Right And Wrong
Sunday, March 26, 2006
As I drive to work each morning and home again each evening, I listen to NPR. One of the programs that has captured my interest is the This I Believe series. The first one I heard, and I don’t remember which one it was, started me thinking about what I believe, and how I could encapsulate it into a 500 words or less statement. And every time I heard a new one, I thought again about how I’d like to be able to put my belief statement down in words. As soon as I figured out what it was. I think I have a philosophy, I suppose. Live close to the ground and in the presence of God – that’s what I try and live by. But I didn’t really think that counted. So I continued to listen.
And then one day, I realized that I had a belief I could make a statement about. I felt strongly enough about to write it down, so I wrote 500 words about my belief and logged on to the website to send it off to NPR. When I got there, they asked for yet another essay about how it felt to write about my belief statement. And this is what I wrote:
Discovering one has a belief statement is kind of a kick to begin with. I believe in being wrong. That’s what I finally came up with. Because even though I distilled this belief down into 500 words or less, there are so many instances where the belief in being wrong makes itself evident in my life, that I decided that this was it. Being wrong manifests itself in owning up, and confession, and apology. Not that I want to make my life sound like such a mess that I have to go around owning up, confessing and apologizing all the time. I just feel very good in being able to confront those times that typically make others shudder, and in confronting those times when I am wrong, I’m able to (mostly) let them go and move on.
I didn’t know that at the time of my submission, I would have to prepare another essay about what it was like to write about my belief. As I write about what it was like to write about my belief, I realize that the two examples I chose are significant in that they represent both the beginning of this belief and its current place in my life. From the moment I chose to leave my marriage, everything I did was wrong – in my former community’s eyes. And yet, I had 2 children to raise, I couldn’t be wrong all the time – could I? So, I learned to live being wrong. As that choice evolved, I guess at some point I realized that I wasn’t as weighed down with guilt and remorse as I should have been – being as wrong as I was. I think I began feeling pretty good about doing what I needed to do – especially when motivated by wanting to be the best parent I could be to my kids. It was as if – as long as I was already wrong, what did I have to worry about? Then when the time came that I might have to make amends for something – that was easy. I was just making the wrong – right. Right?
The example of the episode at work is just the latest way that being wrong comes up in my life. I don’t feel as if I am being judged by a community who thinks I’ve done wrong by my family and kids. That was a tough way to live for a long time and it’s over. But apparently it’s left me with a way to live my life in a way that I can be right or wrong and it’s not horrible. In fact, it is almost easier to keep moving forward this way.
Although I have had many jobs in my life, I am a writer at my core. Writing this essay was a pleasure for me. Even when the assignment is challenging, if there is an opportunity to write something, I’ll take it. If it’s about me – even better. And if it will be submitted to others who might read it and get something out of it? Priceless. Identifying something as ethereal as a belief and taming it into words on a page can be a solidifying experience and this has been no exception.
So, that’s my story and I’m sticking with it. I believe in being wrong. As I said in my essay -which I am not posting on my blog because everyone knows that it will just jinx my chances at having it chosen for the This I Believe series on NPR – if I am ok with being wrong, then my options open up from 50% to 100%. I think I prefer living 100% to 50% any day. Right or wrong.
Where’s the Beef?
Sunday, March 19, 2006
Is it just me? Or are television commercials getting really crass? And when I say crass, I am using the Princeton Wordnet database definition of crass: (of persons) so unrefined as to be lacking in discrimination and sensibility. Does that sound like recent commercials to you? Because it sure describes them to a “C” for me.
One I hadn’t seen before came on TV last night. It was for a cell phone but I’m not sure which company. Some guys had found a cell phone that had been identified as having been the phone that was used to convey some secret info to the law, or something like that. So these guys flipped open the phone and started looking at it…there was a screen name, and some web content on it. One of them said, “Hey – that sounds like Frankie”. Then Frankie walked in, poor slob, and said unsuspectingly, “Hey guys, what’s up?” to which the guys responded ominously, “hey Frank, gotta minute?” The announcer went on to say how great it was that you could customize your phone with all sorts of cool stuff. Yeah – great. It led to poor Frank’s death! Very clever. I want to run out and buy one of those phones. Too bad I can’t remember the company, but I was dumbfounded at their choice of marketing strategy. And upon further consideration, I thought that cell phones are really too easily lost to have such valuable personal information on them. I might not get pegged as a stoolie and whacked from what I have on my phone, but I certainly don’t want one of theirs – whoever they are! It’s too dangerous. Let’s add “intelligence” to the above definition, as in “lacking in”.
There’s more. Considering the Super Bowl of television commercials was a mere month or so ago, all the ads that companies spent millions of dollars on are getting thier money’s worth with tons of airtime now. The one I think equally astonishing in its stupidity is a new Staples one. There’s an early Mongol tribe standing at the edge of a sparse plain. In the distance one can see the dust of a thousand riders heading straight toward them. The Leader sits tall on his horse and stands firm while his dozen or so soldiers fidget anxiously around him. The thousand riders get closer, closer….finally the Leader gives a nod and one of the attendants opens a box and there is a Staples Easy button. He pushes it – suddenly an enormous stone wall emerges thunderously from the desert plain to protect the few from the many. The voice over says, “that was easy”. But the Leader is still on the other side of the wall! The last shot is of him saying something in early Mongol which I suspect is not what they translate in the subtitle. So, the message I got is that with Staples, you can get a big job done quickly – just not necessarily done correctly. Isn’t that kind of stupid?
