Monday, August 18, 2008

Why I Disagree With Everything

Knowledge is a good thing—of course it is. I’m all for spreading knowledge. Hell, I’ve been a teacher, and a tutor, and a writer of informative articles in which I barely made anything up.

And yet...maybe...not knowing can have its value as well....

The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.
Shakespeare

Guess I can be somewhat of a contrarian—that’s kinda the opposite of a chameleon—in blue surroundings, I turn red—not so much politically—at least not in the current “red states” and “blue states” sense—though, admittedly, back in the late ‘80’s when I was at Evergreen State College—one of our nation’s most celebrated granola schools, with alumni including Matt Groening, Lynda Barry, and the founders of both Sub-Pop and the riot grrrl thing—prevailing local winds of academic Marxism and acid-burnt utopianism did blow me away from the far left...though the icy gusts of ReaganBushism then blanketing the country certainly prevented any serious drift toward the right....

Good and bad, I defined these terms so clear, no doubt, somehow...
Bob Dylan

But here I’m more concerned with that sticky “spiritual” stuff that people I hang out with either get all gooey about or have complete and utter contempt for. When I’m kicking back with the atheistic academic crowd—to the extent that people on the long march toward tenure ever “kick back”—I tend to be much more likely to indulge in the mysteries of cosmic consciousness, life after death, and the possibility of some kind of something for which the big G could be a workable metaphor. If I really wanna get antisocial, I’ll argue that to negate takes as much a leap of faith as to believe, so that atheism’s really just another religion, and that, anyway, if absolutely forced to choose, I’d probably trust the sages of the ages before the likes of Derrida and Foucault....

The difference between theism and nontheism is not whether one does or does not believe in God....Theism is a deep-seated conviction that there’s some hand to hold: if we just do the right things, someone will appreciate us and take care of us....Nontheism is relaxing with the ambiguity and uncertainty of the present moment without reaching for anything to protect ourselves.
Pema Chodron

Of course, when hanging in the yoga crowd—to the extent that one can “hang” with people who pay such careful attention to their posture—my perspective changes...especially when people start talking about that new age crap—fake tribal bullshit, self serving evocations of karma, positive affirmations with all the substance of green jello....When people ask my sign—and won’t let me change the subject—I say “I’m a capricorn,” to which the answer is inevitably “just as I thought,” to which I reply “actually I’m a libra,” eliciting an “okay, I knew you were either a libra or a capricorn,” but... “I’m really a virgo,” “that explains it...,” “no it doesn’t, because I’m a scorpio,” “of course!” and so on....Then, who can blame them for failing to guess that I was born under the sign of Charlie the Three Toed Sloth?

If they had a king of fools then I would wear that crown
and you could all die laughing because I’ll wear it proudly.
Elvis Costello

I was on a yoga retreat where we did these writing exercises, which were then shared with the group...one of them with a prompt of something like “what surprises you at this point in your life” and, after a couple of days of wondering if there was truly a place for a yoga cynic in such mellow touchy-feely environs, I went off on the whole group: “I’m surprised I’m here. I don’t believe in crap. I hate that all that new age shit. I hate positive attitudes. I hate people who have positive attitudes. I hate people who believe...” for twelve minutes. Hell, it wouldn’t be the first time I had to eat lunch alone. But get this: people liked it. Told me they appreciated my honesty and sense of humor. Hugged me and shit. What’s a contrarian to do?

19 comments:

Gypsy at Heart said...

Take it gracefully and hug back of course.

Samantha Grace said...

1. My cousin went to Evergreen...small world.
2. I love that you used an Elvis Costello lyric.
3. I would have eaten lunch with you. I would have taken you out to a fancy-schmancy lunch for that. Calling them how you see them...priceless.

yellowdog granny said...

anyone that quotes dylan and elvis costello..is ok in my book..

melinda said...

Oh my goodness--this does bring to mind some of my experiences with Tai Chi!

Excellent article.

Drowsey Monkey said...

Pema Chodron is amazing. I've read some of her stuff. By her definition I'm a non-theist.

You seem kinda stuck somewhere in the middle. Not a bad place to be. I spent most of my life there.

Lana Gramlich said...

I hear you in this post. I few years back I cut all ties with paganism, which I'd embraced pretty seriously for a while. At least until I clearly realized it was just the same old BS repackaged in a new form. I just can't do superstition anymore, y'know?
When people as my sign, I tell them I was born under the sign of the smart ass. ;)

Bird said...

Oooooooh yes, I get this contrarian thing. I am never quite sure why my writing is so damn sunny when I am such a cynic. Leads me to suspect that you may be a closet fluffy bunny...

chris said...

Do Knowledge and wisdom go together ?
I am not sure I got the meaning of the quotation right("the wise man knows himself to be a fool")

scatterhaiku said...

your honesty was probably rather refreshing. :) good for you and good for them.

somepinkflowers said...

hey





i love this--->
(the kind of doctor who,
in case of emergency,
can explain Faulkner while you die)

:-)



so LOVE it...


like ANYONE
can really EXPLAIN Faulkner.....

:-)

{{man,
i bet your mom is so proud! }}

Rebeca said...

Life is tough for contrarians. People always end up liking them. : )

tata said...

I don't agree with anything you wrote.

RBV said...

Tata...you actually made me bust out into laughter!

I'm so contrary that I don't even agree with most things that come from my mouth these days. I, too, have had similar outbursts, and always wonder if it's the scrooge effect. Perhaps I just want to crap on someone else's happiness???

Kristen said...

I love your outburst/rant. I never have the guts to say those things myself.

slacker chic said...

I love your blog. Love. It. And here I thought I was the only one who was being pulled between enlightenment and being so cynical, such a questioner about everything. Like you're looking in my head. Wait, are you looking in my head? Do I need one of those aluminum hat things the crazy people wear?

Lydia said...

I think that sloths are positively adorable and, don't hate me for saying this, so was much of this article! My brother-in-law was on that long march toward tenure but he's into investing, not yoga. I need to get to yoga class and attend to my posture. But I squirm when they start talking about the "ecstatic dance" class that most of them attend. Not that yippin' and flippin' around might not do me some good, somehow...

The Fearless Blog said...

When I was in my 20's, I met someone who later became a very good friend, someone I grew to care about and respect very much. While everyone described her as impulsive, reckless and controversial, I saw her as genuine, self confident and honest. I have always preferred "transparent" friends and avoided the "fake" perfect ones like the plague. If I had been in that group you mention, I probably would have gravitated your way as well, even though our views may have been very different.

In the end, it's not the controversy that I am drawn to but the scarcity of "real" people who are comfortable in their own skin.
Maybe we are drawn to that "thing" we only "wish" we could be.

Great post.

svasti said...

Dr Jay, LOL!

This comment - "I’ll argue that to negate takes as much a leap of faith as to believe, so that atheism’s really just another religion" - could have been words from my own mouth.

A couple of things to say. First of all, like in any 'social group' - and yes some people do yoga just for the social aspect! - there are those who are there to look the part and not be real. They exist in any social environment going.

There's actually a term for this sort of stuff - Spiritual Materialism. And a rockin' Tibetan dude called Chogyam Trungpa wrote a book on the topic called: "Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism" - you can find it on Amazon.

There will always be posers. Especially in the yoga scene. But then there are those who want the truth. They're out there, but there aren't too many of them unfortunately.

But read some Trungpa - you might like him :)

Mark said...

Maybe this should be called "Yoga for Skeptics"? Skepticism is what drove me to academia. It's also what's leading me back out of it again.