Sunday, September 8, 2013

Emerson, Care and General Action

Favorite keeps asking me when I plan to post again (or if I ever plan to post Ryan's 5 month update).  Truthfully, I never intended to stop posting; it was just the natural consequence of several recent occurrences. 

But like Emma Stone will tell you, literature has a way of working itself into the crevices of daily life.  (Or she said something like that in Easy A--taking exception to Huckleberry Finn.  And honestly?  Who could blame her.  It's the one piece of literature I've purposely avoided in my classroom.)  So thirty-five Transcendental speeches later, I'm here to tell you that Ralph Waldo Emerson was on to something when he said, "What I must do is all that concerns me, not what people think."

Approximately thirty of my thirty-five juniors disagreed.  Most believed it necessary to acknowledge the thoughts and feelings of others.  And while I don't necessarily disagree with my students' assessments, I can say I'm not sure Emerson was advocating disregard for every person's feelings at all times.  Instead, his subsequent thoughts indicate his belief in making decisions for one's self instead of allowing the majority to rule:  "This rule, equally arduous in actual and intellectual life, may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness. It is the harder, because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it. It is easy in the world to live after the world's opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude."

Maintaining a sense of perfect sweetness is a great deal harder when people continually try their cases in the court of public opinion--usually because public opinion requires a villain to vindicate the person claiming innocence.  To put it lightly, there's never a clear winner and there's almost always collateral damage.

I'm speaking from experience.  In the last few years, my reputation and the reputations of members of my family have been called into question because of one situation or another.  It didn't seem to matter if we had commented publicly on those situations.  (Mostly, we hadn't.)  Nor did past precedent play a part.  That statement is neither here nor there and you are welcome to completely disregard its validity.

Frankly, I just don't give a damn.  And that's the chair I've been sitting in for the last month or so.

Emerson's right.  All I must do is what concerns me, so here is a list of things that just don't concern me:

1.  Personal opinions about my general character:  Your thoughts are none of my business.  And you know what?  You are welcome to believe about me what you wish to believe.  Ardent belief can't turn a potato into a BMW.  Since I know that, believe away.

2.  General comments about Christian action on Facebook (or otherwise):  The most Godly people I know are doing their best to follow a Jesus they love.  It doesn't mean I always agree with their actions, but I certainly appreciate their sincere approach to the gospel of Christ.

3.  Gossip or slander about people I know or people I've never met:  Of course I have opinions.  But the past five years have been a wake-up call on the issue of personal comments about others.  Say what you need to say.  But don't expect a response.

I am not interested in defending myself.  In the past, I've always had a comment.  Always.  Largely, I think that's what is responsible for my silence about anything except for my son on the blogosphere.  Now, though?  I just don't care.  Think what you wish to think.  Disregard every part of what you've seen.  Believe absolutely everything you've heard.  Make up stuff if you want.


And you know what I've learned?

I'm lighter.  Less uptight.  A freer version of myself.

Maybe this is the last in a long line of lessons about confidence.

And maybe it's just the beginning.

More than likely, though, this space will change.  I feel less willing to share my personal thoughts these days.  I'm more protective of my internal workings.  I've felt embarrassed that I ever shared some of the things I did in such a public forum and even more red-faced to learn the number of people who read those thoughts.

But writing, especially public writing, is a process.  And I'm in the middle of the process--how it evolves, what it becomes and how that impacts my life.

So, where do I go from here?

I can tell you comfortably:  I have no idea.

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