Taking the Long Way
January 30, 2013 § 2 Comments
I having a growing concern about our cultural fixation with ‘getting it right.’
I used to live in a place where the phrase ‘blowing it’ was used like kleenex (pun intended.) I abhor both phrases. Before you start yelling relativism and post-modern thought at me – I will gladly quote Romantic philosophers and theorists who have distinct ideas about Providence and autonomy. (She chants, “I will not quote Herder, I will not quote Herder.”) Let me make my point.
If I had been obsessed about ‘getting it right’ and ‘blowing it’ then I would never be married. I would have given up when ‘Hot Guy’ (remember him old faithful readers?) told me I had a soul made of ice (after I kissed him on Bagby!) I could have given up after I believed the Caveman had broken my heart irreparably, or in Germany when I was being taken on dates to the coin museum… But after I ‘blew it’ and didn’t ‘get it right’ – I met someone who couldn’t be bothered by such ridiculous evaluations of life and measured things on more appropriate terms.
If I had been obsessed about ‘getting it right’ and ‘blowing it’ then I would never have moved to Germany. I would have been convinced that I had nothing to offer. That my inability to graduate from college was a sign that I shouldn’t go try to offer something to the people that produced Einstein and Mercedes. I wouldn’t have gone to Uzbekistan and Uganda because I would have believed I had nothing to offer because I had ‘blown it’ and not ‘gotten it right’ by any number of moral standards. If I used morality as my measure – I wouldn’t get out of bed most days, but each day is new, filled with reckless new mercy. I live as one who is evaluated and measured on more appropriate terms.
If I had been obsessed about ‘getting it right’ and ‘blowing it’ then I would never be at school today. I would have quit after I failed miserably at SDSU, and any number of the colleges I went to after that and ‘blew it’ at as well. I never got school ‘right.’ Today I met with one of my professors who told me that she came to Columbia on a very similar trajectory – drop out, political activist, life ‘failure’, young (single?) mother – and now she’s a legend of the American Politics Department and an advocate for her students. She also reasserted that ‘getting it right’ is a very modern idea of measure – “even God wasn’t a big black & whiter.” We can’t measure ourselves by an ever changing societal standard, we’d go batty. So what if we’re taking the long way?
Measure is pretty subjective, even accepted measure, I mean it seems even a ‘footlong’ isn’t a ‘footlong’ anymore… I digress.
To ‘get it right’ – there is the implied wrong… But we’re not talking about just or unjust here - we’re often discussing people’s lives or life decisions. It is important to remember that often, in the most simple phrases we use, we can heighten the intended or unintended consequences of our speech. These words carry with them very distinct approval and disapproval - be clear that this is what you are wanting to communicate – to yourself – or to others when you use them. They are not easily retracted.
As for the phrase, ‘blow it’ – really? What in life has really been totally taken from you with no opportunity to circle back around? If I had never ‘blown it’ then I wouldn’t have married Justin, gone back to school, moved to New York, and been able to study at the school of my dreams.
I am so thankful I didn’t ‘get it right’ the first 1,000 times.