Thursday, February 12, 2015

Penguins

One of my favorite stories, often repeated, is about the to-the-point book report a little girl submitted after reading a book on penguins: "This book tells me more about penguins than I need to know."  I'm afraid my blogs may occasionally elicit the same reaction.

I have always had a tendency to reveal—-well, not only reveal, but revel in—things about myself which other people logically and probably justifiably prefer to keep to themselves. That some of these things are embarrassing to talk about and may even make others a little nervous doesn't seem to slow me down.  While drawing the line at detailed accounts of the more intimate of bodily functions, almost everything else is fair game. It is not coincidental, I think, that I have divided myself into Roger and Dorien, since I've always had the ability to stand apart from myself and observe my reactions with a fascination I have no real reason to believe anyone else could share. 

I am, as I'm sure you have noticed, massively self-absorbed. You may well wonder, as I do, why and to what end? I think it's because there are so many things we all share but for some reason feel we must keep to ourselves; things we are uncomfortable talking about for one reason or another...usually because we're afraid there is something wrong with us for having such thoughts, and we don't want anyone else to know we have them. The effect of this is that, when everyone else also remains silent, it reinforces our believe that those feelings and thoughts we do not express are unique to ourselves, when in fact they are not.  I strongly suspect that many if not most of those things of which we are  unreasonably embarrassed or ashamed and consider to be ours alone are in fact far more common than we realize. We are each unique, but not as unique as we assume.

The fact is that these are largely within-ourselves things, and we must spend the vast bulk of our time and energy in an outside-ourselves world. There simply isn't time to do too much introspection.

And then there is the basic human resistance to making waves. We all want to fit in, to be accepted. And as a result we learn to keep things to ourselves. So perhaps I flatter myself by thinking that by airing out my closet, as it were, you might recognize in it similar items you have in your own, and might be a bit freer in not only acknowledging them but not feeling quite so alone in having them.

Because each human is an individual, every society, culture, race, and ethnic group establishes its own set of standards and generally-agreed-upon perimeters within which its members are expected to stay. These standards are, at their base, pretty similar, and nearly every one stems from the prime imperative: survival of the species. One of the problems is, however, that times and challenges change while the standards, once established, do not. What were very logical rules when the standards were set up—many of them spelled out, for Christians and Jews, in the Old Testament of the Bible—have long ago lost their reason for being. The Jewish proscription against eating pork, for example, was a logical response to the real dangers of trichinosis in a time of no refrigeration. The dangers guarded against have almost ceased to exist, but the traditions remain long after the need for them has vanished. 

Cultural/social standards and rules tend to be based more on our psyche than on physical dictates, and a great many rules are imposed by religion and ethnicity. To this day, Americans are saddled with a puritanical past, which is probably most strongly evident in our puzzling and contradictory attitudes toward sexuality. The oft-quoted definition of puritanism as "the deep, abiding fear that somewhere, someone might be having fun" is deeply ingrained. We are both titillated and, depending on our degree of self-repression, repelled by any sex act not engaged in exclusively for the purpose of procreation. It is not "proper" to talk of such things.

So we find ourselves in an imaginary box wherein arbitrary limits are placed on what is "proper" to be mentioned to others and what should be repressed. I just enjoy reminding people that it's okay to step beyond the box every now and then, just for the fun of doing it.


Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website (http://www.doriengrey.com) and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (http://bit.ly/m8CSO1), which is also available as an audiobook (http://www.audible.com/pd/ref=sr_1_1?asin=B00DJAJYCS&qid=1372629062&sr=1-1).

2 comments:

Kage Alan said...

There are topics you discuss that apparently make people uncomfortable, and I apparently do too. Someone posted on my fb page a couple of weeks back that I shouldn't discuss some of the things about Alzheimer's that I do. I was, in his eyes, diminishing my father and taking away his dignity.

I've never had any intent to do such a thing, but I am going to talk about these things, about what happens to my father, about how my mother and I react, how things should have been reacted to from time to time, and what this disease has done to us all.

One of the ways that's helped me cope with it has been reading a woman's blog posts from 2007 when her father was diagnosed and later died. She talked about things that made people uncomfortable, and yet they helped to hear.

I have every intention of doing the same. So should you.

Dorien Grey said...

Kage, your posts on your father's...and your family's...coping with Alzheimers provide valuable and educational insights into a tragic human condition. Fortunately, I know you will never be dissuaded from speaking your mind or your heart.

Dorien