Are we no more than a collection of habits: personal, political, theological and social?
Beaver River Station; 3:40am. I woke up because I needed to do a bathroom run, which I suppose might annoy some… but it’s better than adding an “s” to the word “run.” I notice it’s 3:40 and realize; with some relief because I’m still very tired, I probably won’t have a problem with getting back to sleep.
Boy, was I wrong.
I suffer from old man disease. My doctor told me these spells I’ve been going through since the early 90s are quite normal for men in their 40s and beyond. Heading towards my 60s I can only tell you, if you suffer too, it does get worse. Wake up, dog tired, in the middle of the night: unable to get back to sleep. You just lay there. It’s erratic, comes and goes, almost as if a spell has been cast. Eventually the spell breaks, at least until that little old man in my “dog tired” head casts the spell again… whenever.
“Dog tired?” Where did the phrase “dog tired” come from?
Anyway, I believe one of the medical explanations is that melatonin leaks out of our heads with age; we produce less, essentially. Probably from all the hole in my head like things I did when I was younger. I do use melatonin pills; they work… once, maybe twice. But then they stop working. No, when I get in these “schnits,” as I call them, I usually don’t get over them until the spell is broken. Just laying in bed usually results in only getting back to sleep the next night. That means I have to get up and do something for about two hours.
Another reason for this, perhaps, is when I started touring in the 80s I learned to wake up at certain times so I could drive 20 miles, 100 miles, as much as 300 miles or more, to my next show. The personal alarm clock in my head got really good at waking me up at some big yawn inspiring tick of the clock after a single buzz of the alarm. I’d often wake just before the big “bzzzzz:” no winding needed. Now my old man-ness seems to have taken that talent into wakie early wacko-land. Revenge of the mental timepiece, I suppose, as metaphorical springs, cogs and miniature belts strain with age, and occasionally go, “Boing!”
I wonder, is this what it means to… “snap?”
And have I discovered some truth regarding who we are, and what we are, politically, socially, personally and theologically?
Will our more leftward pols ever break the spell they are under: trying to placate those who will never be placated? Will our more rightward pols ever find their way to less accusatory, name calling, rhetoric, or is this habit cast in stone too?
Is it possible, as society has aged, some melatonin-like substance that bolsters common sense and common courtesy have leaked out of our heads?
They say, “People can change.” But the older I get; the more I observe people, the less I believe that’s true in the larger sense. If there’s any change it’s that bad habits and attitudes get worse. Kind of like leaving a coffee pot on the burner until it turn into a substance so vile it would make a new bomb bay door dropped on a plane floor.
Meanwhile, age has turned many of us spectators: cheering on our “team.” Talk show hosts acting as WWE-like announcers trying to encourage more bullying. Or even perform the highly staged bully boy act themselves.
One can almost hear the play ground taunts as O’Reilly, Savage, Beck and their ilk blather…
“Fight! Fight! Fight!”
Sometimes, mentally, you wonder if it maybe resembles the fight between wheelchair bound Tim-eh! and stuttering crutch bound Jimmy a bit more, as insensitive playground kids eagerly run to see them try to beat the schnock out of each other, crying…
“Crip fight!!! Crip fight!!!
Like all you can get away with during what they dare to call a “wrestling” match: WWE, this kind of political/social/theological “wrestling” is too often defined by, “You can say anything, make any claim no matter how insane.” Even in ice hockey a player gets some marginal “punishment” for whacking other players just to create bloody spectacle for bloody spectacle’s sake. These days political and pundit skaters accept the premise that they right to “skate free” no matter what they say: but they demand only their side have that right.
So far, for the most part? They have been given that right. This, a social dynamic that’s more often resembles rape via gang bang than civil discourse. This ain’t your grandpa’s Firing Line.
And we too often face that gang bang on a daily basis: assaulted by unasked for rants and being forced to watch our pols being slammed by rhetorical WWE chairs in the form of “any accusation that might stick.” More than occasionally we get hit personally: either directly, or metaphorically… verbally.
This is the kind of spell we have been under for way too damn long.
While pumping gas…
…in line at a store…
…sitting at a Thanksgiving dinner table…
…we are expected to shut up and listen to lectures from the politically ignorant and socially arrogant. To quote a current hit, a song by Sara Bareilles…
“You’ve got the talking down
Just not the listening…
Who died and made you King of Anything?”
This preachy-ness comes mostly from the Right, though I would never claim that the Left is totally innocent by any means. A preachy-ness that has come to define the society we live in where what manners may still survive are only a one way street.
Old habits: patterns we have fallen into that shift, but rarely change; at least until hopefully some day, some year, some decade, the spell is broken. I keep hoping the spell of this political dynamic we are under will break. Some days I think: no way; at least not in my lifetime.
It’s now almost 5am. The spell cast by my habitual two hour, dog tired but can’t sleep, old man disease, is almost over. If I could I’d smash that damn clock into little pieces so I could sleep the sleep of the younger; I would. But that “clock” resides deep inside my head, so it’s best if I just get up and do something… like write this edition of Inspection…
I’m a lot closer to the end of the story these days than the beginning. So maybe some old habits do eventually die: spells get broken; one way or the other.
But when it comes to the actual end of this story: mine…
…I’d rather not rush the inevitable.
Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 30 years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks and into the unseen cracks and crevasses that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.
Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
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