Skip to main content

Adrift in the parkways of our minds?

Not far from where I write this is a very nice park, a true urban oasis: one of those elongated greenbelts that, together with the sweeping peripheral roads on either side, particularly lends itself to the description "parkway." For the past quarter-century, the park has been inhabited by a gentleman named Earl. It follows that this gentleman, now nearing 70, bears the whimsical/romantic label "Earl of the Parkway." Earl's exploits have been much-chronicled, such that he is today something of a folk hero, albeit a melancholic one, among those who live in areas adjacent to the park.

Strictly speaking, Earl doesn't have to live in the park. He has options. Many would thus say he chooses to live there. (Or, if we prefer not to use terminology that evokes issues of free will vs. determinism, we could posit simply and neutrally that Earl continues to live there,
regardless of whether alternatives objectively exist.) You might say that based on that decision alone, Earl is, ipso facto, nuts. And if a man is nuts, then you can't expect him to avoid doing the things that nutty people do. Things like, say, live in parks. The reasoning is circular but apt.

Therefore, it would seem that it falls to those of us who aren't nuts to protect Earl from himself, if we possibly can. At least we must try. Many locals bring food, clothes, etc., to the monument that generally serves as Earl's home base.

By now you know where I'm going with this. T
here are millions of incipient Earls out there. By that, I don't just mean that there are millions of people on the verge of homelessness, though that is certainly true nowadays. I mean that there are millions of people, perhaps tens of millions, perhaps more, who are equally trapped by who and what they are.* They are all a little nuts, stumbling through life as best they can, hostage to their flaws and foibles, and standing far closer than they'd ever admit to the precipice of utter self-destruction.

Is it not up to the rest of usthose of us who, relatively speaking, "have our act together" and are better equipped for lifeto try to protect all these lesser Earls from themselves?

If not, tell me why not.

These are the kinds of things I think when I read the angry, tea-stained letters about how "health care isn't a basic human right!" and how "I shouldn't have to pay my hard-earned money to support some jagoff who's too lazy to work!" I know these aren't easy issues, but I can't help thinking: If a man is lazy...well, the man is lazy. Just as the barroom brawler constantly sabotages himself by getting caught up in barroom brawls. S
ome people aren't very good at negotiating life. Whatever they can do, even if it is legitimately their best, isn't good enough. They may not exactly be square pegs, but their existence unfolds as an unending struggle to find compartments in which they fit neatly. In any case, they're not going to do a very good job of looking out for themselves or their families. Doesn't someone have to?

As I see it, the ambitious, hard-driving person can no more choose to be lazy than the lazy good-for-nothing can choose to be ambitious and hard-driving. Though at opposite poles in the spectrum, they are, like Earl, equally ruled by their essential natures. Can they be changed? Can the slacker be taught to be more diligent about life? Perhaps he can. But until he changes, he's not there yet.

A final point. My mother-in-law, who lives with us these days, is quite short, so she frequently needs my help to reach things. As we didn't pick our respective heights,
she doesn't deserve criticism for being short; no more than I deserve praise for being 6-4. That doesn't change the bottom-line: I can reach things that she can't. So when she needs help, I help her.

Wouldn't it be cruel for me not to?

* And again, if we appraise this through a strictly deterministic lens, that description
"trapped by who and what we are"applies to each and every one of us.

Popular posts from this blog

What we should expect from our news.

From time to time since February 2008, when my long article on journalism and the news media first appeared in the online version of Skeptic * , people have asked me for more specifics on what I regard as the building blocks of valid, serious-minded news coverage. This is going to be a lengthy post, so I'll dive right in without further preamble. The News must be apolitical. This line of thought reached critical mass in 2001 with the controversy over Bernie Goldberg and his muck-raking book, Bias ** , which savaged the mainstream media for its strong (and unapologetic) left ward tilt. It's a familiar argument by now and there's no need to go into it at any great length. I think we'd get a fairly universal buy-in—at least in principle—on the idea that the News should never have a specific political agenda, Left or Right. That consensus is likely to crumble a bit when you g et to a more pointed discussion of implementation. For example, we'd have no trouble finding

The gift of perspective: the sequel.

The second Sunday of 2017 strikes me as the perfect day for wading even more deeply into the waters of moral controversy than in my last post . So let me lay this one on you: Pets and children do not understand the concept of "a necessary evil" or "for your own good." Therefore, from the vantage point of the pet or child, getting a vaccination or a nail trim may well be the same as, say, being sodomized with a pencil. We are the only ones in the scenario who are confident in the propriety of one act vs. the other.  If you've ever seen a large recalcitrant dog getting its nails trimmed with a dremel, you know the phenomenon of which I speak. It is traumatizing for both the animal and the (uninitiated) observer; the dog will howl and bark and strain against any confinement as might another dog being fran kly tortured (except in th e case of a nail trim the animal has no recourse; if it's awake for the procedure, it's usually muzzled and held or tied