Saturday, July 23, 2011

THE SOULS OF GINGER FOLK


Whether or not it was trendy, it was definitely popular. That is, citing "Africa" as reference for anything outlandish or incredible. If you wanted attention or needed a conversation piece, all you need do was employ the deviant part of your imagination and cite "It happened in Africa."

My college friend, Hans, and I used to take note whenever these kinds of attributions were made. I, hailing from Germany and he, native to Zambia, would be interrogated by people who thought themselves intelligent. Questions like "What do you guys eat?" Being from Germany, I could say "dandelion roots and nettles," and they might believe me because, I don't know, dandelions and nettles sound on the reasonable side of absurd things for Germans to eat.

However, I could not say "Hyena crap and spider webs." That would be pushing it. But Hans could say it, and they would believe him. He was, after all, from Africa, and Africa is far enough away geographically (and imaginatively) that any conceivable thing that would not happen in the Western Hemisphere could happen in Africa.

While on one hand it was funny, it was insulting on the other. One night, tired of answering the most trivial questions as seriously as possible, Hans convinced our dinner table of college girls that if in Africa you do not balance your fork on the end of your butter knife at the end of a meal, then you insult your host. Hans and I left the table with girls practicing "African etiquette", their brows furrowed and each muttering condolences to themselves.

I think that resources like National Geographic falling into the hands of the wrong person whose breadth of global culture is Ranger Rick or CCM magazine might largely be responsible for the proliferation of idiocy and the reinforcement of biases that hold no credibility whatsoever. A hallmark of cultured people is their intuition and anticipation of the complex spectrum of legitimate, cultural options within the human genome portfolio. And they can ascertain the merits of each. 

Living in Germany from the 70's to the 90's, Americans snickered at the Southern German's seeming disinterest in daily showering and "perfuming." Would that make the German inferior? Of course, it wouldn't, and if you were cultured you would know that. Which would you rather be: occasionally showered and as healthy as a horse or a scrub-cleaned, daily deoderized, fat slob who shoves fat and high fructose corn syrup down his gullet and headed towards a certain mortality date at 48 years of age? Now you see the German merit from a German view.

While in Germany during the summer of 1994, I was unnerved to hear that the civil unrest in Rwanda had gotten so seriously out of hand that America was looking at intervening. No less than a year before, America got involved in Somalia, and the result was Black Hawk Down.

As I understood it, Belgian colonials long ago had divided the Rwandan people into two groups (Moderns love the artificial dichotomy). The one group was Tutsi while the other group was Hutu.  Simplified, the Tutsi and Hutu were largely distinguished according to physical traits. The Tutsi (being taller, thinner, and having longer noses) were assumed to be close relatives of the Caucasoid people and, therefore, superior. The Hutu (being shorter, stockier, with flatter noses) were considered inferior to their Tutsi brothers. The Belgian distinction, however, did not take into account that individual families had members with both the Tutsi and Hutu descriptions. It made no difference when the Rwandan conflict began. These families were divided "down the middle."

Having said all that, I think the category of "Ginger" to be a similar travesty. While I've been aware of the term "Ginger" for the last year or so, I originally considered it to be a term of endearment and found their plight to be almost humorous. Considering, however, that the origin of Ginger discrimination seems to have originated in the UK (It only benignly reared its head in America via South Park), I'm reconsidering my concern. 

The Irish and Scottish (allegedly the "Ginger" genetic strains and entry points into Great Britain proper) have had a turbulent history with England. From the early days of Hadrian's Wall (originally built to keep the Scots out of England) and the early days of the Irish & British conflicts, these tensions have been fresh in the memories of all three people-groups. While living in England, I recall one evening watching via BBC the Northern Irish attack two RAF soldiers off duty in Ireland. And I don't know how many times the IRA set off bombs on British interests.

All I'm saying is that the Ginger issue on the tiny island-kingdom of England has volatile roots with a spurious history. I mean... look at this:


Here's a rather "informative" chart:


And this is just plain treacherous:


Surely there must be more categories than this in America:


In America Redheads (Americans call them Redheads) are as mysterious and as special as they are rare.


