Saturday, September 25, 2010

On Two Types Of People

It has struck me lately, from several quarters, that there are in at least one way two types of people in the world. In my head they have come to be called "be-ers" and "becomers," "fixers" and "sympathizers," and "idealists" and "realists."

My Anthropology class is taught by one of my favorite professors, a WELS Lutheran Pastor who grew up on an Apache Indian reservation. One day in class he said that Apaches were into "being," as opposed to modern mainstream Americans, who are into "becoming." That is, a typical American is always becoming the next thing in his life: a student becoming a teacher or an expert or whatever, a single person becoming married, etc. Apaches, on the other hand, are content with what life offers them at the present moment, and are less worried about tomorrow. Thus it becomes hard, for example, to approach an Apache about becoming a pastor, since that takes planning (one must account for college and four years of seminary), and planning of a type that Apaches are not familiar with.

In the book Soulmates, Thomas Moore writes a very philosophical, literary sort of advice pamphlet on the subject of love in the modern world. In the introduction Moore claims that he will not offer any answers, setting his book apart from pretty much every other book on the subject currently in print, and providing a refreshing change even from the better of Christian books on the subject, like Wild at Heart. Moore claims instead that he will offer alternative ways of looking at matters of the heart, ways which will hopefully shed new and helpful light on the subject. I have only managed to read two chapters, because I am busy and it is heady stuff which requires digestion, but my mind already feels like it has been twisted in knots--or turned loose from some.

In Moore's book, he talks about the legend of Daphne and Apollo. To grossly oversimplify and somewhat bastardize what Moore says: the legend goes that Daphne fled from Apollo into the forest, and Apollo pursued her. Finally, he caught her, but Artemis, the goddess of whom Daphne was an aspect, took pity on Daphne, and Daphne was turned into a tree by the side of a river, and Apollo could never reach her. Moore says that Daphne represents the "spirit," the part of us that wants to dream, to fly free, to be a world traveler, to be independent. Apollo represents the "soul," the part of us that longs for connection, that longs for companionship. The soul, according to Moore, is the valleys to the spirit's mountains; the soul is about the nitty-gritty, the stuff of real life.

Everyone apparently has some of both Daphne and Apollo in them. There is a part of all of us which wants to be free, which balks (for example) at the idea of being tied to another person. And there is another part in all of us whose greatest desire is that other person, is to be together with someone else, forever.

As will come as no surprise to those who know me, I tend to fall heavily in with the Daphne. While I love my friends, and miss them when I'm apart from them, it does not take a whole lot--very little, by some peoples' standards--for me to have a surfeit of them, and to need or at least to want to get away, to be by myself. I have too much Daphne in me to want a relationship, for its own sake; it takes a special person to make me even consider wanting to date, to court, or whatever. ('Special' doesn't always mean 'good,' but that's another topic.) Maybe I have too much of the Daphne side to be able to have a successful relationship, at least at the moment. Whatever. Not really the current point.

All this is basically prelude. The thing that has occurred to me recently to throw this into focus is a distinction that echoes or harmonizes with the above, or possibly it does both. The topic is friends, which topic tends to be at the forefront of every college student's mind (schoolwork generally running a distant second). What has occurred to me is this: there are friends who are content with you as you are, and there are friends who want to change you. (Note: I don't like the rhetorical second person accusatory, but it feels most natural here; if one didn't like it, one could change the you's to one's, and make it third person.)

I am not offering judgment here, saying that one type is better than another. I'm just observing. There are certain friends who will take you, bad habits, foot odor, nerdy references and all; and there are certain friends who, if they are good friends, will love you and be good friends but will try to get you to stop smoking and wash your feet better and not discuss the Aeneid with 8-year-olds.

Another way of stating it, one that I dislike because of the judgment implied but one which shows the distinction clearly, is this: Some people love you for who you are; some people love you for who you could be. A third category, now that I think about it, is that some people love you for who they THINK you are. This last is the genesis of many a misguided crush; in the fog of infatuation, the real shape of a person can become obscured, sometimes on purpose, and can be imagined to be whatever one wants it to be. Actually, it strikes me that this third is just a subset of the second category. But again I digress.

One of the two sides is not necessarily better than the other; mostly it's a matter of personal preference. I come down strongly on the side of be-ers, on the side of accepting people as they are, faults and flaws intact, and being accepted similarly. And while idealism is not necessarily a bad thing, and self-improvement certainly something to be sought, ultimately a good friend is going to have to do some amount of being, of accepting that we are all flawed and that some of that is not going to get better, no matter how much it should, no matter how much we might want it to. Moore says this:

We may think that "it's only right and proper" that a person change her ways and that her soul be something other than what it is, but this kind of thinking moves us away from the person's own nature. Sometimes it appears that there is more moralism in the field of psychology than there is in religion.

I find that people who have experienced depravity in one way or another--seen what great depths of sin either they or someone they love dearly can fall into--have an easier time accepting people as they are; it often takes a less experienced person to maintain high expectations of others. (This is, again, not a dig at idealists: an idealist who has been through such fire and come out still idealistic is often quite a remarkable person.)

