Lipstick on a Pig OK

Tesla Girl

Someone the other day called Elon Musk both an “inventor” and “a badass” but he is neither.

Let me say flat-out, upfront, and clearly it’s good that Musk — entrepreneur behind the Tesla carmaker, companies involved in solar power and space exploration, and who was previously part of PayPal — is alive. We need people like him if only so the 99% of the world who submit regularly to the status quo have some dreamers to gaze at in wonder.

Ideally they’d do more.

Think Different maybe.

Perhaps even live like it.

But.

So far as I know Musk hasn’t invented anything. Perhaps he holds patents but I’ve not see that mentioned. He’s an entrepreneur … so stretch the word on the rack … call an entrepreneur the inventor of a company … but why?

We already have a word for those.

Musk isn’t badass either. That’s a more subjective designation but is our badass bar so low that P.T. Barnum qualifies? What we have from him so far is the tell part of show tell — or show, as in tell. There’s no evidence yet. 

The “it ain’t braggin’ if you can do it” isn’t as true as “if you can do it you don’t have to brag.” To make matters a bit worse for the badass inventor title, Musk hasn’t actually shown he can do it.

  1. The companies aren’t profitable,
  2. relying heavily on government money,
  3. and the spaceships keep, well … blowing up.

Once more: Elon Musk out there shilling is an objective good.

It’s only hucksterism if he fails but we don’t know yet. So about Musk, these three:

  1. He’s neither an inventor,
  2. nor is he quite badass,
  3. so stop idolizing him.

I hope he’d agree. The best creative is one who also wants others to be, whatever shape it takes — “even” just fully realizing their own selves instead of defining it based on his.

He’s not as into himself as everyone else is.

This is often not the case. An idol himself often loves being on the pedestal just as those bowing to it are content to not-live vicariously through the statue they’ve erected.

That monument-building is about the only work the masses are ever going to do — until there is failure, as commonly there is, and the same mob lassoes the statue and melts it down, so it can put another up in its place.

An irony of our oft-vaunted and supposedly uber-democratic American world is how 330 million independent thinkers keep elevating the visionary and different to where they get a pass.

The visionary gets a pass and becomes a god without much actual accomplishment and those elevating him get a pass and remain where they are.

It’s all so neat and easy.

So what we get on Musk is material that comes from one kind of meme-hole and disappears into the other kind, asserting, for instance, that he got $180 million from his share of PayPal, when it sold, and put all of it into his companies — which, if true would mean

  1. He paid no taxes,
  2. and was literally broke,
  3. relying on handouts even then.

Surely he had a little bit socked away? This isn’t to deny his commercial success with PayPal — the evidence for that is there. It isn’t to say he’s not committed to his ideas and acting on them, tying current rewards (which measure in the billions of dollars) to sales targets and whatnot.

Good on him.

But this hero-worship of people who aren’t heroes in the way they’re being worshipped needs to stop. I saw a collection of quotations from Musk that barely reached the level of rumination by your average 15-year-old who has just smoked his first weed. Must be gospel though, since he made $180 million on PayPal.

(As with Donald Trump we wouldn’t care one bit about such verbalizing if not for the money.)

It’s good that Elon Musk lives and breathes and speaks.

May his actions — and his tribe — increase.

Ox

16 Precepts

You have asked me how to pursue learning. I pass this along in response —

  1. Move from the easier to the difficult
  2. Be cautious of speech
  3. Be slower still in frequenting places of talk
  4. Embrace purity of conscience
  5. Pray without ceasing
  6. Love your home and to be there often
  7. Show geniality to all 
  8. Pay no heed to others’ affairs
  9. Be not over-familiar with anyone; it breeds contempt and gives occasion to distraction
  10. Never get enmeshed with the sayings and doings of those in the outside world
  11. Most of all avoid vain visits and idle conversation
  12. Never mind who says what or from whom the lesson drops
  13. Remember any true and useful advice uttered; fill your cup
  14. Give an account to yourself of your every thought, word, and action
  15. See that you understand what you hear and don’t leave doubts be
  16. Remember. Walk always in the footsteps of good and holy men

— If you do this all your wildest dreams will come true.

*

The original is known as “16 Precepts for Acquiring the Treasure of Knowledge” and was written (in Latin of course) ostensibly by Saint Thomas Aquinas and to “Brother John” … neither is likely, but the material is sound and for a thought on that see No. 12. This post is edited from the two versions here and here.

 

Drudgery 2

Drudge Report

Babies need not to be taught a trade, but to be introduced to a world. To put the matter shortly, woman is generally shut up in a house with a human being at the time when he asks all the questions that there are, and some that there aren’t. It would be odd if she retained any of the narrowness of a specialist.

Now if anyone says that this duty of general enlightenment … is in itself too exacting and oppressive, I can understand the view. I can only answer that our race has thought it worthwhile to cast this burden on women in order to keep common sense in the world.