I'm certain Americans could never successfully discriminate against Gingers or any descriptively-elusive group. A good many of our population are Scotch-Irish. Proud vertebrae in our national backbone. In America Scotch-Irish temper is to be feared and avoided at all costs. Gingers (and the so-called Ginger gene) are among us. They are us. Intricately woven into our national DNA, peppering our households and communities with their mystique and beauty.

While American masses wonder what kinds of foods and drinks people on other continents consume or how they use the restroom or what clothes they wear or how often they shower, Americans don't wonder such things about Gingers. We are less philosophical and more practical than that. We want to know answers to questions like "If I kissed a Ginger, would I grow red hair?" Benign. Deep. American.


SCARTISSUE MMA: FIGHT CULTURE TENNESSEE-STYLE



Razor-bald. Buzz cuts. Chinstraps. Anchors. Goatees. Bretts. Soul patches. Vintage-worn baseball caps cocked at odd angles. Long, sagging shorts ranging from cotton to denim. Tattood T-shirts sporting intricately gothic-styled fonts. Sockless. Sandals of a hundred brands. Sinister-looking piercings. Cauliflower-ears. Broken noses. Finger-splints. Arm and knee braces. Missing and broken teeth. Average height 5'10". Average weight 175. These weren't the fighters. This was the crowd. 


Pulling up to the UAW (United Auto Workers) complex in Spring Hill, Tennessee last Saturday night for the Rhino Fighting Championships, I wasn't sure what to expect. I parked my Volvo equidistant from the stadium's front door and the closest exit from the parking lot (my nearest escape route should, I don't know, things "get out of hand"). Greeted by ScarTissue's beefy inspiration, sporting the latest Military Tribute T framing his 205 muscly stature, he escorted me past the ambulances and police, to the entrance and beyond.  


Entering the makeshift MMA stadium reminded me of the energetic frenzy of a college basketball halftime show. With the lights off. The main lighting streamed from the lobby and ancillary rooms in which food vendors prepared generous slices of pizza, filled large, plastic cups to the brim with beer, and where fighters made their preparations. Turning to my left, I saw the white face of Kutman, beaming from his gigantic, black banner where ScarTissue MMA was debuting their new product line.






ScarTissue MMA & friends carried as much energy in their little vending corner as the entire crowd together. Greeting each other with hugs, entertaining each other with stories, and punctuating stories with laughter, a steady stream ventured by its booth the entire evening not just to purchase T-shirts and beanie caps, but to make friends and get in on a little bit of the conversational action. 

Below is free-runner Zac Self (far right). Standing next to him is Columbia, Tennessee's 145-pounder John Deason, aka THE WITNESS (As a child Deason witnessed his mother get shot through the chest with a shotgun. 20 years of age, this kid has no fear and exuberated such a cheerful attitude, I was afraid he was going to start witnessing on me). Next to him stands Sandy, Samsung Marketing Executive. And next to her stands Derek Myers, one of the founders of ScarTissue.



Here I am below, standing next to Eric Van Gorden, another founder of ScarTissue and designer of its t-shirts (notice that everyone is wearing a ScarTissue t-shirt).




Below is POSSUM, titled MMA champion. I love his name. I'm sure it has something to do with feigning lifeless only to resurrect and kick butt. Or something similar. I left before he fought, but he won.



Interacting with the testosterone-ridden crowd, I learned that most of the audience were males, wiry, sinewy, between the ages of 18 and 40, and no strangers to scrapping. Whites, Hispanics. Blacks. Asians. Blue collar workers.


And the nicest guys in the world. One hour before the first match, the crowd was thick and milling around. More than once some dude twice my size would accidentally bump me, apologize, and defer to me with a slight bow and head-nod so that I could squeeze in line or get through a crowd first.


The fights were intense, but the fighters honorable and humble. I was surprised that the overwhelming choice of "runway music" for Tennessee MMA is mostly Hip Hop. Each fighter chose his song cleverly and carefully from "I Like the Way You Move" to "Smack That" to "Bottoms Up."


