Friday, December 14, 2007


What is a friend, after all? I hardly know. Some feeling of affection I suppose. Anything more would just be me with my penchant for too-precise definitions. Acquaintances, then, that you like. I’ve said there needs to be time and shared vulnerabilities, but that’s just how I see it. It’s not in a dictionary.

So when I say I have friends who derive from Mexico -- it’s just some people I know. Or the black fellas I know -- whom I like and whose company I enjoy -- it’s not really meaningful, it’s just a shared interest and the time it takes to do it. Or when I say that some of my friends are Japanese -- of Japanese heritage -- well, that just means that I’ve met these guys. We can’t read too much into such statements.

When I reference Japan then, and World War Two, and the dropping of the bombs -- when I’ve said, “Don’t sneak-attack our Pearl Harbors and we won’t incinerate your civilians” -- it’s a harsh thing, regardless of its truth. How would they feel to read it, my friends? -- for all that time and distance must dull our responses? Or when I write about illegal immigration, mostly from Mexico, and scofflaws, and the corrupt culture of failure from which they flee, for all that they don’t wish to assimilate -- well, these are broad-brush generalizations, but it certainly could feel like insensitivity, if not an outright attack. Or when I reference race -- for me to point out the inherent inequity of the double-standard of, say, “affirmative action” -- what of someone who not only thinks such a policy is just, but has profited by it? Or the poisonousness of a culture of fatherless? -- no honorable man could think it was right, but my pointing it out, blue-eyed devil that I am, could certainly stir unpleasant emotions.

Too bad. For all of them, just too bad. I may be wrong, but I will speak what I think is truth, and I will listen to reasoned arguments as to my error, should any ever come forth. What I will not do is validate the truth of emotion. Emotions are not true, any more than urinating is true. It is a biological function. A fact, but not a truth. Truths have to do with how something aligns with a precept, a broad cultural or human value. One person feels a piece of music is beautiful, another thinks it is unimpressive. There is no truth in either response. No objective validity. It is opinion, a reflection of one’s judgment or refinement. Yes, I know -- I'm being too precise again. Use your intuition.

I let it slip already. I’m reading about chi. It seems just to be a tingling. I don’t know. But when chi is transformed into jing, power, it can be experienced by someone else. So my sources are saying. I won’t quote directly, but one "Master" admits that chi cannot be detected, but that if it were not real, why has it been the foundation of Chinese medicine for these thousands of years? I didn’t scoff when I read that. I understood his point -- a subjective one, an affirmation of his own belief, with no real nod to logic. Western astronomy was founded for fourteen centuries on the geocentric cosmology of Ptolemy and his crystalline spheres. You see the problem.

I once proposed a test for a family member who imagined he could feel auras: locate someone who is hidden behind a long curtain -- by their aura, you see, emanating from behind the veil. Really simple. He refused the test. Same sort of test would work for chi, or jing, rather. If it’s a real phenomenon, it can be measured. That’s sort of the definition of real phenomena.

I think my views are true, about Hiroshima and the Mexican invasion and the inequity of race-based preferences. The precept in each of these cases with which I believe I align my judgments has to do with honorable conduct. One doesn’t start wars with unprovoked sneak attacks. One doesn’t undermine the democratically established internal laws of a foreign country, all the while asserting an arrogant sense of entitlement. One doesn’t expect one’s shoddy performance to be rewarded with choice academic or professional opportunities. None of these things reflect honorable behavior. All of them merit condemnation and opposition.

It is a very conservative way of looking at the world. To repudiate the use of nukes in WWII, to imagine there is some justice in an amnesty for the illegals, to suppose that civic justice is somehow served by the injustice of public double-standards -- these are liberal positions. They seem not just foolish, but immoral to me.

I've never had a discussion on any of these subjects with any of my, uh, friends. I don't know their views. It would be interesting to be able to test my beliefs to determine their validity. You know -- draw them out from behind their curtain. That's what's really behind my passing and perhaps slightly bitter references to Starbucks. I use it as a symbol of wasted opportunity -- time that could be used enriching truth, that's used instead to talk about anuses and their uses. No, that's not all they would talk about, but any is too much.

It could be that I'm wrong, although such an admission from me is insincere. It could be that there are unicorns. I think I'm right. But I've outgrown the need to assert my rightness. The value to me of being exposed to opinions contrary to mine would be not in a broadening of my knowledge, but of my patience. I suppose that's another component of friendship. Forbearance.

But I wish I could be genuine. I wish I could remember the time and distance between me and whatever ancient betrayals have held me like dirt holds roots. I wish I could shatter the primitive idols and savage taboos that other men would smile at as mere superstition. I wish I could accept whatever unmerited benefits might be offered to me, however weak and undeserving I have been. I wish I had friends, or if I do, I wish I could feel it.

I know that emotion is not true or valid. It just feels that way. Too bad.


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