I assume the worst about the world, I try not to extend that discourtesy to individuals. We all have attitudes, and get judged for them, or for the way they are perceived. In my book, it’s okay to be aggressive, as long as you’re polite about it. No, it is possible. Try to win, and be careful not to hurt anyone doing it. That’s honorable. I can’t say, about this fellow. I’ve rolled with him, and he is intense. That’s a good thing. I didn’t notice he was dangerous. If someone else has noticed that, they’re entitled to their opinion. It should be stated, and held, only as an opinion.

Because perceptions can be distorted.

Then out of the blue someone said to me tonight, “I don’t want you to be like Orson Wells.” “What, monstrously talented and ending up doing wine commercials?” “Yeah, starring on Hollywood Squares.” I don't know that I've given much evidence there of having any extraordinary talent. Of course I do, but I'm very modest, and I've become far less the exhibitionist than once I was. Time has mellowed me, like a fine wine which will not be served before its time. If anything, I perceive myself as being pretty low-key. Perhaps that's just a false impression I make on myself.

Earlier that same someone asked a question about my "strict" childhood. Ah. I am my favorite subject. I replied whatever I replied -- "I don't know that it was all that strict." Did I ever say it was strict? The word that comes to mind is oppressive. That got me thinking about the distinction. Strict is about behavior. Be home as six o'clock sharp. Oppression is about what thoughts and feelings are allowed. My childhood wasn't about acting a certain way, it was about being a certain way. I've already said too much about all that, though. It's relevant here because, well, because perceptions matter. The way a parent thinks of a child, and wants him to be, and tries to get him to be -- there's such a confused knot of motives and desires here, it's like multiplying infinites. If there's no validity to the initial perceptions or any wisdom behind the guiding principles, what hope can there be for a sane outcome?

Well, that's it. Nothing profound. Just seemed like there was a theme, tonight, that I'd gab about. If there's a Jerry Springer Final Thought to the matter -- where utterly worthless noise somehow provides the inspiration for sententious sociological observations -- it must be something about being careful. The only way we can come to any understanding about reality is through our senses. If this were the end of it, we'd be set. But between sensation and understanding there lies a vast and wild wilderness of interpretation, populated by unconscious motives and unexamined biases and false associations, by irrational fears and secret rages, all of which stand as perilous pitfalls and ravening beasts along the way. So what? Nothing. Only if truth matters. If it does, a little less confidence might be in order. A little more patience. Because not all rumors are silly, and not all gossip is harmless.

To be direct without being harsh is a good thing. To come to someone and ask about a rumor shows integrity. To gather a fuller set of data points before pronouncing some judgment is wise. To question yourself, not into immobility, but simply as a systems check -- well, it just seems like a prudent thing to do.

That's all. I know. I'm rambling. Or maybe it just seems that way.



n said...

Here are additional details, as I understand them, for your additional bemusement.
As you may or may not know, the gi was a gift from several classmates. They had heard that the guy was going through a rough patch lately. Supposedly, the guys who got the gi for their classmate “noticed” a “look” on your face when they gave him the gi, or around the time they gave him the gi, and interpreted that as disapproval of sorts. (Btw, they apparently noticed a similar look when they were accepting donations for his tournament entry fee). When I asked why you would possibly disapprove of such a gesture, my take on the response was, though not entirely clear, something to do with your belief in self-reliance or maybe something else… possibly swamp rats. Big huge swamp rats with lasers on their heads. Or it could be because of your unflinching faith in synergizing backward overflow. In any case, I believe their mind reading abilities are top notch, and they must be 110% correct (haha).

I prefer JJ drama that doesn’t make me feel like I’m in junior high. Like that time the other week when a random lady came in, dropped off a random salad on the front desk, and just left all without saying a word. It’s funnier….

Jack H said...

Good lord. And here I was, thinking I was a good observer. My bubble is burst. Ouch. Who will find me another?

No, I didn't know about a gift. Sweet gesture. I didn't know there was any kind of hardship going on. I actually did see someone hand him the gi, but first it wasn't any of my business, and second I've seen any number of people get handed a gi. I guess I'm going to have to be even more obnoxious now, so that I'll know what's up -- "Hey guys! What're ya doing? C'mon, tell me, huh? Cuz I just saw you all whispering together, and I wanna know! Oh! Lemme guess! Um, we're all gonna paint ourselves pink and streak the boulevard! Great idea! That is so far out! Me first! We'll meet at Starbucks to shave our asses! It'll be cool!"

Was I close? Did I guess right? For error shall not dissuade me.

I do recall the request for donations. The 'strange look', if it wasn't just my strange face, was probably me mentally going through my wallet to see how much I had with me. I've been feeling a little guilty for having walked out without giving anything. Slipped my mind, and that makes me feel irresponsible. Then I was thinking it was too late, and it would be awkward and obvious to bring it up. Like a guy with trumpets. "Ah, my good man, allow me to contribute to the fund, all these days later, now that I can do it alone with everyone looking! Let's see. Here's one. Here's two. Here's three. Here's four. Here's five. Yes. Five. One, two, three, four, and five. I'm giving five. Got that? Five, I say."

And how in heaven's name did they get the idea I have a belief in self-reliance?

Oh, by the way, N, keep it on the down-low about the laser-rats. I'm still trying to live down the mega cockroaches.

I was wondering what happened to my salad.

Anyway. I choose not to see it as disrespect. Being misunderstood is the cost of being an outsider.