"I literally don't like anyone. I'm mean-spirited and jealous. I'm annoyed with people quickly. I'm self-righteous. I'm also passive-aggressive, and privileged and judgmental, and cruel, and ignorant, and cold, and a hypocrite, and lazy, and self-centered, and annoying, and argumentative, and flaky." This is what Mackenzie told me when we got into an argument about whether she has a heart of gold beneath her callous exterior (I said yes, she said no). At first glance, this list is disturbing, because everyone knows that women are supposed to be almost perfect and only have a maximum of three (preferably endearing) character flaws. It's particularly disturbing to a pure and innocent person like me who has never had an unkind thought about anyone. And if you believe that, may I interest you in a lucrative home-based business franchising opportunity that definitely is not a pyramid scheme?
Sarcasm aside, the simple fact is that I don't care about her real or alleged flaws, and though I may seem to portray her in a negative light I've thought and hoped it would be obvious that I like her just fine that way. I thought and hoped it would be obvious, for example, that when she said she was going to murder me it was just a bit of friendly banter (although it would have been much less acceptable for me, a man, to say the same thing to her, and therefore she was, probably unconsciously, exploiting one of the double standards that she, a feminist, abhors). In case it wasn't obvious enough I tacked a brief list of a few of her more unambiguously positive traits onto the end of that post. But it turns out that she, even though she reads all my posts and must have seen it by now, thinks she's a terrible person. I disagree. I told her at the time that I've never found her annoying and that in light of these flaws it was all the more admirable that she's nice to me anyway and gives me far more patience than I deserve. Now I want to expound further and try to articulate my words better, and post it here in case anyone else finds it useful.
I will start by wresting some fabulous words by the inimitable B. H. Roberts out of context and repurposing them. In listing her flaws, Mackenzie "is as one who walks through some splendid orchard and gathers here and there the worm-eaten, frost-bitten, wind-blasted, growth-stunted and rotten fruit, which in spite of the best of care is to be found in every orchard; bringing this to us [she] says: 'This is the fruit of yonder orchard; you see how worthless it is; an orchard growing such fruit is ready for the burning.' Whereas, the fact may be that there are tons and tons of beautiful, luscious fruit, as pleasing to the eye as it would be agreeable to the palate, remaining in the orchard to which [she] does not call our attention at all. Would not such a representation of the orchard be an untruth, notwithstanding [her] blighted specimens were gathered from its trees? If [she] presents to us the blighted specimens of fruit from the orchard, is [she] not in truth and in honor bound also to call our attention to the rich harvest of splendid fruit that still remains ungathered before [she] asks us to pass judgment on the orchard?"
So, Mackenzie, even if this picture you paint of yourself is accurate, it's still not accurate. Jussayin.
This bad fruit is to be found in every orchard, he says. As I thought about Mackenzie's condition I had a realization that perhaps the difference between "good" and "bad" people is their attitude about it. If she were a bad person, would she feel bad about her flaws, or just not care? I think the fact that she feels bad about them is incontrovertible proof that they are at odds with her core values. If she feels bad about being mean-spirited and jealous, then it's because she feels that being mean-spirited and jealous is wrong and not how she wants to be. If she were a bad person, she would just go about being mean-spirited and jealous, end of story. An extreme example: at least one friend of mine is only sexually attracted to young boys, but he has a core value that says sex with children is wrong, so that's what he lives by and that's what matters. Mackenzie's core values appear fundamentally good and in my mind, that means she is too. It may even be the case that the more she improves, the more she will be bothered by her remaining flaws, so that she will feel worse about herself despite being better. This is something to beware of.
I wanted to say something about the Native American story with the two wolves, but it turns out that's not a Native American story at all. So a better example would be "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde". In that story, Dr. Jekyll's motive for creating a potion that would split him into two persons was the conflict between his desire to pursue a wild, hedonistic lifestyle like in his younger days and his desire to be a moral, upstanding person. He tried to do both. Sometimes I feel like two different people too. One just wants to be kind and love everyone, and the other wouldn't cry very hard if aliens wiped out the human race. But I think most people experience this to some degree or another because nobody is perfect but everybody who wants to be plays host to this battleground between good and evil that are both part of us. "Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." (Matthew 26:41) Yet in my interactions with Mackenzie, I would say that her Jekyll (spirit) more often than not overpowers her Hyde (flesh) because he's the one she feeds. Or something like that. Am I making any sense?
