Hello, how are you? Don’t we all need someone to ask us that question? The answer is, “not great,” but it is still nice to know someone cares. I think that we are all like Hedley Lamarr at the end of Blazing Saddles when he asks the cab driver to, “drive me off this picture.”
In my isolation, I have had lots of opportunity to think about what influences me and why; and are those things good for me or not? The answer is a resounding “NO!” I am resolved to stop ingesting things on social media and reading headlines and taking those things to heart like they are unquestionably true. Then, I am going to stop arguing things that I do not know anything about. Ideas flash in front of me and I take them and spread them around like a…virus.
I heard Chris Rock say on a podcast that we used to value expertise and now all we value is gossip (by the way, I understand this is exactly the thing I said I would quit doing but I am also a hypocrite). What he said made sense to me. I thought back to late February when I was getting my last haircut pre-quarantine. I had all these opinions about the coronavirus and what was going to happen. Other people in the barbershop had similar ideas. As far as I know, none of these people were doctors. I honestly have no idea where I got these opinions, how I got them, and what they were based on. But somehow, I was sure they were true.
When I finally heard a doctor’s opinion about the disease, I did not believe him. Instead, I proceeded to discredit the opinion of a man who has practiced medicine for longer than I have been alive (36 years) and is one of the most highly-regarded physicians in South Carolina. But I was afraid and used unqualified opinions about the virus as a defense mechanism because I did not want to believe what he was saying. That made me realize that I’m not interested in the truth if that truth is hard to hear. And, apparently I am willing to argue about opinions that I am unqualified to defend.
I’m not sure if I can stop spreading baloney around, but I am going to try.
Black Lives Matter
I really don’t know how to solve these glaring inequalities in our justice system. And while I agree with the premise, I am also not going to blindly support organizations because their name sounds good. So what the hell do I do?
I was born in a nice suburb and have never gone without the basic necessities. I have no way of knowing what that is like and how I would act in that situation. I do not think I am unqualified to say anything. Instead, I am going to treat this issue like a congressman and defer the remainder of my time to some people who know what they are talking about: Wu-Tang Clan and Comedian Ms. Pat.
Wu-Tang emerged from terrible conditions in the slums of Shaolin in New York City to become one of the most important rap groups of all time. They used art to escape the inescapable. The RZA also taught me a valuable lesson about sampling. My uninformed opinion about sampling was that it was stealing until the RZA explained it. He said that when you are poor, you can’t afford instruments. Because of this, the radio becomes your instrument, which is where sampling comes from. Now I know.
Comedian Ms. Pat is one of my favorite comedians. She is raw and hilarious and her
story is incredible. By the age of 16 she already had two children by a man twice her age, she sold crack to support the children, and she had been shot in the breast. She also ended up going to prison for drug dealing. She survived all of that, met a nice man, moved to Indiana, and is now a very popular comedian. But her show is uncomfortable for some people. So is life.
I’m not going to blindly follow anyone when it comes to the issue of race, but I am going to defer to people more qualified to speak about the issues. They have expertise, I have gossip.
If there is a silver lining to this pandemic, at least for me, it is that my career as a writer is going better than I could have imagined at this early stage. I know I have been telling people I’m a writer for a decade, but really I have been seriously pursuing it as a career for a year and a half. Because of some luck and a little determination, I have earned more money writing during the pandemic than I ever have in my life.
Now, after that pat on the back, let me bring myself back down to earth. I am a writer, but I can barely explain writing. I have no idea what a dangling participle is and what I do know about it I learned from a James Gregory comedy bit. I cannot diagram sentences and I have never in my life spelled “guarantee” correctly, including right then.
I live by the only rule of writing that I learned in creative writing at the College of Charleston from professor Bret Lott. He said that the only rule of writing is that there are no rules. Cow sings the blues. That sentence does not belong in this paragraph or this post, but I am the writer and I put it there. Deal with it. I also know that you think you know some rules of writing. I may have even broken some of those rules you think you know in this post. Unfortunately, you are wrong. Those things that you think you know to be “rules” are merely suggestions. My piece, my rules. Thank goodness.
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So What Now?
John Lennon sings, “All I want is the truth, just gimme some truth.” That is all I want, even if it makes me uncomfortable or scared. But I don’t know if truth exists anymore. And I certainly do not know where to go to find it. That is a sad state of affairs and I hope that I am wrong. All I can do is try to stop saying things just because I heard them because that is doing no good.
Anyway, I hope to see you all on the other side of this nightmare.