Becoming a better whatever

“Even a genius cannot completely resist his Zeitgeist, the spirit of his time.”

Viktor E. Frankl

“The zeitgeist is ever-changing. If you try second guess what people want, you’ll miss it.”

Nick Frost

“If you don’t appeal to kids, to the zeitgeist, you get thrown on the scrapheap. “

Ariel Pink

I must admit that I enjoy doom scrolling Instagram. Not a big fan of Facebook, and yet here I am supporting Meta. That doesn’t make me happy. But what does make me happy is keeping abreast of the Zeitgeist of modern culture. It’s one of the things that keeps me young. In a way. Not that I’m afraid of getting older, I’m quite happy to age… much better than the alternative. A typical trend of folks who age is “getting set in their ways.” I do not want to do that. Yet it’s almost inevitable. As I’ve gotten older I’ve found it’s harder to learn new things. But I can remember — in vivid detail — so many things I learned in my youth. I can remember bits of poetry, where I was and what I was doing when. My point being that I have carried that era with me. And that is what, I think, leads folks to get set. Static. There’s not a lot I can do about the intrinsic things that have latched onto me, but I can be aware. And either rid myself of them, or acknowledge their existence and minimize them.

Let’s look at a case of this. I saw a tik tok of a young person, a woman (as she identified herself as) who was going off on something an older man had said to her. In this example I’ll share my instantaneous thoughts and reactions and then how I ruminated on them. The gist of this woman’s argument was that this old man said to her, in a place like a grocery store checkout line, “you’re petite.” Apparently she is a bit short of stature. And apparently she is a bit sensitive to this. In the tik tok, she explained either that she did say, or would have liked to say (I can’t remember, sorry) “Yeah, well you’re balding.” Honestly an appropriate physical trait reply to something that one found offensive. My initial reaction was that her reply (or afterthought reply) was a bit harsh. And I went on to identify with the (most likely) innocence behind this older man’s statement. With he didn’t mean anything bad, probably just feeling nostalgic for his daughter or something. I watch the video a couple more times. As I rewatched, I truly started to shift. The woman was obviously hurt by the statement. Calling out — publicly I might add — something about her physically which she was sensitive to. Did the older man know? No. Did it matter? Well. Yes. Let’s say this woman had a different physical trait. Let’s say a large mole in a badly placed location on her face. Or a large birthmark. You get the picture. Would the man have said, “my but you have a huge mole on your face?” Doubtful. Highly doubtful. Is it the same thing though? It didn’t take me long to realize yeah it is the same thing. You can call it what you want. Body shaming or whatever, but it is the same. It was then that my perspective truly shifted. Which is a good thing. I’ve said (what I thought were) innocuous things to people in the past, and though no one has called me out on them, I see how some could have been hurtful to whatever extent.

At this point I started to examine the man’s position. My gut reaction was that it was an innocent statement. After some pondering I realized I used the wrong “i” word. It was an ignorant statement. He may have had innocent intentions, but the statement itself was hugely ignorant. Calling out a physical trait about someone in public. Not good. So why did he do this? Well, I don’t know. I’m not him. Mostly. I do think that I am, and was a bit “himish”. Learning from other’s mistakes is a great way to learn. All of this made me look inward and see what other sorts of flotsam and jetsam I have which could… no, should be jettisoned.

I have done and said so many stupid things in my past. I’m aware of a great many, but need to be made aware of so many more. I want to be a respectful and gracious member of society. I want to treat everyone with respect. Keeping my eyes and ears open and listening to everyone is a key thing. I saw a poster once which only said, “Silent and Listen have the same letters in them.” I think about that often. And that silence includes one’s inner monologue as well. If you’re just biding your time to start speaking your point then are you truly listening? Sorry, got off on a tangent there. But that is going to be my key take away here. Silence. I think the old dude should have just kept silent. What he said honestly had no meaning other than… well, I don’t know. Just opening his mouth to speak whatever came out is probably it. “Excuse me, but you dropped your wallet,” would be an appropriate thing to say.

Silence and thoughtfulness. These are key things I am taking from this and weaving into my life. Not thoughtfulness taken from the 1960s though. That era of thoughtfulness was not the greatest. It’s true that humans are social animals, and a such reaching out and speaking is not itself an abomination. What one speaks and if it’s spoken in ignorance can be though. I may identify as a cis-male, but not everyone does. Obviously. I look around at all the toxic masculinity and decidedly try to distance myself from all that. Being masculine? Not intrinsically bad. Being a toxic whatever though? Bad.

I want to be respectful. Truly respectful. I grew up in, and currently live in the south. Tennessee to be precise. And I’m certain you’ve all heard of that smarmy southern speech. “Bless their little heart.” And so on. All cloyingly sweet but actually laced with venom. And if called out, “what? I was just paying them a complement.” No. No you weren’t. And the current state of the State of Tennessee is appalling in its hypocritical vitriol concerning drag shows. Good grief. And expelling state representatives who associated themselves with students protesting for more strict gun laws (after the unnecessary slaughter of humans at a parochial school in Nashville). Despicable.

Whew! I am sorry. Really got off on a tangent there. But it sure should be taken as prime examples of a generation gone off the rails. I do believe that not all old people are bad. Just some tend to misbehave. They just don’t think.

Me? Until I die, I am going to dedicate myself to becoming a better whatever.

Peace and love

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