LOCAL VIEW –Hollywood Goes Prudish–

One odd coincidence my wife and I share is that our best friends were both born on November 21. Her friend is still alive, but mine passed away a decade ago. I always pause to remember him on November 21.

The day I first noticed him I knew he was a force to be reckoned with. It was in fifth grade, and teachers had decided we should be trained at an earlier age to avoid the old-fashioned idea of a “home room”. I’m not sure what was wrong with having a home, but instead some advantage was to be gained from marching from room to room to study different subjects. Not that the teachers were all that more skilled at different subjects. But likely they enjoyed teaching certain subjects more than others, and they thought such joy might infect the students. Wrong.

The simple fact of the matter was that my homeroom teacher was a beautiful young woman who I think was deeply in love (the next year her last name was different, and by June she was very pregnant.) By her very attitude she made learning be a joy. She could have taught a subject she knew nothing about, perhaps automobile mechanics, from an antiquated Model-T textbook, and the students would have been so enchanted they would have learned more than they would have learned from the most skilled automobile mechanic. I had the feeling her classroom was a cloud of love, and don’t think a single student disliked her; most seemed enchanted.

No other teacher stood a chance, and to be ripped from the presence of this joyous young woman, and placed in a classroom taught by a somewhat embittered old lady, who deeply resented that her favorite subject “history” was to be called “social studies”, was a very uncomfortable experience for me, as was the fact I was among students who I didn’t know, but whom were supposedly “at my level.” The old lady did catch my attention when she backslid and taught “history”, but when she attempted “social studies” it was apparent the subject was Pig Latin to her, and the entire classroom was confused, and my attention wandered.

For some reason these radical changes were not enacted at the start of the school year, but in late March or early April, when students are first hit by spring fever. Traditionally school ended at around this time, for children were needed back at the farm for spring planting, and all the wild energy would be put to good use. Instead, at this time, there was an attempt to “channel” the vital energy of youth in some sort of theoretically “socially constructive” manner. Eventually, decades later, they gave up and decided it was better to drug the dickens out of wild children, somehow thinking that frying their brains was better than tanning their hides, but, back when I went to school, education created a time-warp between corporal punishment and drug’s mind-control, when permissiveness and freedom ruled.

At this time my parents were still married, and I was an “untroubled” child, fairly obedient in my way, and making good progress in school. I hadn’t become the outlaw I later became (though I was no saint). As a good boy, I did stay away from the banned part of the playground in early April, where the mud was deep. However, as my attention wandered during Social Studies class, I saw the shoes of a boy who had broken this rule.

The shoes were so muddy they appeared about twice as large as they actually were. It was a most amazing spectacle. The mud was drying in the overheated classroom, and clods and flakes were shedding from the shoes. There was already enough dirt to plant carrots around the feet, and the shoes had only started shedding.

At this point the feet started moving about, as feet do when they are stared at for an overly long period of time. Instinct told me to glance up at the face the feet were attached to, and I met the glaring, challenging eyes of a boy just daring me to call him a pig. I didn’t. The thought didn’t even cross my mind. Instead I thought the eyes were as interesting as the huge feet. And, as I thought this, the eyes changed. When, rather than judgmental, I looked curious, they shifted from anger to surprise.

It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship, though it was a stormy one. The fellow was never ordinary, but perhaps being born on the cusp of a water sign and a fire sign makes for billowing clouds of steam and thunderheads, and I’ve always thought thunderheads are beautiful.

He always tended to be more daring, while I was more prudish. At that time the “frontier” young men challenged involved the dangers of sex and drugs, and he paid a heavy price for being daring. I probably would have followed in his footsteps and paid the same price, had my stepfather not tricked me into attending a school about as far away from sex and drugs as it was then possible to find.  (Dunrobin, in northern Scotland.)

One thing we were always able to share was our minds. It is difficult to say exactly how we did this, other than to say our talks involved a lot of symbols, or images, or gestalts. At times a most rudimentary image would communicate more than you might think possible. We’d be talking about some esoteric topic and he’d say, “You mean, sort of like salsa?” and I’d reply, laughing, “Exactly!” An outsider would have no clue what we were talking about, yet we could talk for hours in a strange sort of complete understanding that also involved vehement disagreement.