Being an honorary honorary guest of ScarTissue, I was ringside and handing out ScarTissue T-shirts post-fight to winners and losers alike. 34 fighters signed up, but only 22 showed up. While only 11 of the 22 fighters could be winners, 22 showed up. And showing up is what ScarTissue is all about.




www.scartissuemma.com

Friday, July 22, 2011

BAD HOLIDAY


Some days feel like a bad holiday. My central heating and air went out this past week. Central heating and air is a scary venture. On your own. You could get shocked. A 120 volt to the finger might seem fun at first, but when you don't know which wire goes where (the deeper you get into the console), you get the sense you could accidentally be blasted into eternity. 


The things that go through my mind when I'm focused on thermostats, wires, and instructions. There was this bit about a "jumper" that connects RH and RC. However, if you don't have both coming out of your wall to correspond to the thermostat.... Oh, they didn't say. Which suggested to me that I could hazard a guess and probably explode all over the place. Or I could get it right and it still not work. I felt like I was playing this Reality TV show where I was both audience and participant.


While I was driving to the store, I was surprised that being hot and sweaty could make me want to go all Rambo on... anything. I remember thinking that Army infantry thousands of miles away were probably sleeping like babies in air-conditioned barracks. Those kinds of thoughts don't help get work done. Really.


So last night I thought I had done the best I could and figured I would just lie down to watch TV on my leather furniture upstairs only to realize that when I was awakened for bed, all the bare parts of my body stuck to the couch. And I was covered in a feverish sweat probably due to the fact that my girls had on Mel Gibson's Signs, the music of which caused me to sleep in fidget fashion.


Upon waking, I find out that two more children have chicken pox, and one of them is fever-hot!

When the one handyman you trust is out of town, it is painful to seek out another. I mean, I know nothing about central heating and air. But after taking the outside panel off the larger console, I would have charged, I don't know, $250 up front just to clean out all of the dust, grass, and little hornet mud huts. Then I would have charged an extra $250 just because it smelled dangerous.

The handyman I found did a great job, but he seemed perplexed at the very same things I was perplexed over. It ended up that I need a new circuit board which had burned so thoroughly in places that it was charred.


I don't want to die yet, so I guess I will bite the bullet and call a professional. I've sent out a couple of inquiries, but nothing yet. It's Friday night at the Grayson house which means pizza! Hopefully cold pizza.




Monday, July 18, 2011

TWILIGHT ZONE: DENOMINATIONAL VAMPIRES


Several years ago I heard a radio personality complain that science is forever changing its position about what is healthy (aka, good) for us. They tell us that homogenized milk is bad and soy good only to recant several years later. Why can't science be wrong now? Why must it always be wrong later?

Having grown up in a relatively small but active church community overseas, I am occasionally amused at the recollection of former church members I have come across two and three decades later. Once religiously enthusiastic, fresh perspectives tell of racial bigotry, relational abuse, illicit sex (Where was the sex?!), wayward children, and incontinent spouses. 

None of these conversations are complete, however, until the bashing of the representative head (poor pastors, elders, and bishops). Accusations range from theological heresy to pastoral incompetence to plagiarized sermons. I have always wondered about those who now claim an acute and "prophetic" awareness of past injustices when they were gung ho about it years before. Why can't their perspectives be wrong now? 

That goes the same for denominational solidarity on cultural issues no longer popular. I found in the home office of a dear, elderly friend a turn-of-the-20th century, black & white, 8x10 photo of a Black man hanging by his neck from a lamp post. Gathered around him (and dressed in their Sunday best) were White men, women, and children. This dear lady had a poor recollection of the photo (even though she was pushing 80), but the photo told the story. I hardly thought it a legitimate execution unless lamp posts were normally appropriated for such uses. Why were these denominational strongholds right decades ago, but wrong in retrospect?

A couple of years ago I read all four books in the Twilight Saga aloud with my wife: Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, and Breaking Dawn. While the stories did little to endear Robert Pattinson to me (even though he rocked in Remember Me and did fairly well in Harry Potter), I found Edward Cullen's character to be intriguing, especially as I grew to understand how Stephenie Meyer's Mormon beliefs figured into the development of his character. 