Putting Mr. Hyde in his place once and for all isn't done overnight either. Jesus commands us in the Sermon on the Mount not only to abstain from sinful actions but from the very inclinations toward them - yet He's well aware that this is difficult, unpleasant, and unnatural, hence He compares it to plucking out your eye or cutting off your hand. Surely He understands if, partway through the process of plucking out her eye, Mackenzie decides that this really really hurts and she'd rather keep it after all. Surely He understands if it takes several attempts and lots of backsliding before she finishes cutting off her hand. I feel like some kind of insane religious fundamentalist talking like this, but Jesus is the one who chose those metaphors, not me. Note to idiots: I am not advocating literal self-mutilation. All I'm trying to say is that Mackenzie should have lots of patience with herself and so should everyone else. With themselves, I mean. And I wouldn't even need to remind her of that if she were a bad person because she wouldn't be getting exasperated with herself in the first place.
Maybe I'm completely wrong. I don't actually have the means or the authority to judge anyone's heart. Maybe she is as evil as she claims. The weird guy at church who makes up his own doctrine certainly thinks so. He's never met her, but he thinks he can tell by looking at people who's going to "perdition" and who's not, so he said she's some kind of demon or something who's drawn to me because I have the Holy Ghost and she wants to make me lose it. He said some other things too but I'm not comfortable sharing them even in a redacted format. All I can say to that is that if it's true, she's doing a terrible job. She knows some of my secret temptations and never uses them. In fact, she encourages me to be better in some ways. Worst demon ever. Or maybe I should say best, since she's the worst at being bad. I hesitated about whether to share this with her but I did and she was so fascinated by the weirdness of it that despite merely disliking him before she wants to meet him now.
When she tried to convince me that she's evil, she somehow missed the irony that earlier the same day her boss had accused her of being a crybaby snowflake who cares about minorities too much and pushes reverse discrimination, because she isn't a fan of fireworks because they traumatize veterans with PTSD. How cruel and self-centered of her. Later that week, she hosted another campfire with ten other people; more proof that she literally doesn't like anyone. At that campfire, my tinfoil dinner ripped open and spilled into the dirt and she insisted on giving me hers because she's privileged and judgmental. She claimed it was because she couldn't stand to see me pouting. I said, "Then I've finally figured out how to get what I want from you?" In the silence that followed, I realized that sounded a lot creepier out loud than it did in my head. Did I mention that she's given me far more patience than I deserve?
A Brief Review of Freedom Fire 2017
Ryan Innes was invited to return from last year and he's still the blackest white guy I've ever heard. I wouldn't be surprised if he holds a seance before each performance to channel the spirit of Luther Vandross. There was also a group called The Party Crashers, though I feel like they should only show up when they aren't invited. They did a medley that included the one innocuous passage from "Baby Got Back" that's in a bunch of kids' movies, and I assumed they would end there and launch into "Feelings" but instead they kept going and caused me many seconds of discomfort. Did they not notice there were children in the audience? Did they not care? Who invited them anyway? Oh right, the mayor. For better or for worse, that song is an integral part of the cultural milieu in which we live and we just have to deal with it. There was also a group of singing first graders, and when they were announced as "the future class of 2038" I swore out loud as I suddenly felt impossibly old, though I realize now that he must have meant 2028. Then there was the obligatory fireworks and laser show and more singing by The Party Crashers. The end.
The Future Sound of London - Papua New Guinea
"Clara" from church recently discovered my blog. Well, I mentioned it to her first, but I don't think most people that I mention it to ever bother to look at it. I think they assume it will be dumb and boring. But she loved it, and she read some aloud to her roommate who just today gushed about it being "addictive" and made me very happy. Anyway, Clara noted that I talk about music a lot and she asked about my taste and she said she would classify it as "hipster" even though she doesn't think I'm a hipster per se. So this week I tried to pick out something that I think qualifies as "hipster". You've probably never heard of it. Again, I'm no expert on genre but I think this track is "trance" music because it's electronic but more suited for meditation than dancing. The deluxe edition of the "Accelerator" album whence it comes has a second disc with ten remixes of it, all of them worthwhile in my opinion.
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About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender Christian male, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic and asexual, so you can't, unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. This blog is where he periodically rants about life, the universe, and/or everything.