Looking back, I think one thing he liked about me was that I could tell him what it was like to do what he had chosen not to do. I could tell him what it was like to be a virgin and still date the-girl-next-door. I could tell him what it was like to be off drugs for months in northern Scotland.

In terms of drugs, I was a prude compared to him. He had a zest for the entire world of hallucinations and unusual perceptions. I did too, but also had the sense we were on dangerously thin ice. But I will say this: If you are foolish enough to take such vile substances, don’t do it with small minds. Don’t do it with people who can say little more than, “Yowza. Am I ever wrecked.” Rather do it with a mind who can describe in great detail the various avenues it is going down. To “trip” with this individual was truly a journey so enjoyable that, were it not for the Grace of God, my brains would have become as fried as his became, because I enjoyed talking and laughing with him more than anything else.

When I went to school in Scotland he went to school in Boston, and, (in those primitive times before the internet), we exchanged two or three letters a week. Mine described a mind off drugs, plunged into the English literature necessary to pass “A” levels, and his blearily traced the wild scene in Boston, involving many women and parties and running a college newspaper even after he stopped attending classes. Then there was a horrible postal strike in England, and we couldn’t communicate.

When we reunited after a year we were able to compare our minds in a way, and on a level, that most people can’t. In a way most people can’t imagine I think he saw I had, by sheer luck, come out ahead.

It seemed unfair. He’d had more guts, was more daring, but wound up damaged, in some mental way difficult to describe. Call it frustration, for that describes it best. My mind was clear and produced answers, while his was muddy and produced frustration. However his honesty expressed where he was at. I liked his amazing poetry, though he produced less and less:

“When you’re in the mud
All you see is mud.”

I think one of the most awful tragedies of my generation was that the better minds were crippled. Hallucinogens were described by one Native American, (who left the Peyote Church), as “a trickster.”  They promise to expand consciousness, but retard it.

I can say this now, at retirement age, because I saw the danger and backed away from that frontier, like a person backing away from a volcano’s crater because he sees the expedition’s leader succumbing to poisonous gasses.  Not that I didn’t inhale and suffer some damage myself. But I survived.

People tell me, “I never quit and I can still do what I could do.” At age sixty-four that seems to me to be a terribly sad statement. It is like Beethoven at the end of his life stating, “I can still write the First Symphony.”  A mind is suppose to grow, and reach a Ninth Symphony.  To stay the same is to stay stuck, and involves a constant frustration, which eventually breeds a subtle antipathy.

I faced that antipathy in my childhood friend, especially when I renounced our adventure into the world of hallucination and turned to God. (And there can be no denying I was a naive pain, when I first sought a different “high”.) Yet we stayed in touch, despite the distance that had grown between us. I suppose, when minds have been as close as ours were, there is always a curiosity about what the other is seeing, and where it is going.

Eventually it became obvious to my friend that drugs indeed were a trickster, but his brains were by then only a shade of what they once were. He then accepted his predicament with class, and even dignity, though to think as a “straight” person was an exercise in frustrating futility. He actually sought to stop thinking, by doing a Yoga that made his mind blank, and it seemed to do him good. Nor did he ever stop believing in the “high” things he’d seen as a mere teenager blitzed on acid, even when he couldn’t see them any more.

He died of cancer of the esophagus, which cut him down in a matter of weeks. One thing I’ll always regret is that we never had a final talk. I hope he didn’t think I’d tell him, “I told you so”, or some such useless thing. Probably not. I think many who die without telling many friends just don’t want to cause others pain. I knew many artists who died of AIDS in the 1980’s who vanished without saying any good-byes.

What would I have liked to talk about, during a final talk with a dying friend? I think it would be the beauty we saw together, even in the process of making the wrong choices. If you focus too much on the wrong choices you only become bitter.

This brings me around to the peculiar agony currently afflicting the so-called “beautiful people” of Hollywood and Washington D.C.  Their raging seems downright demented to me, and a sort of spasm of guilt and a paroxysm of shame, manifesting as disgust and bitterness. Apparently being “beautiful” is not so beautiful, after all.

Harvey Weinstein was seemingly the pebble that started an avalanche.  Behavior which once was seen as “sophisticated” is now called what it always was, “sleazy”.