As I understand it, Edward Cullen is a member of a group of "reformed" vampires who have trained themselves to refrain from human blood. Vegetarians (but precariously so. On more than one occasion Edward is tempted to do more than just "nibble" on Bella's ear). To compound the plot, Edward falls in love with Bella (whom he actively trains not to eat). He proves to possess more self-control than the unredeemed Bella who struggles to control her sexual urge for Edward. So not only is  Edward vegetarian, but he is chaste, too.

Mormon belief exhibits itself in Edward's eternal devotion for Bella and in the conflict it causes between them both. Edward loves Bella so much that he is unwilling to let her be transformed into a vampire like himself so that they could be together forever in that eternal, freeze-framed sort of way. Bella, however, yearns so badly to be with Edward that she is willing to forfeit the joys of being human even to the point of being careless with her own life. Edward relents and Bella receives her glorified body (which is fit for eternal sex, another Mormon tenet).

For all of the quirkiness in Mormon beliefs, something beautiful and valuable has been lifted and transformed from that very strange heritage and translated into the series. Imagine (for you women) an absolutely flawless man who is physically built and beautiful, intellectually astute and reasonable, and he has eyes for no one but you. You can't figure out why. He could easily hurt you (and you see it sometimes in his eyes), yet he loves your obvious flaws so much and gagas over your most simplistic attributes. He loves you so well that you believe him and fall for him. You have to admit there is something strongly desirable about that kind of possessive devotion, even if it is a modern version of its very chauvinistic ancestor.

In order to illustrate how very difficult it is to make a religious belief palatable across a wide spectrum of beliefs, let us imagine a couple of denominational vampires. Oh, come on, it will be fun. I will give you two.

VAMPIRE A
This certain vampire recognizes no other vampire save that he or she has been bit by a close relative. In fact, any victim who does not trace his lineage to said close relative might look like a vampire and bite like a vampire, but do not be fooled: none of those vampiric traits are genuine. These vampires like to immerse new vampires in vats of a special liquid, the act of which insures vampiric transformation. This vampire can be easily warded off by the playing of various instruments and especially agitated by the accompaniment of the human voice with those instruments. These vampires can be found in small groups throughout the Southeast.

VAMPIRE B
This vampire traces its rites and ceremonies to a particular vampiric code, the culmination of this codification happening in the early 17th century. Interestingly, this code is traced back to certain earlier fragments considered to be talismanic for all "purebloods." Said purebloods are always vigilantly on the offense against "leeches," pretenders. This vampire operates on two fronts. On the one hand, it seeks to make new vampires as fast as possible. On the other hand, it is forever weeding out the vampires they make, attributing the "leeches" to any number of causes like inferior saliva, improper biting methods, and especially the inability of alleged (new) vampires to remember the time and day that they were bitten.

Oh, I should stop while I'm ahead. My point is two-fold. First is  simply that while theological one-to-one ratios do not necessarily make for good literature, it is difficult to imagine what unique beliefs of some denominations could ever be the nexus of the next, great, compelling novel. But that is what denominations are forever doing: reframing themselves to some extent within the value system of the next generation.

Secondly is that vampire stories really focus on the treatment of flesh and blood, and are, therefore, little Eucharistic stories. Twilight glorifies the abstinence of flesh in deference to the fruits of a more substantial, weightier love (which is still a very physical prize). I wonder what a Baptist, Presbyterian, or Episcopalian vampire would look like. What is its belief about flesh and blood? How central is Communion to denominational life? I wonder how long the series would last. I wonder how captivated people would be. I wonder how palatable they could make it.

I occasionally think about that man swinging from the lamp post. I wonder what he did. I wonder if he went willingly. I wonder how a Sunday crowd could transition from listening to a sermon to viewing a hanging to having an afternoon "fellowship." I wonder if there was laughter later that afternoon, no less than six hours after that man's last breath left him. I wonder what the sermon was about that next week. 

But we decry those kinds of conditions nowadays as if we and the tenets of our faith had nothing whatsoever to do with the sentiments, decisions, and actions of our ancestors. I don't necessarily know why we do that. What I do know (and this is a hard pill to swallow) is that what they did back then was right and only became wrong when most everyone who was right was dead. 


