Old Debate

August 30, 2008 | Leave a Comment

Category: Auto-Biography

It was when I first started growing my hair out in 1964, when I was twelve years old, that the arguments with my dad began.  They were mostly pretty mundane.  Occasionally, we chose an ancient issue and then, like moron lawyers from the planet X, proceeded to attempt to prove our positions.  My father was a girdle and bra manufacturer, an athlete, a Goldwater Republican who read westerns and science fiction.  I was a kid obsessed with comics.  I kind of wish I had some transcripts of those debates.

One argument was comprised of my expressing my certainty that the world had to change, was changing and that my father should change with it.  Dad expressed his confidence that if there was to be change, I would have to make it.  He emphasized that he wasn’t about to do anything differently.  There was a certain congruity to Dad’s communication.  As a closet obsessive compulsive, all his personal effects were arranged meticulously in patterned grids, rarely changing, with everything easily visible once you opened the drawers or stepped into his closet.  Arguing with a man with a mild case of OCD about the nature of change is a little bit like trying to make a cat into a vegetarian.  It can be done, but it doesn’t feel right.

I can’t say we agreed to disagree, but we both grew older and the context of each other’s sufferings became familiar.  Each divorcing a wife brought us much in common.  Right now, my father’s wife lies dying.  Our differences have grown trivial with time.

I remain a radical.  Yet my father’s position that he should not reasonably be expected to change is an argument that has acquired depth.  My slant is slightly different, yet informed by my love for my father and respect for the positions he holds dear.

There is the way things are right now.  Observing, respecting and honoring the way things are now allows me to see how things are changing.  There was a defect behind the assumption in the debates between my dad and me.  From my young eyes, it looked like there was a battle between stationary and change.  To my dad, things looked like they should stay the same.  We both assumed there was such a thing as not change.  There is no such thing as things not changing.

Change is everywhere.  Always.

As a radical, I do not experience complacency with things as they are.  I experience the ways things are as part of a process, an evolution that calls for my participation.  Like my father, we can choose to linger with what’s in the drawers and closets, paying closest attention to what seems the same.  Another option is to depart the house of hidden places and go outside and play.


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