Saturday, August 22, 2009

Papering over our differences of opinion

I keep a wallet filled with foolscap, absolutely crammed. It works out well, unless you were to rob me, as there's rarely any money in it, though not necessarily because of all the foolscap.

Many years ago, in a galaxy far, far away I was a little too tightly wound (that gasp of incredulity you may have just heard from people who've known for three decades is legit. The me of Back Then makes the me of Now look comatose; I may have actually slept with my jaw ratcheted closed. I cannot imagine in hindsight why I didn't have a stroke, unless, perhaps, it's because I'm a carrier).

I couldn't let go of my anger. The Air Force, to my relief as their employee, rather than dump me amongst the flora and fauna, decided to send me to the head of the Psychiatric Services Wing at the Rhein Main (Air Base) Clinic, Colonel Doctor Robert Gurtin. He was terrific-and very funny (because he thought I was, if I'm being honest) and very willing to try to rescue a wild-eyed junior enlisted Sammy Glick impersonator who kept wading out into the deep end.

He came up with the foolscap. Every time something angered me, I was to write it down on a piece of paper and put the paper in my wallet. But every time I'd write something down, his rule was that it had to be on its own, separate, piece of paper. No doubling up, no lists. By the end of the day, I could, and did, have hundreds of slips of paper in my wallet. No worries-I had to review ALL these slips each night and put on a different sheet of paper, all those items I was still ANGRY about (I could put those on a single piece of paper) and then I'd put put that list on my nightstand. The night before I would go to see him at the hospital, I had to review the (six) pieces of paper, and transfer anything I was still angry about, to yet another piece of paper and bring that one piece out to our weekly conversation.

Within a month, I had no lists, simply because I'd review all the slips of paper of all the things that made me angry and realized I had no idea what the heck was written on most of them or what the words I could read actually meant or concluded (after reviewing the note and thinking about it, which Gurtin told me later was the key point) whatever had happened to spin me up wasn't that important after all.

How about this week or real soon (and I mean real soon) we all decide to use the Gurtin Solution. Watch the news, read a newspaper, check out a column on line--we are REALLY CRANKED about a lot of stuff. It's a miracle that sales of boxing gloves haven't pulled us out of this recession all by themselves. We all know, or know of, someone who wants to "fix" things by looking to punch someone in the nose.

I know people who tune in to certain TV programs just to yell at the talking head in the vapor box who is making a fortune by yelling at them. I guess they watch because it feels so good when the show is over (explains the uptick in cigarette sales I guess). There are others who insist on reading columnists' words out loud and follow every line of the writer's argument with a scowl, or a gesture or a deprecation. And we just keep getting louder and angrier about more things, and more people everyday. we don't know how to get off the escalator-and most of us don't even know we're on one.

Passion is fine and necessary. If our ancestors back in the ooze didn't care if they evolved to have legs that carried them from the pond and helped us grow lungs, everyday would be Friday, if you follow my drift. It's the grinding though, that is wearing out us out, the pitched battles we are waging to benefit who knows who or for what purpose. You wanna feel silly about how we now get along with one another, but you don't want to use the foolscap?

Okay--tell me five things this country was PO'ed about at eight AM on September 11th, 2001. Go ahead, I'll wait. Too hard? Gimme three things, then-how hard could that be? No? You want to take a break from all this head noise and hate to concentrate on the real and important tasks at hand instead? Go ahead, I'll make a note of where we were and we can get back to it sometime real soon.
-bill kenny

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