“Liberal” originally meant “generous”.
Generosity is fine, as long as you are generous with your own money. It is when one starts being generous with my money that I start to steam. And it is when one is generous with my money, and gives it to people I think could be better served by swift kick in the pants, that the steam starts to whistle.
I don’t recommend this, but the best test (of how Liberal a person is) is to yourself be down and out. All your fair-weather-friends flee. Funny thing is: They were so, so Liberal, back when you were buying the beers.
I thank God for the real Liberals, who have really helped me out and who are scarce as hen’s teeth, and almost never advertise how truly Liberal they are, (and who, at times, are Liberal not with money, but with tough love.)
I should confess that I often have been in need of generosity, because money hasn’t been a big priority in my life. I took my retirement early, when I was in my teens and twenties, and now must keep on working, as I witness my more pragmatic friends retire with fat pensions. True, I lived a life far more interesting life than they did, but now the early and middle parts are over, and what do I have to show for it? (Wisdom, I suppose, but definitely no savings or pension.)
When I was young I justified my sloth by saying I was an artist, and I think I actually was, (though apparently not a very good one). I worked as little as possible and scribbled as much as I could, and managed this by, (to use a less-than-flattering word), mooching. However I discovered two things. First, when you don’t pay rent you still wind up paying a sort of rent that doesn’t involve money. Second, even the kindest people get fed up with even the nicest moochers. Eventually their generosity shifts from mushy love to tough love. People get tired of a poet looking at clouds and nibbling his pencil’s eraser. Either they show you the unwashed dishes and laundry (which amounts to the non-monetary rent I was talking about), or they show you the door.
I could relate a bunch of episodes describing when I faced this shift in a host’s attitude, but that would become a sidetrack, (though a very funny one.) One of the most amusing aspects of such episodes was how offended I felt, when my hosts revealed they didn’t think much of my art, and preferred that I focus on more more worldly pursuits, such as washing dishes. I was so offended that they almost never needed to throw me out; I’d storm off indignantly seeking someone who appreciated my great art. (In other words, someone new to mooch off.)
Perhaps the most touching (and embarrassing) episode involved a person so kind and so meek they couldn’t throw me out, so they themselves moved out. Abruptly, at age thirty-one, I was responsible for something I amazingly had never faced: “The next month’s rent.” I had occasionally faced “the next week’s rent” or “my contribution to part of the commune’s rent”, but had never paid a month’s rent in its entirety.
Talk about a crisis! It was bad enough that I had driven my kind host from his own apartment, but I now had to work a Real Job. I couldn’t drive off and sleep in my tiny car, for it wasn’t functioning just then.
It was right around this time a fellow moocher told me how much money one could make off the generosity of others, simply by asking people for spare change. This was against my psychological make-up. In fact one of the reasons I was in the mess I was in was because I was incredibly shy, and unable to ask for any sort of help, whether it be with getting my “great art” published, or whether it involved asking how to fix my car.
You might think that by age thirty-one I would have learned to be more forceful, but I had a very strange Karma. The times I had steeled my nerve, and huffed and puffed, and dared ask for help, I always seemed to ask the worst people. (That is ten tales for another evening). Rather than learning how to be outgoing, I became not only shy, but very discouraged.
However my situation was so dire that I felt I should once again muster my nerve, and once again huff and puff, and dare ask in a new way I had never tried before: “Do you have any spare change?”
I headed out onto the streets, and found it was, for me, like asking a very beautiful woman to dance. I just couldn’t do it. I stood on the sidewalk, looking at passing people in a way that likely made them very uncomfortable, and never dared say a word.
How pathetic can a man get? Fortunately I was addicted to cigarettes, and addiction (or ordinary hunger) can supply motivation which pep-talks and self-psychiatry can’t. By the second day I was gasping for a cigarette, making people even more uncomfortable, as they walked by, and I still wasn’t daring to ask them for spare change, but I was getting close to it.
I was telling myself to be a man, and have some guts, and that it was actually spiritual to beg because Sadhus in India had begging bowls. Then I suddenly saw this gruff-looking guy walking, and he looked a lot like an old, gruff friend from my past, and I blurted, “Spare change?”
The fellow wheeled and absolutely exploded. As I recall his words were something along the lines of, “I am so fucking sick of you fucking, lazy assholes who haven’t got the fucking brains to fucking get a job! I can’t fucking walk down the fucking street without your fucking wheedling! I work fucking hard for my fucking spare change! What fucking gives you the fucking right to fucking ask for it? Huh? What gives you the fucking right?”
I wish I’d had the guts to answer honestly, and tell the guy, “I am desperate for cigarettes, so I can go back to looking at clouds and nibbling my eraser, and avoid getting a Real Job.” Instead I just backed away and out of the man’s gale of spittle, and whimpered something lamer, and less honest, such as, “I’m just hungry.”
The truth of the matter is that the fellow’s gale of spittle was a great dose of tough love, for I never, ever dared ask anyone for spare change ever again. If he had given me even a penny he would have encouraged me the wrong way. As it was I was forced, (against my will, I’ll admit), to leave off looking at clouds and to get a Real Job. Things didn’t exactly go uphill after that, for the job I got utterly sucked, but my downhill slant was less perpendicular.
I had a lot of work to do and a lot of suffering to experience, before I had any real sense I was heading uphill. Yet I felt strangely cared for by God. After all, what are the odds of getting such a gale of spittle the very first time you ask for spare change? It was fairly obvious to me that I wasn’t suppose to be a spiritual Sadhu with a begging bowl. And, because I had a spiritual steak, and was insanely optimistic, I figured I must be being guided by God to some better place.