When I went drifting through California more than thirty years ago I found most people felt the ideas now manifesting were prudish. I know this for I expounded such ideas, and was told I was prudish, wasn’t a realist, wasn’t sophisticated, was naive, didn’t know how the world worked, would never get anywhere, was behind the times, wasn’t hip, and was in fact ugly. I wasn’t one of the “beautiful people.”

What changed things? I think the actual pebble that started the actual avalanche was the election of Donald Trump. Popularity means a lot, (and at times everything), to the Hollywood mindset, and such a mindset is horrified to see popularity shrink in any way, shape or form. To have Hillary Clinton lose,  (despite some glaring voter fraud assisting her), was a message no amount of explanation could deny. What was the message? “You are not popular. You are not seen as beautiful. You are not admired, envied, marketable.”

It is the strangest thing to see the facade crumbling. In some ways it looks like one of those “swings of a social pendulum” you read about, where people run like indecisive lemmings from one cliff to another, basically brainless and merely following the mob. However in other ways it seems like common sense rising up in “flyover country” to inform Hollywood and Washington nobody is really buying their bull.

I think our world has paid a terrible price due to the “trickster” of sex, drugs and greed. It is easy to become bitter, thinking of the pain and the people hurt, like my old best friend. However perhaps it is better to remember that, before the trickster tricked, people were speaking of “Love, Truth and Understanding”, and those things were and are and always will be beautiful things.

What will be interesting to watch is whether people behave like witless lemmings, running from extreme to extreme, or whether they have actually learned anything. For there is such a thing that people develop called “discernment”. I would like to believe that the 48 years since the “Summer Of Love” in 1969 has actually taught the USA a thing or two, and we are moving from producing a First Symphony to producing a Ninth.

In any case, Happy Birthday, to my old friend in heaven.

 

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BEAUTY IN STEREOTYPES

It is never much fun to be a victim of a stereotype, as I have discovered simply by pointing out the flaws in the theory of Global Warming. I found myself called a “denier” by people who knew about as much about arctic sea-ice as an elephant knows about scuba diving in coral reefs. So-called “liberals” proved themselves little more than nasty parrots, incapable of opening their minds more than an oyster’s shell at low tide. The very people most dead-set against stereotyping turned out to be the best at doing it.

This grotesque hypocrisy is on display once again, in Hollywood, as Harvey Weinstein finds himself under attack by the very yes-men and yes-women who were his bleating sycophants, up until recently. Not that people didn’t recognize his behavior was brash and oppressive and bullying and sleazy, but people put up with it as long as he had great power and influence. Only as his power recently lessened did he learn how deep people’s affection was. Now he learns what it is like to be a victim of a stereotype. He has been stereotyped, and the people attacking him are behaving like stereotypes.

One of the most crazy examples of outraged behavior I’ve heard about was one suggestion that Weinstein’s name be removed from the credits of every film and every TV drama he was ever involved with. The very man people fawned over, to get their names in credits, is apparently to be “disappeared”, or so is the mentality of some.

This mentality fits the Hollywood stereotype of supremely superficial shallowness, wherein fame trumps Truth, and the only moral guidelines are the ropes used to climb into the limelight. Fame is the end all and be all, the false idol worshiped by the crazed. Fame is worth selling your body for; it is outrageous hypocrisy for many in Hollywood to raise palms in pretended horror at Weinstein’s sleazy behavior, when they themselves know the art of sleaze so well.

The problem is that people have become so enamored of Fame that they have lost touch with Truth. They are so occupied with the “image” they want to project (as being perfectly fabulous) that they strive to be  “stars”, above being human. They are proof of Saint John’s statement, “If you say you have no sin then the Truth is not in you,” and Saint Paul’s warning that if they ignore the obvious Truth then they will be “given over to the sinful desires of their hearts.”

That word “given” is often used to excuse shortcomings, as in the statement “he is given to outbursts” or “he is given to drinking too much.” It excuses those parts ourselves we are most embarrassed by, as mere “foibles”,  but none of us wants to be “given” to lowness. We’d far rather see our better side mysteriously appear, as it does when we are inspired.  And because art is all about inspiration, and actors are supposedly artists, Hollywood should know better.

