This I Believe

Randall - Tallahassee, Florida
Entered on April 12, 2007

Let me start by telling you what I don’t believe in. I don’t like cliches and flabby thinking. I demand intellectual rigor in everything that I do. I don’t allow myself the luxury of falling back on platitudes and I don’t like them when they are spewed out by others, especially when they are masquerading as profundities or “inspirational” words to live by. Maybe this is my perverse reaction to all those awful “rules for living” that I keep receiving in my email box or those self-righteous “Chicken Soup for the Soul” type books where they try to condense complex concepts into one-line koans and convince everyone that they represent the path to true enlightenment. I hate Musack and easy-listening radio. I hate Hallmark cards. I hate fast food and TV dinners. I hate the “poetry” of Rod McKuen. I hate all those things because they represent something that is too easy and it doesn’t require real thinking. I hate the poetasters not because their poetry is sentimental and full of bathos, but because it is ultimately shallow and says nothing.

I especially hate platitudes from politicians because I believe that voters deserve more than canned speeches read from teleprompters that are pre-tested by spin meisters. I believe that in an era where politicians raise more money than the GNP of some third world countries just to run for public office, we must be ever-vigilant to proclaim it loudly when the emperor’s words are wearing no clothes, when the politician’s lips are moving but he isn’t saying anything, when we are whipped into a jingoistic frenzy to go to war because we are too lazy to look behind the arras of knee-jerk patriotic words about terrorism and WMDs.

My life is about the search for meaning, but not the kind of meaning that is resting in plain sight on the bottom shelf. I want something that is on the top shelf and is hard to get at; something you have to really really reach for.

I guess that is why I cringe when I hear people say “awesome” and it no longer means “full of awe”(a wonderful concept) but just anything that is nice or fun. Careless thinking and sloppy speaking produce a language stripped of meaning. Words should have power. Words are power. And if we use them in otiose and indolent ways, then we are emasculating their potency. Then, all we are left with is some bland homogenized pabulum that is palatable to the masses but has no real spice nor zing. I like zing. I like fireworks. I like shooting stars. But to get those, you have to reach for the heavens.

That’s what I believe.