A man rejects the opportunity to be near his father while his mother lay dying. Years later he chastises his father for living.
We all have had the misfortune of bumping into the occasional self-appointed Moral Arbiter of the Universe. Mark Sanford is my recent favorite public persona of this unbecoming dread archetype. Sanford, a blistering right-winger from the deep Bible belt, campaigned vigorously against the Stimulus package and rejected the funds that his citizens sorely needed. He also vocally led the impeachment cry when Clinton had his missteps. And now he’s a weeping mess, all strung out over his soul mate while his political career disintegrates before our eyes.
Eventually, we all have to pay the price, and for some it will be steep. The process of projecting our mistakes, our choices, our misshapen values and secret lives onto the real lives of others happens all the time when we are troubled or uncomfortable. I’ve been either subject or witness to this phenomenon more frequently in the last several months and when I realize what’s happening, it literally turns my stomach.
Recently I had been called to petit jury duty, but was never asked to report. While I was a little disappointed, I was more relieved. The idea that a stranger’s guilt or innocence might depend on my ability to judge him or her based on evidence, and not circumstance, was worrisome. The juror has only the facts presented to work with, or so I assume. But that wouldn’t stop me from wanting to understand the mitigating circumstances, the whole picture. For some, the whole picture amounts only to a sliver of what the rest of us might see, but it’s the sliver that they know best and so therefore it’s become their truth -- the limiting belief upon which they hang their decisions. If we all continued to limit ourselves to our own perspective in such a way, we might still be convinced the world is flat.
As I get older, the one thing of which I am quite certain is how uncertain I am about most things. My dear son gets quite vexed with me when I tell him I’m not sure what it is I believe about religion. He wants me to declare myself, and I can’t get him to quite understand that certain things are more journey than absolute. I am wary of absolute. There really are very few things that fall into that category, and I would wager most of my belongings that our frail human judgment is not one of them.
We have all these recent deaths of famous people who represent various archetypes – the Pitch Man, the Iconoclastic American Beauty, the Tormented Artist, the Star Athlete (sorry, I can’t really think of one for Karl Malden) and then we have the figurative death in Mark Sanford’s career and the death of the traditional Southern GOP platform with it. As disgusted as I was by some of these, I never once felt the urge to pontificate as I might have even a few short years ago. Who the hell am I to do so? I’m nobody, and everybody, plenty far from perfect. Outside of the guidance I try to provide my kids on the decisions they make as they emerge into adults, I have no control over anyone else’s behavior, nor do I have any claim to authority over it. At the end of the day we all poop about the same (with a few exceptions I’ll spare you here). And we all end up the same, eventually, although opinions vary widely on what happens after that.
A few weeks ago hanging out with my dear family and friends, we dug a good many Indigo Girls tunes. This one is off their latest effort, "Poseidon and the Bitter Bug,' which has acoustic versions of all the tracks. This is one of my two faves, hope you enjoy it, even if the banjo is missing.