One of the most ambiguous aspects of spirituality involves what is called by Christians “the confession of sin and assurance of pardon.” Basically it involves escaping lowness by admitting it. Hollywood, in a sense, admits sin, but then they go too far, by welcoming it and justifying it. They are forever scorning the church-going public as “prudes”, however I doubt true Christians grow fangs and go after so-called “sinners” in the manner Hollywood is going after Weinstein.

What is attractive about a truly humble person is his or her ability to admit what they did was stupid. They don’t demand equal rights for their mistakes, but rather blush about them. “What a jackass I was,” they admit, “to cut in line in front of you.”  Somehow their admission makes the urge we had (to strangle them) abruptly evaporate.

Hollywood, on the other hand, seeks to repress. This is most obvious in their desire to “disappear” certain elements of human nature. They have no qualms about making apparent their distaste towards certain stereotypes, though they themselves are stereotypes.

For example, a strangely beautiful element of America involves the South, and the children and grandchildren of people who went through the experience of having slavery acceptable in 1864 and illegal in 1866. Hollywood has tended to degrade the whites as “racist pigs” and the blacks as “Uncle Toms”, and has tried to “disappear” the entire experience from American History.

An exception to this Hollywood bigotry was Walt Disney, who produced the movie “Song of the South” in 1946. This movie suggested there is much to love about the Old South, but Hollywood bigots now refuse to release it as a video to the American public, afraid “Uncle Remus” is a too much of a stereotype.

If he is a stereotype, I want to be one too. I often say my aim is to be a cantankerous anachronism,  and to be the epitome of an old Yankee. Uncle Remus was the southern equivalent, and I had the honor and privilege of meeting such a person, back when I was sixteen.

Back in better times I, at age 16, was allowed by my parents in Boston to hitchhike to my grandparents in Florida. I wanted to “see America”. It was 1969, and, though it was only April, the heady atmosphere of “the summer of love” made my journey an experience of Humanity At Its Best. Not that whites didn’t warn me to watch out for blacks, and not that blacks didn’t warn me to watch out for whites. Not that Northerners didn’t tell me to watch out for Southerners, and not that Southerners didn’t tell me to watch out for Damn Yankees.  And not that absolutely everyone didn’t tell me to watch out for Southern Cops, but the Southern Cops very kindly told me to watch out for absolutely everyone. Like I said, it was back in better times.

It occurred to me, even at that tender age, that Hollywood was misinforming me. (My idea of southern policemen was from the movie “Easy Rider.”) (I thought southern officers would automatically assume I should be shot, for being northern and naive.)

In those days I-90 came to a halt in South Carolina. (They were struggling to engineer a passage through the mires of the Great Pee Dee River.)  Therefore I had to find my way through the rural south to where I-90 was again complete, towards a very smelly paper mill in Savannah, Georgia.

Southern people, back then, had a very hard time understanding my accent, whether they were white or black. Even so, everyone was kind.  I was a stereotype to them, and they were all stereotypes to me, but we had wonderful conversations. I think people liked the simple fact I was wide-eyed about things that were new to me but which they took for granted, such as festoons of Spanish moss hanging from oaks that didn’t shed their leaves in the winter.

At one point I was hichhiking down a road through fields where sharecroppers still used hand-held plows behind mules, and an old black man stopped his ancient Ford pickup. I was a little surprised, because he had a small boy, who I assumed was a grandson, with him. The old man asked me all sorts of questions, such as whether I had ever seen a hand-held plow before (no) and I had the odd sense he was doing it to educate his grandson, who regarded me with wide eyes. I wish I’d had the guts to ask him some questions of my own. Even so it was good talk, and I am very grateful to the fellow for his kindness.

However Hollywood would likely typecast the fellow as an “Uncle Tom.” He wasn’t militant. He didn’t lecture me. Instead he was kind, and caring.

He is one reason I too want to be a stereotype. I want to be as beautiful as that old man was, as I get old.

Hollywood? I fear they are increasingly ugly, even as they think they are of, “The Beautiful People.”

If you want to read a short story, full of love, about the stereotypes of the “old South”, as it existed in 1903, read the O Henry tale called “The Duplicity Of Hargraves“.

Even though the hero is an actor, I doubt the current mindset of Hollywood could ever, ever touch such a plot with a ten foot pole.

Why? Because being human, in a manner called a “stereotype”, is treated with Love, rather than despised.

http://fullreads.com/humor/the-duplicity-of-hargraves/