Why is it so hard to be open to people’s contradictions, surprises, quirks?

Sometimes I hear myself drawing walls around other people with the words I use to describe them. “Frat boy” is the term I prefer for a certain group of men who are, at least on the surface, not people I get along with. People whose values often oppose mine. People whose own definitions of beauty, normalcy, and culture have in many cases narrowed the world to make me and the people I love invisible. Still, I hear all the assumptions in the label and remind myself that when I take a little time to get to know someone, they often surprise me. That’s all we can ask, I guess, that people at least hear and reflect on their own judgments.

It’s lazy and hurtful to let a word or a handful of words define a person.

I have more to say, about appreciating who someone actually is, rather than holding them up, constantly, against a rigid idea of what a person should value, should be interested in, should read, listen to, think, or do. There are limits to relativism and valuing everything equally, but there are limits to snobbery, too.  This is coming out like some kind of vague inspirational self-help nonsense, though, probably because I’m determined to give less away on the internet, especially about other people. A lack of clarity and detail is the enemy of good writing.

It’s enough to say that I’m angry and disappointed at being told (in so many words!) “you disappoint me” by someone who seems closed to the possibility that a person worth knowing could have a wide range of interests, high and low, narrow and broad, silly and serious.

It’s all in the tagline of this blog, really: “Be a dark barker before the tents of existence.” A little bit creepy as imagery given the history of freakshows, but I love the image (somehow Johnny Depp keeps turning up in it) of the carnival barker, crowing appreciation for all the fascinating aspects of the universe and all the surprises you find in people’s souls when you let yourself get to know them.


One Response to “XCIX.”

  1. I found myself reading and wondering, to what extent is this sort of thinking a modern thing? Would these paragraphs have made sense 50 years ago? 100? 200?

    Would they make sense everywhere in this country? Everywhere in the world?

    I’m thinking, no. I’m thinking that these insights are local truths, temporary truths, good for NYC in 2010, and a bunch of places not so very long ago and not so very far away.

    But I’m not sure. I’m still thinking.

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