GOING GRAY

SONY DSCPeople of a certain delicate age, we decided last time out, don’t really forget stuff. We just misplace it for a time.
This week we face another conundrum. Why do decisions that were once clear-cut now have more angles than a 10th grade geometry book? When did snap judgements expand to Supreme Court-deliberation length?
Why does a final, rock solid decision continuously elude me?

Something else is going on here. It isn’t only the sheer amount of stuff shoved into my memory bank.
It’s the filter.
My filter assigns virtue to incoming information.
Like my hair, the filter is getting gray and brittle.
Another scourge of middle age.

My grandsons are infants. The world is white to them. Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, centers around their needs. A nuclear explosion could erupt in the next town and they would demand a diaper change. Naptime can’t wait for important phone calls to end and they really have no use for Mommy’s migraine when their little tummies rumble. The world is straightforward and monochrome. It is responsible for making them happy and keeping them safe. All is white.

By the time these little ones hit their teenage stride something remarkable will have happened.
Another color, another dimension, will have gradually crept into their ‘me’ world.
Black takes its place along white.
Now, while still wanting to fulfill their own pleasures and needs, these blossoming youth comprehend that some things are bad. They will begin assessing data and assigning colors.
Is this good or bad? Black or is it white?
Decision making over all that info takes more time. They no longer see just a white spotlight focussed on their own needs. They see the dark of wrong, bad, evil. Their brains have more information to process. Not only are they working with more experience to apply to the info. They have to make a judgement call.
Black or white?
Life isn’t entirely simple.
But it still is sort of simple. Rarely in the idealistic absolutes of youth do black and white puddle together into ambiguity.

Here at the tail end of middle age, black and white are no longer the primary colors used by my brain to file information, make an application and deduce, “This is bad. That is good. She is evil. He is pure. Do this. Don’t do that.”

Grayness has set in. So few of the decisions are easy. Implications abound. While some actions I observe are overtly evil or obviously good, I have learned (oh, blast that experience!) that quick verdicts are not always easy to make.
Judgment calls require the sifting of acquired wisdom and accumulated experience and hits and misses. We are so much slower than we used to be because our filter has so much more to sort. Lean chicken or marbled steak? Spankings or time outs? Liberal Republican or conservative Democrat? What does ‘in the world but not of it’ look like? Will the shabby man begging for spare change spend it on liquor? How can one tired finite mind figure this all out?

Humans and situations and issues are complex. People can do bad things with good intentions. Charitable actions can have self-serving motives, honorable nations can fight dishonorable wars and every story doesn’t have 2 sides. It might have a dozen.

There are absolutes in the world. I respect them but understand that fallible humans have trouble living those absolutes absolutely. I respect justice but crave mercy. The gray filter of my mind has seen the dark recesses of my heart struggle with the brightness of Good. It reminds me how foolhardy and hypocritical a rush to judgement can be.
At the same time my brittle, tired filter longs for the day when I won’t have to analyze, appraise and critique myself or others or issues or events.

Someday, my gray filter won’t be needed. All will be White. And I’ll have eternity to enjoy the chicken AND the steak.

To slow, tap gently on the prude

Last week you met the Tuesday Prude*. This week let’s explore the crucial role prudes have played in the history of humankind** and how the Tuesday Prude hopes to enhance that function.
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Since the dawn of civilization, ‘civilized’ societies have consistently chosen to veer from the straight-and-narrow and instead careen down a greasy highway of deteriorating manners, behavior, dress and…civility. The careening is usually accompanied by flashy externals, raucous grinding, cheap interiors and annoying noises.The only reason every society hasn’t hurtled off the cliff into utter chaos is because somebody remembered to Apply the Prude.

Oh, you thought prudes were just killjoys sprinkled throughout the centuries to wag fingers, frown fiercely and censure conduct? Well, that too, but only because societies refused to use us in the manner for which we were intended: Civilization’s emergency brake.

A well-maintained prude system is needed to stand between human beings and their predilection for heading to Hades in a handbasket. Prudes understand that peoplekind don’t see how jettisoning morals, ethics, courtesy and semicolons will lead to a massive smash-up. Until it is almost too late. At that point they slam on the prudes and the result might be something like the Puritans, the Victorians, Prohibition or the Eisenhower Era, all with much to commend them but also known for their own forms of excess.

And therein lies the rub. As with any braking device, depressing underused prudes with too much force makes bad things happen.  Instead of merely slowing down, civilization may come to a grinding halt, as all the stuff from the back seat comes flying to the front.

Stomp on the worn out prude system and it will squeal. Instead of common sense morals, ethical standards and civility, the result can be censorious superiority and hypercritical hypocrisy.

Society doesn’t understand that at the heart of true prudishness is honor. Honor leads to desire for justice, and freedom and decency. Some of the most well adjusted prudes fought slavery, struggled for independence, demanded equality.

Check your prudes regularly, society, and don’t neglect them. Apply them before you lose control. And come back next week to learn why, if you don’t let us repair you, we’ll just honk louder.

*The Tuesday Prude, while primarily the work of one prude, is more a sort of virtual safe house where prudes can gather, be educated, encouraged, and never worry about ‘adult’ content.

** Disclaimer: what we refer to as ‘history of humankind’ at the Tuesday Prude generally means ‘history of America’ because our knowledge of any other history is abysmal