But when people begin to talk about this domestic duty as not merely difficult but trivial and dreary, I simply give up the question. For I cannot with the utmost energy of imagination conceive what they mean. When domesticity is called drudgery, all the difficulty arises from a double meaning in the word.

If drudgery only means dreadfully hard work, I admit the woman drudges in the home, as a man might drudge at the Cathedral of Amiens or drudge behind a gun at Trafalgar. But if it means that the hard work is ‘more heavy’ because it is trifling, colorless, and of small import to the soul, then as I say, I give it up; I do not know what the words mean.

To be Queen Elizabeth within a definite area, deciding sales, banquets, labors and holidays; to be Whiteley’s [department store] within a certain area, providing toys, boots, sheets, cakes, and books; to be Aristotle within a certain area, teaching morals, manners, theology, and hygiene — I can understand how this might exhaust the mind, but I cannot imagine how it could narrow it.

How can it be a large career to tell other people’s children about the Rule of Three [in arithmetic], and a small career to tell one’s own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to someone?

No. A woman’s function is laborious — because it is gigantic, not because it is minute. I will pity Mrs. Jones for the hugeness of her task; I will never pity her for its smallness.

GK Chesterton

 

Boys will be

Shock And Ow

I’ve had many exchanges over the years where my statement about something was taken as surprise at the event rather than what it was — which is anger over human inaction facing it.

Having worked 1.75 teenage males through the household over the last dozen years this has often been a thing one or the other has done that is so colossally moronic, amoral or both, I often go slack-jawed in apprehending it. Then everyone else goes slack responding to it.

Boys will be boys … 

First of, no or partly yes or who cares?

Boys will be jerks

is closer, but again — no, yes, so what?

The point is: what do we do now?

I’m not expressing shock. I want to know what will hurt enough in the way he conducts himself that it won’t happen again. Sometimes there is nothing. But every time we say boys will be boys there certainly will be nothing. It’s the beginning of the conversation not the end.

What I’m looking for is a response, even a solution.

I’m not surprised by the moment.

I want the next one.

Photo Credit Getty Images

Kingdom In

When we hear of our twinclinations — the two tendencies within us all, one toward good and one toward ill — most time is spent on the first. Anyway I’ve spent most of my time on that — on being most concerned over time with what’s good and am I being that, and often justifying what doesn’t quite nail the landing.

Even when we’re aware of and acknowledge the, you know, possibility we might be bad … not something people spend a lot of time on.

The ratio shifts in the quiet of our own garrets (internal and external) but commonly it’s so.

The duality, as the academic might say, or the duality thing, as the academic might say when talking to us, is everywhere from those cautionary tales of dogs tussling inside our souls to a general knowledge that in the moment of choice we, well, have one. The focus on the good I think of from the Tolstoy book title, and its source in scripture —

Asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come he answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.”

— which is in Luke and which for the last phrase the ESV notes the alternatives, “Or within you, or within your grasp.” Which of course is part of the ensuing discussion of just what the heck is Jesus talking about? Is He the Kingdom? is it what He brought? is it physically inside everyone?

An á Kempis quote, fairly well known if you know á Kempis, explores the two possibilities in the context of praise and blame —

Praise does not make you holier than you are nor blame more wicked. You are exactly what you are and cannot ever be any better or worse than that in the eyes of God. Attend to what is really within you, then, and you will not care what others say of you.

— which gets us back to both good and bad but even he ends up looking mainly at the good, speaking immediately next of others looking at externals and God knows our heart and so we need not externally generated assurance.

So I started wondering just now about the bad.

The bad doesn’t seem to be mentioned much in these duality discussions; it’s usually about the good and pursuing it and how even when we fail a little-lot … well, God knows our heart.

Which is true but what we’re leaving behind is important too. For one thing it’s often the thing that gets in the way of pursuing the good, though, as better men have noted, it’s more oftenly something average that keeps us from the good. We’re generally not all that, in the good ways.

But bad is what struck me this moment this morning because we’re also not as bad as all that.

Really.

 

Photo credit: Getty Images

 

Children Riis

Dirty Rotten Scoundrel

Some of my best friends have a problem with the dirty poor.

These are the folks below the dirt-poor — which describes a financial level not the person himself. These are the dirt-encrusted, unemployed, possibly begging (relying on strangers, kindness, and a fair economy as much as the rest of us, anyway), frequently transient (the weather when warm is welcome), simple-dieted types.

Weirdos — #AmIRight? — who seem to be talking to themselves much of the time, and when they’re talking to others most people don’t see the thread, can’t quite get it. Trouble with the law — outright opposition to it — is in both their past and future.

Not just white but black and yellow and red trash. It’s usually them furriners — not the ones on the EB5 Visas or the foreign exchange student progs. They dress funny.

Some are little better than a dog, really.