In the end, of course, we each have our own trials. Idealists must struggle to accept sinners, and not to judge; the rest of us must struggle not to lose our values in knowing we cannot live up to them.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

How Theatrical Productions Go (At Least For Me)

It varies, depending on the type of show, sometimes on the size of my role, and on the length of rehearsal, but this still tends to be pretty universal.

Pre-rehearsal. I got into the show! Yes! This is gonna rock!

Early rehearsals. This is gonna be so cool. We're, like, doing stuff, and it's cool stuff, and it'll be so great.

Middle Rehearsals. Okay. Maybe it won't be as cool as I thought. But it'll still be fun.

Week before Tech Week. Can this just be done with already?


Opening night, before show. I'M GOING TO MESS UP AND DIE.

Opening night, after show. THAT WAS SO COOL. I love this show and I love everybody at all associated with it and I love all the people who think it was cool and and and...

Closing night. This show is so great and I could perform it forever and... wait, it's over? Crap!

Week after. Emotional let-down; depression; often, getting sick.

After that. Awesome memory. Any bad parts edited out.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010


[Our assignment for Acting today was to write a story based on two words we were given. My words were "road" and "bruise." I don't particularly like this story, but for the Gentle Reader it may entertainingly waste a few minutes.]

When the girl lay down on the road, all she could see were the stars. She could not see the burned, charred, black road around her, the piles of bodies, the skeletons of cars and trucks, the hulks of tanks. She could not see the road winding on and on, bleakly across a bleak world, starting nowhere and ending nowhere. Looking at the stars she could imagine she was dead, that she had finally come to peace, that she lay in a box in the earth and that the stars were her only friends. We are all made of stardust, she had been told, and she had laughed.

She had been brilliant, once. The smartest ten-year-old on the face of the earth; possibly the smartest ten-year-old who ever lived. They sent her up in the rocket ship, the one that would reach Mars, the one that would guarantee humanity’s survival when the destruction unleashed by the last war was complete. Her words, beamed from the spaceship to the ears of all humanity, just as the ship broke earth’s orbit, had become famous. People loved them and quoted them. She always thought that they did this because they made her sound like a little girl, because they made her sound human, rather than like the divine being most people imagined her to be.

“It looks… like a bruise. We’ve made the world look like a giant bruise. This was never what man was supposed to be.”

And in the six years it took them to establish the Martian colony, in the years it took her to turn from a warm, brilliant, adorable little girl to a cold, manipulative, power-hungry woman, her words had apparently touched off a war, one even worse than the previous war, one in which humanity unleashed its most horrible weapons and, finally, destroyed itself.

The Martian crew managed to find the survivors, the last several hundred humans locked deep underground. They were taken onboard the spaceship; they told the story of earth’s final six years. They blamed the girl, and rightly so. It did not take long to make the decision; and the decision was unanimous. They exiled her. They set her on the ring, the highway that man had built to encircle the earth, the scene of the worst and most brutal battles of man’s final war. They ordered her to walk it until the end of her days, to walk it until she, the last remaining human, was gone. The captain delivered the sentence; the captain knew she would never have the strength to take her own life.

Staring up at the stars, the girl heard a noise behind her. She jerked upright. The noises couldn’t be coincidence; they had been following her all day. Either someone was out there, stalking her, or she was going insane. Either way, perhaps her death would come soon.

A figure moved in the darkness. Her instincts, unwanted, flared up; she leapt and grabbed the figure and brought it down, smashing its face into the road, her hands flying and pummeling by instinct and nothing else. When the figure stopped moving, she rolled it over, perched above on the edge of the road. The sea below heaved incontinently. Her stalker was a boy, of about her own age. The boy was breathing raggedly.

“Who are you?” the girl hissed.

“You’ve… you’ve killed me…”

“Who are you?”

“I… fought against… your exile. When you left… I followed you. I lost you for a while… but now I’ve found you again.”

“Why? Why do you care? I’ve destroyed all of humanity. Everyone knows it.”

“And yet… I love you…”

“Love me? You don’t know me.”

“I grew up with you. I… always saw your face on TV.” The boy was growing more animated, starting to recover himself. He was bleeding from several places, but he ignored this. “No one ever loved you. They admired you, they feared you. But I loved…” he stopped, and began to cough. The fit prolonged itself, and he turned his head aside and spat blood. He groaned and lay his head back down with a clunk on the road.

The girl thought she had cried all of her tears away, but now she began to weep. She bent down and kissed the boy firmly on the mouth. He kissed her back. His arms closed around her and with the last of his strength he used his body to toss her, backward, over the edge of the road. He rolled over and watched her plunge toward the sea. Then he lunged after her.

For a moment the two bodies hung in midair, becoming smaller and smaller until they were specks indistinguishable from the whitecaps of the roiling sea below. Then they were swallowed up. The sea roared on, like a great bruise blotting the face of the earth.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Current Thoughts

There are certain songs, and even certain verses of certain songs, that have entered my being at a microscopic level. That is, I don't necessarily quote them or even think of them often any more--though usually I did both, once--but they are in there, in my mind and heart, as a concrete symbol of what and who I am, or at least what and who I want to be. One such verse is from "Jericho," by Wolfstone:

Don't run from the bad and the beautiful
Or all the hurting they provide
Don't hide from the sad and the cynical
Look for the diamonds inside

I've tried, Wolfstone. I've tried.