Monday, May 12, 2008


I try to be tactful. I seem to be rather clumsy at it. I suspect that it's because, however gently I try to put a thing, I still want to have some degree of honesty in what I say. One of my standard lines, when I'm meeting someone, is that I'm not very good at small talk. It's a funny line. People always chuckle at it. It's not brutally frank. It's gently frank. Self-deprecating. Alas, part of not being good at small talk is that what I do end up saying tends to have some element of actual meaning, and meaningful things have to be felt, internalized, processed and acted upon. That's dangerous.

I'm rolling with my son now, and someone made a comment, a comparison, to me about the place that I, uh, that I used to roll. Somehow, past tense. Well I took that as an invitation for honesty. I mean, wasn't it? There was some sort of question involved, and I'm the guy who would know, after all. So I said that other place is really good with fundamentals and drills, which I really liked. "Here, we'll drill something six times. There, it would be fifty, which I how I learn. Not a criticism. Just a difference. Whereas here it's more intense, which I also really like." Somehow, the fellow to whom I said this did seem to hear it as a criticism. He got sort of quiet, and said, "Well, this is where I've been for a long time." I'm sure I tried to say something reassuring.

But sometimes I just feel like absolutely giving up.

As best I can figure, I was excluded from the place that once I rolled because my blog was negative. That is literally the only actual verbal message that was given to me on the entire topic.

Do you see my point? I stated that I'd say no more on that specific topic. This is another topic. This is about how honest we're allowed to be. If a thing is true, regardless of its unpleasantness, then where is there room for a complaint? To state a fact, or even an opinion, is significantly different than to harp on something, nagging, kvetching, endlessly. And to state something that one believes, even if it's wrong -- how should we respond to that? With irrationality and punishment and indignation?

I don't see a way out. The problem seems to be universal. One can be honest, and wrong. The response is correction, not emotionality. Trust works two ways -- we have to believe that those to whom we speak will listen with the same openness of heart that we ourselves bring to the discussion. Otherwise there can't be such a thing as conversation. Only small talk.

The way out of course is to lie. It's something I just don't seem able to do -- compromise when it comes to matters I feel are essential to my integrity. I would, truly I would, if I could get away with it. Lie, steal, manipulate, bribe and take bribes -- in a heartbeat. God knows this about me, though, and cursed me with a conscience that torments me utterly when I violate it. It's a form of mental illness. I would be the biggest slut in the world, if I could get away with it. I'd love to be able to betray you and laugh at your dismay. The desert would be scattered with the bones of my victims. I know all about cruelty. I'd do it if I could get away with it.

Because sometimes we have to make our own justice.

But I have to live by rules. I see the need for it, but I don't like it. One of my rules is to speak the truth as I understand it. Or else keep my mouth shut. But even that isn't safe. Witness this blog. This negative, negative blog.

I see honesty as an act of friendship. I see silence as a sort of courtesy. I strive to act in a manner consonant with patience and gentleness. With those who possess less of some skill than I have, I try to teach. With those who are more knowledgeable than I am, I try to learn. I think I have been consistent, largely consistent in this, throughout my adult life.

It's clearly not that way with everyone. Some people have a conscience that allows them to be cruel. We see it all the time. I understand it. I know it in myself. Sometimes I write about it, because what I write isn't the same as what I say. What we think is not the same as what we do. As for what I do, it's like this: self-control. That's what it's like. What it's also like is this: if anything were to happen to my son, all bets are off.

I actually said that once, to my boy. As he went off back to the war, I said, "Take care. If anything happens to you, all bets are off." "What do you mean?" And I just laughed. But you know what I mean, right? We are hostage to fate.

I've always been a little crazy. Not party crazy. Somehow though I've managed to stay civilized. God did that, by giving me two things. A conscience and a son. Conscience balanced out the rage, and my son taught me how to love. So you know what I mean, right? I can take it. I can take more. My capacity to absorb pain and betrayal is deep. That's the deal I made with God.

As long as I have a son, I'll take it.

Is that too honest?


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