I needed to think up some poetic symbol for the uncomfortable situation I was in, and recall remembering my father telling me about his days as a flight surgeon for test pilots. He’d told me that pilots pulling an airplane out of a dive experienced many “G’s”. The “G’s” increased the more they went from perpendicular to horizontal, and and continued even as the nose of the airplane pulled up; the “G’s” only started to decrease as the airplane started to move perpendicularly upwards.
This seemed a good analogy. If you dislike suffering, you can continue to experience weightlessness as you continue your nosedive to certain death. But if you want to pull out of your nosedive, you have to experience the “G’s” of, first, ordinary gravity, and then worse-than-ordinary gravity, and in the end you avoid not only certain death, but get to soar up to the sky. However the important part of the analogy was that the “G’s” continue even after you have started to pull out of the dive and are headed up. This allowed me to walk cheerfully whistling, and to think I must be heading up, even after my one-and-only attempt at pan-handling was a complete failure that left me misted by spittle.
Whoever that fellow was who cussed me out, over thirty years ago, happened to be, I’d like to thank him for his tough love. He probably is an old man now, feeling guilty about how he lost it and cussed out a poor beggar, back when he was much younger. He likely has no idea of what a good thing he did for me, nor that he may even have been a tool of God.
If he had been liberal with mushy love rather than tough love, he just would have encouraged me to be a pan handler. As it was, he encouraged me to be self-reliant, and eventually the father of five.
Now the five kids have grown up to five fine adults, and I’m facing the fact I’m getting older and weaker, and did not do a very good job of squirreling nuts away for the winter of my life. In the old fable of the grasshopper and the ant, I’ve been the happy grasshopper, bounding from job to job, and sometimes to no job at all. I did have to become more serious while raising five kids, but even then I did things, (such as homeschooling), that were irregular. I simply couldn’t bear the drudgery ants endure, going to the same hole day after day to get a stupid pension. Now they vacation in the warmth of Florida, and I face the winter I’ve earned.
As I sit down to do my taxes this year things look fairly bad. I didn’t budget for having a kidney removed. I absolutely hated doing taxes, even when I knew I’d get a refund back, but this year I’ll probably owe money I don’t have, so I absolutely loathe the paperwork even more than usual. In some ways I feel I’m right back where I was at age thirty-one, in a situation where I may have to ask for help.
I noticed some other websites have “tip jars” at the side, and was thinking of putting one on this site. This goes against my nature, and wounds my fat ego, for one thing I’m proud of is that I’ve never “sold out.” In fact this is just a way of saying my writing has never made me a cent, but I figured it was better to be proud about my lack of success, than to be ashamed.
Also a “tip jar” is a bit like a “begging bowl.” In fact that is what I will call my “tip jar”, if I ever have the guts to institute one over in the margin of this page. But I likely will lack the guts. After all, that fellow who responded to my first attempt at pan-handling might still be around.
Instead I think I’ll avoid looking at my own problems, (and avoid starting my taxes), by sneering at people who have problems even worse than mine. Isn’t that what we usually do?
Because my taxes are due, I think I’ll start with the politicians in Washington DC.
When they just print the money they don’t actually have, to pay their rent, they are like beggars who don’t even have to pan handle, because they can just print what they crave. Will this pull them out of their nose-dive? No. They need some tough love. They need to stand in a gale of spittle, so let me supply some.
What they need is a dose of common sense. We need a Thomas Paine to write a modern “Common Sense,” for the beggars in Washington. To some degree it is happening on the web, but we need a Thomas Paine to really slam the point home to those poor, begging imbeciles. Otherwise, because they can print money they don’t have, they think they are rich. We need to nudge them with the reality that they are worse than bankrupt.
I can tell you from personal experience that it is no fun to stand in a gale of spittle, but I also tell you it does you good. Ask any recruit who came out of boot camp a better man, and he will tell you that the sergeant’s gale of spittle did him good. It is a side of Liberalism most liberals now deny, thinking it is better to stay in a nose dive and experience no “G’s” at all. In fact to produce a gale of spittle is deemed “politically incorrect”.
There are times love is not mushy and gushy and sweet. There are times we have to be tough. I happen to dislike such times, especially when I have to be tough on myself, but they are a Truth. Liberals need to be generous with Truth. If they deny tough Truth, then they are no longer generous, and are actually no longer Liberals.
The idiots in Washington think they are Liberals because they can print money they do not have. This is not generosity. It is insanity. Even I eventually figured out you need to face the music. I had to do it at age thirty-one, and I now have to do it again, at age sixty-three.
This brings me back to my own problems Berating Washington DC didn’t help a bit, but it does feel good to blow off some steam. Likely it would be more constructive to go out and split some wood. Then face the taxes. And after that, face the finances.
In any case, there may be fewer posts on this blog, as I won’t have time to look at clouds and nibble my eraser. I’ll have to dust off that tiresome old mantra, “When the going gets tough the tough get going,” though I never really figured it applied to me. In fact I think my soul was accidentally put in the wrong body, when I was born, and that I was suppose to be a cat.
TAX-TIME CAT SONNET
Now I need no distractions, and yet now
Is when my old, snarled cat comes complaining.
Once again I don’t punch her. I think how
Small is my patience and restraining
Compared to God’s. To Him we’re all mewing cats
With no regard for the ten trillion tasks
That He must do. That’s His concern, and that’s
My cat only asks
Me,a power which could swiftly stomp her dead,
With faith that I won’t…..so I feed the damn thing
Hoping God doesn’t feel, when I’m the mewer fed,
How I hate that cat. “I’ll work on loving
Later”, I say, but feel my heart stirring,
And when I look down on my cat, she’s purring.
(Photo credit: http://fgacc.com/2014/02/18/send-in-your-pictures/3525859742_bd86e015c22/ )