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Provocation

April 9, 2019

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You have to care to get angry.

Whether by fear or hope, emotion is the engine of our triggers.

Writing as anger is still shocking to me. Last night, I was witness as two men went at it on the Internet, with a ferocity that was a bloodless, distant, fistfight. It could have been live, or ten years ago, but the relentless back and forth was personal and universal. It was vindictive, intellectual, mocking and demeaning.

It was human.

We care too much. When the same project I helped design evinces loathing and loving I need to override emotion and stop the counterpunch before it is thrown at my detractor, and resist hugging my positive regard.

They are humans talking to a human. Not truth, nor am I.

The rollercoaster of having children is perhaps the best example of our frailty. Any sign of projected genius in your child lauds you. Any flaw or slight in that same human betrays all your hope.

Fewer people than ever in America are deciding to have children. There is no reason, for any human, to logically determine that the half million or more dollars you spend on each child you bring into the world (and any amount more, if you have any amount more) is a good thing for you to to.

Children used to farm when the parents could not. Their enforced fealty validated their parents’ values. But the essential truth for more and more parents is that you protect, teach and nurture, but, now, the rest is the child’s life, career, gender, love, faith is out of the parent’s hands. But you still want to project and protect.

But parenthood has no substitutionary condition for its fear and joy. There is no entity or person who is our cultural parent.

The president used to put us to bed in Fireside Chats. Now no one is more roundly mocked or instantly second gusssed or unflinchingly supported. What was once a comfort is now a trigger.

I think that the present mindlessly defensive reactions are now how we respond to more and more things, while fewer and fewer of us are actually becoming parents. Perhaps sophistry, but lives that birth children now live longer without them in their daily lives. Life is no longer near ending when your children become adults.

So more and more of us are now living for us, not them.

The Instagram pic I show above is supposed to be “art”. A Baldwin door knob lets us turn the latch and enter places we desire to go. When it’s sphere of brass is replaced with a sphere of cactus, well, a choice must be made.

There will be pain involved. Do I want to forgo it to go into the next room? Or outside? Or inside? Or have children? Or be president?

We are provoked to protect or project every day. The provocations are becoming ever more visual, instant and simplistic, as untold trillions of triggers parade before us on the Internet.

Our existing wiring is being adjusted to new stimuli, My guess, here in the dark, cranking on my bike in silence, is that we think less. I crank on the bike and go nowhere. I do this because it is what makes a 63 year old body function better, maybe longer. But it forces focus. I think, in the last 5 years Lent has forced focus on me as the once overarching dominant focus of our children has left our home.

The circumstance of each life determines the context of provocation and reaction. In theory the threat of vulnerability makes fear existential as a child, that morphs to meaning as an adult, that, I guess, morphs back to focus on our very existence when time makes ending it nearer.

“The threats are unending!” Is the joke piped up in response to “See you later!” Yes, they are.

Humor is the opposite of anger. And humor as anger, so prevalent now, wrecks even the possibility of joy.

Silence is better than anger or fear. The promised pain of the cactus doorknob is, as is all the exploding memes and trolling, only supported in the din of fear. Lent, and it’s end, Jesus’ end, is Easter.

Not a symbol or a metaphor like the doorknob cactus, but the truth of a time that humans struggle to understand.

Or at least I do.

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