VOLDEMORT & ICONIC EVIL


I was first introduced to Harry Potter in 1999 through a parent of a 2nd-grade student. While I graciously accepted the rather thick Harry Potter & the Sorcerer's Stone, I had already resolved not to read the entire thing. The same parent had previously insisted I read LaHaye & Jenkin's Left Behind. I did. I have often wondered how different my life would be had I those five, excruciating hours back.


My wife (aka, The Book Fairy), however, read the book and loved it. She routinely prepped me on its contents, inisisting that I read it for myself until I finally did some years later around the airing of the first movie. Since then, I have been hooked. Harry Potter was the first dynamic child-character in a long time with whom I could wholeheartedly empathize since Enid Blyton's George in the Famous Five series which I read over and over again while living in England as a child. 


After having founded my school, Stone Table, in 2000 I learned that controversy surrounded the Harry Potter series, particularly in the evangelical community. Certain of my students were strictly forbidden to read the books, a malinformed and misguided decision of their parents. As I understood it, Harry Potter was supposed to be a portal into witchcraft and eventual demonic possession, the bane of most conscientiously charismatic Christians. Many of those students could have used a little Harry Potter in their lives (Quite a few of them have been successful finding the Dark Side on their own without the help of J.K. Rowling).


The same children were forbidden from the general fairytale or whimsical story. After all, those stories were inspired by witches and warlocks who posed as any variety of innocent authors whose chief aim was to destroy children's faith in God (or "a" god) with evangelical zeal. Didn't I as a teacher know that?


While I do not know many things about the devil, and while what I do know would probably not hold a candle to the seemingly vast knowledge of people keenly fascinated with him (or her), I do know a few, simple things about human nature that seem to become irrelevant when discussing such topics with such people. 


Like G.K. Chesterton, I find it unnatural for a parent to withhold the fairytale and relevant "myths" from their children. Evil does not present itself to a child the way it does to an adult. They have to be appropriately taught to discern it. Children are not taught which is why pedophiles are highly successful at luring kids into their confidence with simple things like candy. That's what Hansel and Gretel is about: there are disturbed people who want to consume children and will use any innocent-looking means available. Without stealing their innocence, Hansel and Gretel suggests to children that discretion is paramount in the presence of people you do not know or do not really know. How bad is that? Fairytales are often a child's first realization that no matter how bad evil gets, "the dragon" eventually gets defeated. 


The more-than-decade-long Harry Potter mania found Rowling maturing Harry from a childlike ignorance of "bad" into a deeper, more intimate awareness of evil. As a first-year, Harry knows enough about Voldemort to simply want to avoid him. Each successive year Harry is progressively brought into a deeper familiarity with Voldemort and his history until by the last book Harry understands that the only way to defeat Voldemort is to pass through the Valley off the Shadow of Death himself. 


While it was true all along, Harry did not need to fully understand all of it as a first-year. Rowling let him develop close friendships, learn fascinating subjects, and enjoy childish pleasures while Voldemort grew from a shadowy backdrop in Harry's conscience to an all-encompassing menace who plagued him in his dreams.


As a child, I learned to get good at catching lizards.  I found a successful way to catch them, say, 65% of the time. As the lizard would fully emerge from its hole to soak up the sun, I simply blocked its hole with one hand and grabbed for it with the other. Closing up the hole caused the slightest delay in the lizard's reaction, giving me enough time to grab for it.


I imagine that to be the strategy Harry Potter had in mind. As each horcrux is destroyed, Voldemort manifests deeper reprobation and such a heightened level of instability until he realizes that Harry has completely blocked any escape route. So the serpent has completely come out of his hole.


I have wondered about this relationship between evil's fear of annihilation and its emergence from shadow and how each successive encounter with evil reveals more and more of the snake. I found this correlation between Voldemort and other popular, literary villains to be true.



Narnia's Great Pretender, The White Witch, first enters the scene through the harried whispers of Mr. Tumnus who complains that she makes it winter but never Christmas in Narnia. Lucy is initially confused at the faun's cryptic speech. Each encounter with a Narnian teaches the children more and more about her until her audacious negotiation with Aslan. While she possesses a kind of beauty, it is frigid one. She tortures her closest associates, lives in arctic, lifeless surroundings, and publicly executes Aslan at the Stone Table amongst the jeers of her minions.


