Manumission

The first time I read Rudyard Kipling’s “The White Man’s Burden”, I thought it was a joke. Surely nobody could be this racist? But it turns out he was. There was no irony in Kipling’s writing: he believed that the white race was superior, and that it was their duty to civilize the savaged. There are those who believe it is their duty to willingly submit to their overlords, but strangely, I don’t think any of the brown people Kipling was domesticating ever wrote a poem from that perspective. (Kipling would argue that that’s because they aren’t literate or civilized enough to realize how uncivilized they are. Bigotry is self-rationalizing that way.)

robin hoodI seem to be experiencing a resurgent interest in classic adventure stories. Towards the end of middle school, I read the first handful of stories in A Thousand and One Nights. They were pretty good, but kind of predictable and all cut from the same cloth. In one incident, some dude ends up staying in a place for 99 nights that has 99 rooms. He is told not to open the door to the last room, but since he stays in one room each night and finds each room to be even more beautiful than the last, he just can’t help himself. I can’t remember exactly what happens when he opens the door to the last room, but it was pretty bad. Who could have seen that coming?

(If I had to pick a favorite swashbuckling movie, I’d go with The Adventures of Robin Hood, which has everything: romance, gallantry, hair-breadth escapes, all that good stuff. And at the center of all of that was Errol Flynn. Apparently, he was a party animal in real life, but he was perfect for that role.)

Why am I telling you all this? I don’t know. I guess I just had a lot of thoughts to unload. I’m trying to find things that will occupy my mind that don’t involve staring at a screen, but that takes time. I’m kind of glad that I don’t own a smartphone, because even though I don’t text very much, I would probably spend an inordinate amount of time browsing the web while I should be doing other things. Actually, I do that already, but a smartphone would just make it that much easier. I don’t hate the internet; I just don’t see why so much of it is necessary. In a way, that’s why I’m so suspicious of new technology. I can see why Google Glass is cool, but why the fuck does anybody need it? If there ever were a technology that could bring out my inner grumpy old man, that was it. What’s next, a cybernetic implant that allows you to stream Netflix and Spotify while texting and driving all at the same time?

Conversely, I don’t think there’s anything less “real” about the internet. I hate it when people tell me that I shouldn’t get into arguments on the internet, as if that’s somehow better than arguing in real life. 99% of the time, that’s just a cowardly way of saying, “You’re kicking my ass, so I’ll pretend you’re the one who just doesn’t get it and scamper away with my tail between my legs.” Ah, it’s good to see that my inner misanthrope is alive and well.

I don’t know if I’ve ever completed a crossword puzzle. Even the really easy ones in my school paper or the Monday New York Times ones, I could never seem to fill in all the way. Maybe it’s because I’m such a perfectionist that I have to make everything fit, but it’s hard for me to let go of something like that. You ever have only one space left in a word, but you cycle through all the letters in the alphabet and still can’t find one that fits? That happens to me a lot. People tell me I overthink things, which makes this the perfect medium in which to express myself. Sooner or later, common sense kicks in and I regain the ability to see the forest for the trees. When I took physics in high school, I noticed myself getting stuck on one-step problems even as I breezed through more complicated ones. Sometimes, the answer is so simple that I’m amazed no one else can see it. And sometimes, you bang your head against your desk for hours and still can’t see what’s obvious to everyone else. I need to learn to be more patient.

I’ve been told on one or two occasions that I was exhibiting sociopathic tendencies. There aren’t too many things that I’m sure of, but one of them is that I’m not a sociopath. There are some people who just take and take. The only reason they ever take an interest in somebody else is so that they can be like them. I’ve run into people like that, people who twist your words so that even when you say something that they agree with, they have to repeat it back to you like they thought of it first. That’s not sociopathy, but it is insecurity, and if I can’t defeat that, I can at least fight it.

This was one of my more rambling entries, to be sure. So I’m not even going to try to tie it all together. Instead, I’ll leave you with the words of the great Dr. House, who said that everything happens for a reason, we just might not know it at the time. He didn’t mean that in the fatalistic sense, but rather the purely logical cause-and-effect sense. I maintain that everyone has the power to find the answers they’re looking for. But even if you don’t know where you’re going, it kind of helps to know why you want to get there.

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