You’re Doing It Wrong

A friend once recounted how a mutual acquaintance of ours had told her God spoke to him, which he meant both literally and verbally.

It’s enough on one point to note the gent didn’t say God spoke with him — which wd seem to be preferred, all things taken together — but that isn’t what I’ll note here. What I replied then and repeat now is that perhaps this occurred because this fellow needed a good talking-to. That is, it wasn’t a sign of excess spirituality (is there such a thing?) as of deficient. I don’t think we need to assert defective, but that may’ve been so as well.

Reminded me at the time of the cartoon — a New Yorker-type, if not the thing itself — wherein a mom unloads piles of work papers from her briefcase while her daughter, looking on, observes, ‘Maybe you need to be in a slower class?’

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A bug of mine I’ve come to see as feature is an ability oft if not always, commonly if not completely to flip the ol’ spyglass 180° and look through its t’other end. Chesterton a’course made a quarter or so of his career on such chiastic reversalism; I’m a piker by comparison but hope to make it to the Bigs one day.

Thus when a couple who’d been to Spain and that famous unfinished church and noted as how it’s all of a series of curves — no corners … summat like that — and followed that with the observation, there are no right angles in nature, it did occur to me to note, ‘Right — that’s our job as humans.’ Much as I enjoy curves, there are reasons right angles exist and it’s not just to torment 10th graders with shapes and formulae.

And when during a group discussion of personal agency a friend blithely lobbed the Kristofferson at us, it being just another word for nothing left to lose, well, oughtn’t one ask, ‘Izzat so?’

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Same sort of error’s made all the time with rules and regs and laws and limits. We’ve come to think a ‘rule of law’ is some kind of heightened existence when it’s rather one of the lower types possible. If a rule is needed it’s not because we know what to do and how to do it — know in a fiber of one’s being sorta way … know as of an interactive relationship with — but because we don’t.

If we did, we wouldn’t need the law.

When the father tells the son, ‘take out the trash’ and the son replies, ‘I know‘ as if the old man were as doltish as Mark Twain’s when the writer was 14 … well, he simply doesn’t: if he were interactively relational to the reality and truth or even the fact of ‘take out the trash’ the trash wd already be out — it wd not need to be said a’tall.

Four-year-olds do not know not to cross the street without looking both ways and therefore need to be told. And told. And told. And told. And told. With reinforcement at every no-pun-intended turn.

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Rules are required not desired.

If they’re needed, it’s a bad sign.

If they’re relied upon, it’s worse.

As a recent look at Solzhenitsyn’s Harvard Commencement address noted,

“The legalistic framework of life … is inadequate for human development. … breed[ing] moral mediocrity because people tend to rest prematurely, being satisfied with doing the minimum required by the law without going beyond what it prescribes.”

Laws for grownups stunt growth.

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Of course, we’re talking about the problem of rules for adults. Because four-year-olds do need them.

Duh.

This is about whether ’tis a consummation devoutly to be wished; it’s on the question of whether the preponderance of them reflects maturity or … else.

The desire to be (very very very) young again.

The demand to be four when one’s forty-four.

The expectation that another will handle this.

The aim, as Eliot put it, to make a society and its people so rule-bound, we won’t have to do anything.

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