In the epic Lord of the Rings series, Soron is only first heard about before he is seen. His influence is acutely felt in the odd behavior of Bilbo, owner of the ring, who has not aged for some time and who possesses the strange ability to disappear. Ignorant Bilbo is the entry point for Hobbiton to be dragged into the drama of Middle-earth. Frodo learns from Gandalf that he must undertake the long trek to Mount Doom in order to destroy the ring. The closer Frodo and friends reach Mount Doom, the more exhaustion, treachery, and terror they experience


A Series of Unfortunate Events surrounds the three, orphaned Baudelaire children who are sent to live with a distant relative, Count Olaf. At first, Olaf impresses them as a very odd character, but over the course of the series he manifests as a maniac intent to steal their inheritance at the cost of lives. The Baudelaires learn to keep their guard up throughout the series, primarily because Count Olaf uses an incessant array of disguises to get at the children, his ultimate deception being his framing the children for his "murder" so that they are now on the run.

Many more examples abound. As an educator for fourteen years I have learned that children who are not trained to discern age-appropriate gradations of evil tend to remain stupidly oblivious to evil's many faces and to fall victim to those lures time and again. From the boy who rationalizes that the shrooms he is offered as a part of a group activity can produce a spiritually deep enlightenment to the girl who rationalizes that the hottie is not technically raping her. These are kids who were never taught that sometimes evil looks like inclusion or smells like AXE.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

UNMAN: THE EXCEPTIONAL HERO OF EXCEPTION


I had a student jump off a roof one time. After investigating what sort of benefit he thought he might gain by throwing himself off a height of several, uncomfortable feet, it seems that he wasn't thinking about benefits or consequences at all. I found that to be more disconcerting than had he told me he thought Jesus would catch him. 

While you have to be careful not to ridicule people who have reaped the consequences of their own stupidity (after all, there is now no dissuading them from suffering), I did learn that his impetuous action sprang from that subconscious Gollum-crevice of his mind that he was an exception. He was so exceptional that benefits or consequences need not figure into his action at all, now or forever. After all his idiocy is genius, his body odor heavenly, and his turds little piles of gold.


Much of the "exceptional" behavior to which I am professionally privy is essentially nothing more than classic, high-risk behavior. As it is with each human, that absurdity which we hold onto so dearly makes total sense to ourselves but only sounds absurd when we try to explain it to another. 

"Drugs? No, those are plants. Cannibis indica to be exact. Why do I have them in my room? I'm a green thumb. Oh, those ones wrapped up in paper? Those are dead. I was going to throw them away."

"Stealing? No, you don't understand. I was just going to use the money and put it back before you found out. Why? Because I thought you might get mad."

Routinely staying up all night to "study" for an exam that routinely takes you all day to take is high-risk behavior. If you don't routinely get rest, you will not routinely get recharged, because you are routinely depleting your abilities. Even military personnel in special training get a reprieve at the end of Hell week. Even the government takes a holiday every once in a while (in addition to daily smoke/potty and lunch breaks). 


Oh, but not the Unman. The only reprieve Unman gets is when he is laid up in bed deathly ill because he can't move, or when he is incarcerated in a psychiatric hospital to which he has been referred for odd behavior, or when he disappears altogether for a time, unable to cope with the normal stresses of life. The Unman fancies that he has batteries that never end. He is always starting something, but never formally ending it. So he has to be made to stop, to quit, to end. He imagines himself to be indispensable until someone points out his redundance. 

Maybe you know an Unman or Unwoman. Each fully expects everyone but himself to exhibit human weakness like, um, hunger, thirst, and exhaustion. Each fully expects other people to exhibit cultural deficiencies like, say, an interest in contemporaneous culture. Each actually believes himself to have been built for another era, an older era, a superior era. Each is always trying to "go back" further than anyone else in order to establish a kind of authenticity so far removed from the current culture that he actually fools himself into believing that mind-twisting like that substantially works. 

