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It's All In The Way You Look At Things


Clearview
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One of my favorite books is The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. It may be somewhat of a children's book, but the ideas conveyed with wordplay make it priceless. While traversing the forest, the main character comes across Alec Bings, a boy who can see through things. The problem with seeing through things is that he cannot see what is right there in front of him. Consequently, he runs into a lot of trees.

 

It came to me this past weekend that I am not unlike that boy. Why it took me so long to smack into a tree is beyond my understanding.

 

When I was growing up I heard a lot of bible stories that couldn't possibly true. I might not have known the word "allegory," but I figured that was what these stories were. Any sane person knows that a man cannot survive in the belly of a fish, and that two of every animal walking the earth could never fit onto one man-made boat, especially not one of the proportions Noah built. It was all very simple. These were stories, meant to teach us something. I thought everyone thought this way.

 

Another thing I thought, which is totally unrelated, is that I was not raised in a racist family. In fact, it was not too many weeks ago that I used this exact statement. This is the first tree I ran into this weekend. My parents and I were on our way to visit my brother and his family in North Carolina, and we stopped at a Max and Erma's to have dinner in order to avoid some of Charlotte's rush hour traffic. The conversation turned to baseball and basketball games, and how the tickets are so expensive. My father mentioned how there are a lot of black people at basketball games and wondered how anyone could afford the price of tickets these days. That's easy, mom explained: the black people can afford it because they have all those food stamps. Heheh, almost funny mom. Then, I realized that I wasn't sure if that was an attempt at a joke or not. So I said, "Mom, up until this moment, I had not realized that I had been raised in a racist family." I said that as part statement, part joke, because I wasn't really sure what she had meant by it at that point. If I say something racist, it's because it's ghastly and inappropriate and horrible and shouldn't be taken seriously. A shock-effect joke. I could never honestly mean something like that. Again, I though other people, especially those who supposedly instilled the values that I own, would not be any different. It is absolutely preposterous to believe that one ethnic group is better than another. Someone taught me this, and I thought it was my parents.

 

"Are you kidding?" My mom laughed. "Don't you remember hearing your grandfather talk??"

 

Okay. So not only is racism acceptable to my parents, my mother admits that it is the way SHE was raised. It was a bit of a slap in the face. Even after leaving religion behind, I have been grateful for my upbringing. Things like getting whacked with a wooden spoon for wrongdoings while having to say, "Sorry Mommy, sorry Jesus!!" have been relegated to the "hahah, that was funny" file by me and my siblings. We don't hold that against my parents. Nor do we resent having to pray the rosary EVERY night, on our knees, as a family. None of the time wasted or the bizarre beliefs instilled in us have been resented because we all, we figure, came out okay. But now I wonder if maybe most of us did well in spite of this. Why else is my brother and his wife able to raise wonderful, loving, and well-behaved kids without the threat of a squeaky kitchen drawer housing the dreaded spoon and a dark corner to go pray in after their asses were thoroughly beaten? It was not our parents' doing.

 

So we continued on to Charlotte and I was able to spend lots of time mulling over my racist parents while sitting in the rush hour traffic that we didn't manage to miss.

 

Later that weekend, my dad was carrying on about UFOs and aliens. Here's another place where I had gone blind. My dad appears to be a devout Catholic: going to church daily, praying countless rosaries, attending holy hour in the chapel at church. For a while now, I wondered if he did it simply because it was something to do. I had even become suspicious that he didn't really buy into all this stuff, but that there was little else to do when one is nearing 80 years old and had to fill in time between going the gym to workout and McDonald's for coffee. My suspicions were raised when I was discussing a book with my mom. It had bizarre and fantastical stuff in it, such as people riding on flying carpets, and she stopped reading the book because it was ridiculous. I tried to explain to her that this was part of the point of the book-- I asked her if there were not stories like this in the legends from her own family. Of course there were, and she went on to explain how a snake talked to her grandmother. She added smugly that she believes in this stuff because of her religious beliefs, etc. When I asked how that was any different from believing in a flying carpet, my dad caught how I was baiting her and laughed in delight. He loves the absurd. Maybe, I thought, he saw through other things too. I was almost sure of it until this weekend.

