Monday, September 2, 2013

Literalism versus Favoritism

Growing up in my family, it didn't do to be reductive.  Superlatives and absolutes tended to be greeted with deconstructive comments (not un-constructive, but rather debunkingly analytical), and so I learned early to avoid stating many extremes.

Well, I didn't learn not to state them.  But I did learn that if I took anything to a descriptive limit, there would always be someone standing by that boundary to prove it was far more distant than anything I could quantify, or that the very boundary itself was imaginary.

So I began at a young age to take the concept of "favorite", for instance, to its illogical conclusion, and to avoid the idea assiduously.  I can actually recall taking my idea, that green was my favorite color, and lying in the backseat of my parents' very green indeed Plymouth Fury station wagon, peering at the physical greenness of my surroundings, and imagining green as the ONLY color I could ever have, and being disappointed.

It's one of the million ways we affect one another as humans, this sort of tiny influencing commentary of a family, which becomes a very silly part of someone's being, far far beyond any real intention or even expectation.  My parents and brother might have wanted me to become a critical thinker, but to provide me a mild neurosis about favorite things could hardly have been their point.  It means (per my blog's very headline) that I contain multitudes, but it also means I make a rotten interview, because I snark on about how reductive questions are instead of answering them.

And so I am aware that people are capable of feeling that one color is best, or one food is peerless, but the idea of choosing gives me the distantest echo of Sophie's dilemma, in that I despise to pick one superlative because everything apart from "the best" still creates the richness and variety and context that makes anything truly shine.  Intellectually, I can know that loving one thing most doesn't doom all else to destruction - and yet, the only context in this world in which I can honestly say I have a favorite is in Mr. X, who is my most favorite person in the world with whom I don't share DNA.  I peek around from time to time, just to be sure, but at almost eleven years knowing him, it seems reasonable to state he really did ruin me for all the other boys.

It can be bewildering, though, to run across other people's favorite things, because there can be hard lines in this world it's trickier to negotiate if you don't draw your own.  Other people can put you on a path or hem you in with their ability to hold absolutes - in religion and politics, of course, this can get dangerous.  And, at times, it can be more comfortable to be persuasable ("where do you want to eat?"), but of course there are those who see a certain type of flexibility as waffling.

I have my convictions, but I keep them pretty close and refuse to hand them out to anyone I am not pretty intimate with.  Most of my own hard lines took me decades to draw - and, as I have grown older, I have discarded some of those things I thought were non-negotiable when I was a younger person.  Few of my deepest ... expectations (beliefs can be a different thing) ... have ever actually changed - and yet, I have seen my methods of managing their presence adapt in amazing ways over my lifetime.

This calendar year has seen some of the profoundest philosophical changes in me - without compromise, and yet without radical outward alterations.  It is at the deepest level I've let go of certain boundaries, and in the quietest solitude of my soul I have found liberty it astonishes me to have given myself and my heart.

Relinquishing certain expectations has only solidified the power of what drives and matters to me most.  Letting go of certain ideas of practical living, of faith, and even love, has only deepened these things by providing clarity.  There is great peace in the understanding this can give, and such emotional power, and all over again I find myself grateful with the blessings that seem to provide themselves to me, all undeserving.  Paths are easier to follow, fears are fewer.

I don't know a lot of people who can claim the assurance I feel, simply by letting go of certain ideas about conviction, by questioning those things which are supposed to be "given" for us as human beings.

Question something you hate, or love, or fear.  Really let yourself be wrong ... or, more terrifyingly, right.  There's almost no liberty like it.  Almost no power at all.  It is joyous.

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