Monday, 23 May 2011

surprise


It's generalization time. I'm all caught up for now, and feeling philosophical. Not, you know, seriously philosophical. Don't go expecting Kierkegaardian metaphysics. I'm not that caught up. But I have emptied my in-basket, and washed the vegetables for dinner tonight, so I've got a moment for depth here.

The way I see it, you start off in life without any preconceptions except maybe that falling is bad and milk is good. You pick up more preconceptions as you go along, believing the authorities in your life: your folks and teachers, the TV set, the friends who don't fart in the car and then deny it (I hate that). As time goes by, preconceptions begin to bump up against each other, and you make choices. Your parents were wrong about this, your old boyfriend was wrong about that, your church was wrong about everything ... whatever, until you end up comfortable in yourself and your tribe and your particular set of preconceptions. Welcome to adulthood. Then you have kids and philosophy goes out the window. Ha ha, actually that's kind of true but, no, seriously, then you have to be careful not to be too comfortable. You don't want to get set in your mindset. You have to be ready to be surprised.

If you are not surprised by life, you aren't paying attention. Driving towards Houston last week I was shocked and impressed, and one of my preconceptions was altered for a moment. It happened like this. I approached the city along Highway 10, brimful of liberal northeastern-ness, pretty sure that there was not going to be much to admire here. I was proved wrong almost immediately. Not that I saw any evidence of sexual tolerance or social justice or universal health care. Even the driving was kind of narrow and veering to the right all the time. But I had thought the place would be as ugly as the politics -- and it wasn't. My view of the roadscape around me -- the net of aboveground arterial highways interweaving and converging towards the downtown -- was, well, breathtaking. That's part of it in the picture up there. Not bad, eh? I leaned forward, staring up and around through the tinted windshield of our rental car, muttering, Oh my, oh my, like the Mole at the start of The Wind In The Willows. It was elegant, majestic, inspiring. For a moment I saw the scene as someone from the dawn of the automobile age (Toad, say). What a hopeful paradigm for The Future.

It was only a moment. Oh my, I said again, and then some dork cut me off and forced me to swerve right, and the guy behind me honked, and I honked back, and then I wondered if maybe I shouldn't have done that because what if he had a gun? All Texans have guns, don't they? Some preconceptions are hard to shake.

And now it's time to cook the vegetables and I'm out of generalizations.

2 comments:

deepamwadds said...

Oh my! "If you are not surprised by life, you aren't paying attention." Wonderful, Richard. I'm so happy to have found your blog. It's rare to read things that make me laugh out loud all by myself... that Hawaiian thing just about did me in!

Richard Scrimger said...

Good stuff! A laughing soul is an open soul.