I have known many people of this sort who ridicule those who take the precaution to consider seriously the merits of contemporary trends and movements. I myself have been a part of that group. We had our little discussion groups back in the day where we pontificated works from men of a different century (with whom we could not empathize) who discussed topics belonging to a foreign culture (of which we were largely unfamiliar) and who cited any current affair as inferior to the old-timers'. Functionally we were cultural critics and pessimists who were empowered by critic-speak. We were Bieber-haters.

But the Unman has an Achilles heel all the same. That sort of decay manifests itself in a thousand different ways. I knew a man who was religiously zealous about a certain political group to the point of triggering a caustic nausea in everyone who was unfortunate enough to hear him out. He knew what was wrong with the government. He was privy to tasty conspiracies. He knew who was and who was not a Communist. 

Then he went through an excruciating crisis, and  voilรก, he had suddenly embraced a new vocabulary, a brand new set of religious and political beliefs, and was dismantling his own previous position as if he had done it all of his life. Worst of all was that he displayed no awareness of his hubris. 

Such a person has opened up on life's desktop several alternate realities and just as many personalized Avatars. She jumps in and out of her worlds with the ease of a trapeze artist, seemingly unable to commit to the one reality under her very nose which is the boring one. So boring that it scares her into a chronic dreamscape.


So the kid hollering on the ground with the broken ankle doesn't really know why he is hollering. Sure he is protesting, but I am not certain against what. Is he angry with himself for being foolish? No. He seems to be irritated with the form of the building, with the form of the ground, with the form of himself, and with the combination of all three. Sure, it's supposed to happen to the dumbass on Youtube who he gets a kick out of seeing fall on his face over and over again. But it's not supposed to happen to him. He is Unman.







Saturday, July 2, 2011

SCARTISSUE MMA: "JUST SHOW UP"


Just show up. We do it every day. Without incident. Without fanfare. Without encouragement. Often it is the tipping point between what can make or break us, between winning and losing, between increasing or decreasing. Yet, it seems so strangely insignificant as to be hardly recognizable even for pretentious accolades and spurious applause.

I recently fell in with an eclectic group of guys, founders of ScarTissue MMA, a jujitsu fight club in Nashville, Tennessee. With vocations spanning law enforcement, music, alternative medicine, and education, each has contributed hard, life experiences that animate their mantra The Hardest Part is Showing Up.

Ever been shot in the neck at point-blank range while trying to help someone? Ever had your private work facility burn down by an arsonist? Ever lose your kids for two years due to false accusations by a hateful spouse? Ever fight the medical establishment to keep your loved one alive? These guys have. And for them just showing up was the hardest part.

We often combine showing up with the difficult thing that must be done. For example, we have a bill to pay but no money. Having no money does not mean that we can't write out the check or stamp the envelope or call the utilities company to get an extension, or call customer care to find out how we can get the product cheaper, or just get along without the product altogether if possible. 

Many times we feel at an impasse and will stuff the unpaid bill in a drawer or hide it underneath a pile so that it is out of sight. We fail to realize that we can still show up without having a clear solution about how we are going to get the bill paid. 

By confusing showing up and having the perfect solution, we create unnecessary anxiety and end up avoiding responsibility like the plague. After all, I don't know the first thing about surviving a neck wound, starting my professional life over, living without my children, or convincing the hospital to value my loved one like I value him, damn it. 

Neither did these guys. It is simply too much to ask of anyone. But each of them understand that you don't need to have the answer to your problem in order to show up. If you show up first, the answer becomes obvious. Something has to happen then. If you try to discover the solution first, you stall, you worry, you lose sleep, you lose ground. That is ScarTissue's message. 


Take a look at www.scartissuemma.com. ScarTissue is creating a line of clothing products, the first two being a T-shirt for men ("Just Show Up") and women ("Don't let the bow fool ya"). Both can be gotten in M, L, and XL. 



As a promotional, I am giving away free ScarTissue XL T-shirts to the first ten people who respond. Send your address to stonetableschool@gmail.com. Just show up!

DISCLAIMER: All trademarks, images, and artwork are the property of ScarTissue, LLC.