If you can’t always keep a straight face during mass, if you tend to laugh at political hearings because they are great theater, if you tend to think that Saturday Night Live’s Evening Update is better news than the news, then it is a sign that you suffer from irreverence. It is a condition known to afflict millions of people who nonetheless manage to survive, provided they conform to protocol.
The protocol for irreverence is that you can’t be serious. If you are not serious, you can be as irreverent as you like, as long as you don’t divulge too much. If you insist on being serious and you are nonetheless irreverent, you will be taken as a threat to the peace. If you are serious and reverent, you will be taken as a prospective political candidate or moral leader – in short a threat to the power of those with power. But if you are just not serious then you can be reverent or irreverent all you like – in short, you can live your life.
The trouble, you see, is not that I can never be reverent. It is that I can’t always be reverent. There are always those too astute observations of the absurd which strike my mind and no force of will can restrain me from comment because they are too funny. They are just funny and it’s not my fault. But they are enough for people to look at me askew…
So I have decided to relegate my seriousness to refined literary and unspontaneous text which need not absorb my life. In short, I have decided to live my life. It is by all accounts an absurd life and no one can take that away – but it is freedom to let that absurdity live in comedy and not insist on fighting the absurd with sincerity, because you will lose, seriously.
I was raised with an almost naïve lack of bias against anyone for their superficial qualities. It is “almost naïve” because it is in many ways the correct way to view people – treating each and every person with individual dignity may be exhausting once you come to note that discrimination and reverse discrimination do still exist, but thankfully I made it well into my 20’s without being well aware of any of it, and by then the way that I treated people was mainly fixed.
I did of course know that discrimination existed. I knew of the treatment of Jews and Gypsys during and before WWII. I knew of the impetus for the civil rights movement in America in the 60’s. I knew of racial slurs, even if I never heard them said in person and in earnest. But I never saw discrimination with my own eyes. My naïveté was preserved as a youth and therefore treating people with individual dignity was not exhausting, but feasible.
I am not perfect, but what interpersonal equanimity I have, I owe to my parents and I give special credit to my Dad. My Dad had to fight the wars, day in and day out. The wars of business, the wars of reputation, the wars of attrition and perserverence, and then he had to come home and not ruin us with his personal struggles, temporary as they were, however grand they may have been. Not that there were never negative repercussions, but they were always surmountable, because they did not strike at the core of what is good.
No one is perfect, but my parents had foresight. They saw quite clearly that the world would be a better place for me and everyone, if we did not judge by those superficial qualities into which we are born, but treated each as an individual as best we could. It is all the more impressive knowing that such was not the standard in the age into which they were born. And sadly, if this is the standard today, there are many, persecutors and victims alike, who are distinctly failing to achieve it.