 

While dad was carrying on about UFO sightings, my sister in law asked him how this fit in with his spiritual beliefs. He then proceeded to tie the two together in one of the most bizarre mental knots I have ever witnessed. I don't need to get into it, but I feel that it's worth mentioning the part about how aliens are superior beings to humans because they did not succumb to original sin the way Adam and Eve did. Good lord. It got more ridiculous from there. My brother, my sister in law, my sister, her husband, and me, all who carry different religious beliefs, were completely flabbergasted by the conversation. No one came away with anything less than an uneasy knot in their stomach, all for different reasons I assume. It was difficult.

 

So, in effect, my parents are not playing with a full deck, or even the deck I thought they were playing with. At this point in my life, I might know who I am better than I ever have, but I now realize that I have no idea where I came from.

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Clearview, I say this for what it's worth. My dad isn't 80 yet (as you say your dad is) but he is not playing with as many cards as he had in his prime. I watched my grandparents age from active middle-aged adults to old age. Grandpa lost a number of cards along the way, too. Both he and my father had at one time been very intelligent people. Like father like son--in that, at least. My father had a stroke some years ago that had an impact on his "cards." Some people don't have any medical crisis but the mind starts eroding and perhaps picking up unusual ideas as old age sets in.

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Wow. I had a similar revelation from my Mom a few months ago. Now my mother is a smart, intelligent, very carying, hell liberal person and luthern who casually goes to Church and not a fag-hater or race-hater...

 

...however....

 

When it comes to Muslims, she wishes the US would just wipe them out in Jearusalem once and for all and the rest of them. Nuke them I think she said.

 

Seriously. I was dumbstruck to this day and since that day, I have lost a little respect for her.

 

So I hear you CV.

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When it comes to Muslims, she wishes the US would just wipe them out in Jearusalem once and for all and the rest of them. Nuke them I think she said.

 

It's not really that surprising. It just means that she is a product of the current media campaign to demonize that part of the world in order to garner support for the war on terror. Before it was the Russians. Before that it was the Japanese and the Germans.

 

There's nothing to fear except the media itself.

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Later that weekend, my dad was carrying on about UFOs and aliens. Here's another place where I had gone blind. My dad appears to be a devout Catholic: going to church daily, praying countless rosaries, attending holy hour in the chapel at church. For a while now, I wondered if he did it simply because it was something to do.

 

Welcome to the Ghetto (of scientific illiteracy)

 

Somehow what you posted reminds me of this essay. I think I should open a dedicated thread about that soon.

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When it comes to Muslims, she wishes the US would just wipe them out in Jearusalem once and for all and the rest of them. Nuke them I think she said.

 

It's not really that surprising. It just means that she is a product of the current media campaign to demonize that part of the world in order to garner support for the war on terror. Before it was the Russians. Before that it was the Japanese and the Germans.

 

There's nothing to fear except the media itself.

I don't know. I hope your right. I know we have our "darksides" (to be poetic) but that was just chilling. But I think she does see this in lense of a religious conflict not a political conflict...

 

oh I do recall that with the cold war against Russia, religion was a barb too. I remember hearing that Russians don't let you worship. From what I heard that was a bunch of bull.Red Square and St. Basil's Catherdrel comes to mind. Anyway...

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without the threat of a squeaky kitchen drawer housing the dreaded spoon....
Ha! You got spooned by your mom, too, eh? :lmao:

 

My mom never waisted her time with the wooden ones. She always grabbed the metal (what we called) The French Fry Spoon™, and proceeded to beat the hell out of us with it. My dad usually used his belt and various garden tools. :Hmm:

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My mom never waisted her time with the wooden ones. She always grabbed the metal (what we called) The French Fry Spoon™, and proceeded to beat the hell out of us with it. My dad usually used his belt and various garden tools. :Hmm:

 

 

Yeah, she broke a lot of spoons. Dad used his belt on the boys, and a bare hand on the girls.

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Clearview, I say this for what it's worth. My dad isn't 80 yet (as you say your dad is) but he is not playing with as many cards as he had in his prime. I watched my grandparents age from active middle-aged adults to old age. Grandpa lost a number of cards along the way, too. Both he and my father had at one time been very intelligent people. Like father like son--in that, at least. My father had a stroke some years ago that had an impact on his "cards." Some people don't have any medical crisis but the mind starts eroding and perhaps picking up unusual ideas as old age sets in.

 

Ruby,

 

My dad has always been prone to obsessing over strange ideas. I don't know if I can attribute that to age or not, as he was 48 when I was born and has always been relatively "old" to me. If it isn't aliens, it's the healing effects of oil of oregano or it's a joke that is only marginally funny which he tells ad nauseum.

