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The Opposite of Entitlement

August 9, 2020

I get it. I am a white, male, private-schooled, Christian, footballing, Ivy League Boomer. Demographically, culturally and factually this social group is the source of institutional racism/sexism/homophobia, governmental hegemony, economic inequality, #MeToo, and thus insufferable entitlement.

Then why do I feel outed every time I fail?

I should feel cheated when things do not go as I hoped, let alone planned. But I just feel that I got what I deserved. The universe found out that I am deeply, fully, flawed and Fairness/Justice/God simply acknowledged that. I have been discovered, overcoming the flailing efforts at achieving entitlement. But I never achieve it.

I am owed nothing.

This year I come to the end of a 25 year ritual. My wife and I justified “going on vacation” to give our children a ritual of “Off Time” amid the Extreme Performance Scheduling of parents of my generation. We had to buy that legacy because we had none ourselves.

Although we are fully sitting with the Group of Extreme White Privilege these last three score years, we had no functioning families in our lives. Other than the one we made. We both came from families that combine full dysfunction with extreme judgment. Our parents had real senses of their own failure, and con-committed consumption of addiction-level amounts of alcohol (with no sense of any error in it communicated in the generation we shared). The combination rendered all their children into sad isolation, even, eventually, suicide.

One grandmother was often quoted as saying “Live in Hope: Die in Despair.” One parent toasted at our Wedding Rehearsal Dinner “To Absent Friends: May We All Get What We Deserve.” Life was about cheating the inevitable misery that is inevitable. But misery is, indeed, inevitable.

So when the 25 year Ritual of our creation, Vacation, could not happen this COVID Year because we lived in the wrong county, versus another 2 miles away, and could not sequester and test in time (no one told us) we cancelled because we would not lie to the State of Vermont that we were not exposed to 400 or more COVID cases in said county.

Were we angry? No, not really. I felt found out. Inadequacy will out, despite effort.

I always knew that I never earned those vacation days away from duty. But I grew to deeply enjoy those we came to know there, and did come to view Vacation as just another achievement. But I never achieved the Grace of recognition where it matters, in the reality of my own perception. I was, and always had been, unworthy of pretty much every good thing.

The Original Sin that caused this broken outlook? I and my wife were born to those who felt the same way, and without any questioning, that judgment was inveighed upon their issue, fully inflamed by Demon Rum (or in my father’s case “Vat 69” Scotch. But both my wife and I grew to see that this was a fully insane verdict. Too late to change the default of incapacity that was taught to us, so we dedicated ourselves to ending it in our generation.

I think we succeeded in our children, but cognitive understanding does not translate to emotional reality to us. In a couple of weeks I will be 65. By any definition “old”, even to the U.S. Government. But part of me is now, and will be, forever, 5.

Boo Hoo. Poor privileged, self-imbued jackass. There is no breast-beating here. I am not victimized, I am just what God made me. I can stop the tradition of failing expectations by simply understanding who I am, and that I am loved despite it. That does not change who I am. But understanding helps.

In the places we prove ourselves in youth, the performance places we devote to, in order to transcend personal perceptions, like Music, grades, athletics, any organization, give forum to the flawed.

So finding a home in grades, I lived them in grammar school. There was no love back, but I loved them, in a place where there was little love. Then football. The entire reality of football is love. Those doing it abjure extreme pain to be with the others fully embracing the same extreme pain. That love is played out in thousands of teams and groups at every level, this very season.

My learned friends shake their heads when young athletes risk infection to be together in a Plague Time. But they do. The athletes know the full power of love, and are willing to risk disease and accept responsibility to not risk the rest of us to play sports. At every level.

It makes no sense. It’s just a game. Why risk your health, the health of others? Because love is worth the risk.

I am guessing many in these places know what it is to be broken, and are devoted to be in the place of wholeness that sports is – any organized life that devoted to each other. And when you are young and willing to anything to deal with the limits and deficits of youth, you do what makes no sense to the sensible.

Circumstances ended the Ritual of Vacation after 25 years of buy in. So I worked last week. It was only right.

It was all I could do.

One Comment leave one →
  1. kitticarriker permalink
    August 11, 2020 10:33 am

    “The entire reality of football is love. . . .The athletes know the full power of love . . . you do what makes no sense to the sensible. ” As Molly Ivins wrote about Elvis: “It is not required that love be in impeccable taste”!

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