Tag Archive | Celebration

A word for the wonderful

This is not going to be specific. It’s a persistent feeling and doubtless vague. It also clearly represents an era as I perceived it from the vantage point of a particular age. I don’t care. I’m going to say it anyway and not worry about the need to justify it. Here it is:

We’re all going to be much better off as soon as our psyches can escape the 1980s.

Not to say that the era didn’t provide some great times. Of course it did. Culturally it often projected bliss. Back to the Future and Culture Club and Knight Rider required no critical thinking whatsoever. The Cold War was scary to consider in detailed terms, but we rarely thought about it in detailed terms. And when we did, at least it made everything seem polarized…and bi-polarized…which is a lot more pleasant than things seeming infinitely deconstructible and individualized. Envisioning life with Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome is somehow much more comfortable than contemplating a free-floating existence on McCarthy’s Road. Our political representatives postured and proclaimed back then, but if push came to shove we knew that we could all co-exist in that bomb shelter just fine. Even the repellent aspects held some modicum of allure. The self may have been as complex as ever, but we could always find our way like metal shavings clinging to the magnet if we needed to. Nostalgia for that level of moral, cultural, political, and social clarity is how we get so seduced by the 1980s.

We need to let it go. Blind unity at that scale is not coming back unless some global catastrophic event occurs, and let’s not invite that degree of devastation upon ourselves. We can do this. We can live as a world of radically diverse peoples and persons. We don’t need to be defined by a nation or a president or a god or – perhaps least of all – by a celebrity. We can cluster and re-cluster into groups that help us make sense of our identities. And those clusters should least of all be determined by what we reject. Hopefully they can be determined by what we rejoice in, and the energy we can generate through optimistic social mass. We don’t need the simplistic categorization of the 1980s. We don’t need categorization at all! Our political structures are desperate to hold on to the myth that association with a core group automatically aligns all aspects of a self. But you and I and each every other else is more complex than that world view allows for. We need to experience. We need to live. And listen. And converse empathetically. Consolidation of power by a very few depends upon generalized complacency. Hence, the 1980s. But we’re grown up now. And we can do this.

“High five, you son of a bitch”

I prefer ‘gimme five’ to ‘high five’. Alhough I realize the former is very much out of fashion, it feels sincere to me. ‘High five’, on the other hand, always carries a ring of mockery bordering on bullying. There must have been a period during my youth – I’m guessing fifth or sixth grade, though no specific instance comes to mind – when I expressed joy about something considered nerdy, which was as out of fashion then as ‘gimme five’ is today. I vaguely recall a peer holding up his hand and saying with false enthusiasm, “High five!” Not getting that my love of Doctor Who or Epic graphic novels or Ultima IV or whatnot was the butt of the joke, I met the initiating palm with mine. Sometimes I probably punctuated the gesture with a, “Yeah!” At that moment, derisive laughter would ripple through the rest of the bodies present, leaving me bewildered. “You all do or you don’t love Dungeons & Dragons? Wait, where are you going?”

Today I proudly embrace my adolescent fondness for science fiction and comic books. Besides, the rise of comic-based movies into the mainstream, the popularity of serials like Firefly, even the Harry Potter craze have vindicated my youthful zeal for these fantasy-based entertainments, even if I don’t pay as much attention to them anymore. Still, when, in the course of every day interactions, someone raises up a hand – with regard to any topic – and demands, “high five,” I feel an instantaneous surge of disparagement and doubt about her/his intentions. Most of the time I recover quickly enough to get my hand up there, though my reciprocation is inevitably colored by skepticism. There is always a pause between the initiation of the celebration and my response, and occasionally, on particularly bad days, I just ‘leave ’em hanging’.

I’d like to get over this minor phobia. When presented with a genuinely excited ‘high five’, I’d like to respond with the same confidence that Maverick and Goose display in their very special ‘high five’, after scoring a volleyball spike on Iceman and Slider. But currently I think I’m muscling it a little too much. That is, when someone calls for a ‘high five’ these days, I sharpen my eyes and suck in my gut and say internally with as much conviction as a I muster, “High five, you son of a bitch!” Sometimes I may even say it out loud, I think. Silent or stated, the remark helps me power into that high five with no hesitation. Nevertheless, I’d be much more comfortable if we could just get back to the good old ‘gimme five’. Or ‘gimme ten’, even. Then we could give each other change, too.