 

He had a stroke a few years ago too, but it doesn't seem to have had an effect on his mental faculties. For the most part, my dad's eccentricities are amusing. Not everyone feels this way, though. My brother told me that his in-laws used to dread my father's company because of the strange things he fixates on.

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All this assaulting with weapons... being of the nature I am, I'd be making sure I'd be placing them in the vilest cess pit of a 'Care Home' I could find... but it's thought I can carry a grudge over several lifetimes :fdevil:

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Hey Clearview, I have been lurking here for a while, but your post brought me out of the woodwork since I've been having alot of the same kind of problems with my parents for the last several years. More so in the last couple of months, actually.

 

I know the feeling well of having one of them start to wander toward a political or religious topic and feeling that knot in my gut, just hoping that they'll shut up because I don't want to hear the floodgates open and another load of crazy come pouring out.

 

Unfortunately, as you can see from the responses posted here, it looks like most people have about the same kind of problems with their parents. I used to feel terrible thinking it was just me, and that I was a horrible son for hating my mother, then I really started to ask around, and found out many many people have the same kind of problems with their parents. The kind of loving, mutually respectful parent-child relationship between two calm, rational, intelligent adults that we all wish for (and that used to appear to me to be the norm) is definitely the exception and not the rule as far as I can tell.

 

What I have realized getting older is that my parents are themselves children who, in many ways, never grew up. They can be as immature, ignorant, and wacked out as anyone else. Nothing makes them special.

 

I lost almost all respect for my mother years ago. With my slinky-spined father, it's taking a little longer, but he's getting there. I say, why try to respect them at all? I look at mine as the biological organisms that created me and people I occassionally spend time talking to. I generally let their "wise advice", regurgitated FOX-news rants, and other nonsense flow smoothly in one ear and other the other. Once they proved to me that THEY were incapable of and uninterested in giving me the kind of relationship with them that I wanted, I pulled the plug.

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Yeah, it's hard sometimes to realize that, while you love your parents, you can't respect them. I hear you loud and clear, CV.

 

I know mine have love for me, but don't respect me. They think most (if not everything I do) is automatically stupid and will end up blowing up in my face. I've never gotten much encouragement or support from them for anything, probably since most things I've wanted to do were not what they themselves would do in my situation. Given that difference, with people of previous generations, it's natural for them to assume that you're just being a dumb young know-it-all; my father in particular is keen to run down young people as being stupid by default and assuming his generation had it all together without a flaw. Of course, that always leads me to wonder why are things not perfect now, if the "flawless" people of his time had given us the society we live in, but I know asking stuff like that will just lead to an argument, so I rest assured in my opinion and go about my merry way.

 

People of previous generations were not always taught the things they know and believe from any sort of truly open or enlightened stance. Much of it was literally beaten into them. Hence, you cannot expect them to have the level of understanding that would result from proper education or a decent worldview. Especially when some form of fervent Xianity is figured into the mix, you can practically bet on things going awry. The only thing you can do it resolve to live as rightly as you know how and let the rest flow off you like water off a duck's back.

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One of my favorite books is The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. It may be somewhat of a children's book,

 

So, in effect, my parents are not playing with a full deck, or even the deck I thought they were playing with. At this point in my life, I might know who I am better than I ever have, but I now realize that I have no idea where I came from.

 

My father was a Lutheran minister, and (for what sin I do not know) was posted to Salt Lake City for his first church. Suffice it to say that mormons are not tolerant of others in their midst, and you'd understand why my mother has had a lifelong dislike for them.

 

(a brief aside - if you haven't read Krakauer's book on mormonism, you should - there's a lot of history there that doesn't get talked about)

 

Anyway, when I was a senior or so in high school (and somewhere between active believer and active atheist), my mother remarked how she couldn't believe that the mormons actually believed what they did when it was pretty clear that John Smith just made the whole thing up.

 

And my first thought was, "how is that any different than the biblical stories, except that they're a lot older".

 

My mother is a very smart and independent woman, but her religion is really, really deep. As is my father's, and one of my sisters.

 

So, I'm not sure where I came from. Perhaps I didn't inherit the belief gene they have...

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It's alright, I thought my parents weren't racist till I dated a black guy.

 

My dad nearly keeled over and my mom said never to do it again.

 

 

I am still very confused as to where all this came from. It just seemed to happen all of a sudden. Perhaps it was there but I just wasn't paying attention to it.

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