But wait…I’m not done yet. (No, really? There’s more…?). During the Super Bowl there was an ad for another cell phone. Don’t worry, I’m not out to bash cell phones, despite my recent rant on them. But picture this scenario. There’s a paper boy – an early entrepreneur riding his little bike down a tree lined street tossing papers responsibly out to his customers. A man walks out of his front door completely tuned into his cell phone on which he is catching the day’s weather. So the man walks out to the paper, picks it up and whales it back at the paperboy, hitting him in the head and knocking him flat off of his bike. The man is so absorbed in his MotoRazr that he doesn’t even notice he just injured a young boy. The announcer is telling us that with the new broadband service, we can get the news, the weather, sports scores, stocks, etc – all right there on the phone. The kid gets back up and throws the paper back, but we don’t know what happens to it because clearly the man doesn’t need a newspaper. The title of the commercial is That kid’s a jerk anyway. Nice.
There was another series of commercials a year ago or so that highlighted the skill of getting the best of your competitor. I wish I remembered the company, but I think that it was the first instance of this new crassness that I noticed. And now for my usual disclaimer: I have myself smiled, chuckled or outright laughed at tasteless commercials. The one this year about the touch football game got me right in the funny bone – I don’t know why. And there are plenty of others I will admit to enjoying – others I won’t. But it just seems as though commercials are just downright reckless. The protagonist is either getting ahead by deception or using ill gotten gains for personal profit. I don’t think a lot of advertising today reflects a healthy, respectful attitude towards commerce or community. And I definitely don’t think that it’s what the Association of National Advertisers, the American Association of Advertising Agencies, and the American Advertising Federation had in mind in 1971 when they formed an alliance with the Council of Better Business Bureaus to create the National Advertising Review Council, an independent self-regulatory body to monitor questions of taste and social responsibility in advertising.
Back in July 1941, the Bulova Watch Company became the sponsors of the first television commercial by paying $9 to WNBT for a commercial aired during a baseball game between the Brooklyn Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies. If you figure what that translates to in our current economy where commercials cost up to and over 2.5 millions dollars – well, I’m not going to do the math on that one. Let’s suffice it to say that it’s insane. Why pay that much money for bad taste? Or is it, as I fear, an accurate reflection of our society? Can’t we as a society demand better taste in our commercials? With as much impact as commercials have on our lives, we should. Just think how many slogans become part of our vocabulary. Seriously – just do it.
Monday March 13, 2006
Here’s the thing.
I saw the movie Pollyanna a long time ago. Probably well after it was first released because I would have been way too young to see it when it was first released as it was released in 1960 when I was a mere infant…mostly.
The name Pollyanna is usually associated with “the story of a young girl named Pollyanna who is adopted by her very wealthy Aunt Polly after her father’s death. Upon Pollyanna’s arrival, the dispiriting town in which her aunt lives becomes miraculously pleasant and healthy due to the gladness the child has brought…[and] the term “Pollyanna” entered the language to describe someone who is cheerfully optimistic. It then became by extension (and contrary to the spirit of the book) a somewhat derogatory term for a naive person who always expects people to act decently, despite strong evidence to the contrary” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pollyanna).
I have been known to be referred to as “Pollyanna” in my life. But probably not so much recently. Even though I just came back from a long weekend in Florida with my husband- which by the way was gorgeous and sunny and warm and not work – I have been a little cranky the last few weeks. It is getting to the point that I am even tired of hearing myself complain. When I got back from my short little vacation, I found out that two of my colleagues were away at conferences – in Virginia and Texas. Far enough away? It’s as if they heard how grouchy I’ve been and cleared out.
It’s work that’s got me working overtime until all hours lately. I really like my work, but recently it’s been stressful and demanding. And I am usually okay with stressful and demanding but the rigor of it all lately has been unrelenting. And even unrelenting is ok, sometimes, too, but it’s the results of all this relentless rigor that have me so disturbed, and by extension, crabby. I am an educator, though, not a brain surgeon so realistically I shouldn’t be suffering under too much pressure. I am not stemming the flow of blood or restoring breath, after all. But such is the nature of my job and that’s the way it’s been, like it or not. And I don’t like it, because my work is half-assed and at the last minute and by the seat of my pants. And half-assed plus all hours equals crabby.
As much as it bothers me that I don’t like the way I’ve been lately, it really bothers me that other people have mentioned that I have been crabby and cranky lately. Like my nickname-sake, Pollyanna, I like to think of myself as someone who contributes to the quality of life rather than detract from it, be it at work or home. Over the last few weeks, I have not returned emails, I have not returned phone calls, I have not cleaned my house (well, that’s not really indicative of undue stress, I guess….) and I have not sent my cousin who I haven’t seen in almost 30 years or so the pictures I took of him and his family last week in Florida. Not participating in these activities takes away from the quality of my life and I don’t like that about myself lately, either. What’s Cindy’s favorite wine? “I don’t have enough ti-i-me….”
So, back to what the thing is. The thing is, is, that I have to remember that I have to work a little harder to get organized to get the work done. I have to take some time for myself to make sure I am doing the things for myself that feed my soul – like writing this blog. And catching up on season 5 of the Sopranos before Season 6 starts. And I have to remember that the way things are going right now is not the way things are going to be forever – or even next month. There’s an ebb and flow to the way life goes and right now time and energy is in an ebb. I am sure it will flow soon enough. It’s like weather I guess. All the stress and all these demands just flavor my life right now – they don’t define it. Pollyanna hasn’t disappeared. Like Macarthur – she will return. I just hope she’s up to some cleaning.