Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Not Not Rambling


New favorite concept – double negatives.

                  How do you think that meeting went? Well, it was not not a train wreck.

                  What do you think of Romney getting the GOP nod? Well, he’s not not
                  bumbling, out of touch conservative who doesn’t even deserve to share the
                  debate stage with our president.

Sadly, in many cases I’ve misjudged others’ grasp of what I wrongly assumed was obvious sarcasm (not even sarcasm, really. Just grammatically incorrect honesty).  Responses usually go something like this: Wow, I didn’t know you were a Republican! That’s followed by my awkward attempt to back out of the hole I’ve dug for myself (as if I need any help making a situation awkward). So, as it turns out, double negatives are not an extremely useful comedic weapon. Nevertheless, it warms my heart to be thanked by someone after I tell him he’s not not stupid.  

Reading The Color Purple by Alice Walker (very well-known in the Afro-American canon and Pulitzer Prize winner in 1982). Needed to deviate from English literature (so I can welcome it back with open arms in 2 months time). Amazing that a reader can love a book without having any desire to enter into the world of the book. We all want to live at Hogwarts, so Harry Potter has an obvious draw, but what about novels set in some repulsive society where very little good ever happens? What does it say about us that we escape our own worlds to peek into other, less desirable ones? Shows compassion, open-mindedness and a genuine interest in humanity at the very least. And perhaps – in some small way – a sense of dissatisfaction, or probably just some sense of insecurity, with our own lives.  I know your shaking your head, but hear me out. I’m not saying that anyone in his or her right mind would trade places with Celie (I won’t horrify you with the gritty details, but take my word for it - she has been dealt one of the worst hands of anyone in American literature. No one envies her).  But maybe sometimes we need a reminder of our own good fortunes, even if a consciously grateful thought doesn’t cross our minds while we’re reading. 

I don’t close my book each night and think “thank God” – er, not literally of course, but let's go with it just for the sake of this point – “thank God my sister is safe and sound in our home right now, unlike the female characters in this book.”  But it registers somewhere in my subconscious that by pure luck I wound up in an entirely different and better situation than Celie. Somewhere in the depths of my brain I’m thinking… wow, how truly awful that this happened to someone (even a fictional someone). But equally, how amazing that not only have I never encountered this, but I am so far removed from it that I can only begin to understand it by reading about it in a book. It's a kind of "aha" moment for the subconscious, right? This may be a stretch, but I'm going to venture to assert that these subconscious "aha" moments inform our daily lives. Kindness for the homeless man on the street, trying to "walk a mile" in your boyfriend's / parent's / manager's shoes instead of becoming frustrated with them, etc. If we're not reading, when do we otherwise have the opportunity to meet and understand such an array of people from all walks of life? Living in the East Village, I've probably got a better chance than most people, but even I have never met the likes of Celie or Heathcliff or Fagin. And if we can fully accept them into our lives and hearts, then who can we not find common ground with?   

2 comments:

Abhinesh Warrier said...

Liked the closing lines. Really nice.

mjr said...

Extremely not not entertaining, very un-uninsightful.