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William 4.0: In Beta Testing

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Different Truck, Same Loser - The Wreckers (mp3)
Different Girl - Daisy McCrackin (mp3)

In a friendly and traditional debate with my hard-right in-laws over Thanksgiving, my in-law proclaimed that this country had lost its way and that she was soon bound for another land, presumably a more conservative land where King Scalia and Queen Bachmann ruled and no one ever wanted for anything, because everyone in this land took care of themselves and shot only non-human animals and home invaders with machine guns, and no one needed public education or insurance.

She concluded that I was an ideologue. That is, someone whose views are unwavering, unchanging, and stubbornly or stupidly so, apparently based on my belief that tomato paste is not a vegetable because tomatoes are a fruit.

A few weeks back, I got into a fairly heated private debate on Facebook with a former elementary school classmate. (Only on Facebook, right?) We debated education, cost, and ways to best affect change. But mostly it was me calling her out, and her offering the implied comeback that I was a provincial “homer” compared to her worldly and evolved self.

Toward the end of her concluding retort back to me, she wrote, “I am a changed woman,” following it with all the ways she was clearly a different entity than the version I knew when we were kids and then teenagers.

Are my views unchanging? Am I unchanging?

Is change actually evitable?

I look different in photos than I did when I was in seventh grade. Different than when I turned 21. I'm pretty sure the differences went deeper than my epidermis. Maturity, spiritual beliefs, opinions on health insurance, whatever.

Is it even possible for people to stay the same? Do we just get older? Doesn’t that in and of itself count as change? Even the Matthew McConaughey character in Dazed and Confused, he of the wise words about “high school girls, man...” even he’s not the same guy he was in high school, no matter how desperately he wishes he were.

Twelve years ago, in my third year working at this school, I was a little bit restless, settling into the job and the place and grappling with the fact that I would soon be a first-time father. "Settling" was the operative word at the time, mostly in ways that induced a mild internal panic.

On the heels of two very popular talks to the student body and full of that youthful desperation to prove that anything was possible, I decided I wanted to pull the Evel Knievel of public speeches, the high school spoken-word equivalent of attempting to jump the Grand Canyon.

As the students took their seats, Chuck Berry’s “My Ding-a-Ling” would play over the speakers. Beginning with an exploration of famous pop songs on the subject, I would eventually delve into a wildly humorous discussion of the male need for masturbation.

I got 24 hours away from delivering this speech and was blocked -- some might say cock-blocked -- by several administrators. Despite their calm and amused explanations, I couldn’t understand. We all do it, right? We're not going to pretend guys don't, are we? The whole computer-and-porn thing made things more complicated than ever, right? So why the hell couldn’t I talk about it??

Thinking back on it cracks me up. How confident and certain I was of my daring, of my talent, of my ability to cross the onanistic river Styx unscathed! What the f*#k was I thinking??

So, having pondered on politics and masturbation and time, I return to my elementary school classmate’s proclamation: “I am changed.”

Her words were not a proclamation about herself, but an accusation about me: “I am changed... (and ahem, you are not).” You are still that boy dressed like Samuel Gompers who plays tetherball at recess. You still live in the same town and have resided in the South most of your life. You attend the same church you did when you were six. You are the same.

More troubling, the very need to shout that claim, “I am changed,” is one of needling uncertainty. The chip remains glued on the shoulder and won’t budge. Much like someone who, while walking through the haunted house, keeps saying “I’m not afraid, I’m not afraid, I’m not afraid.”

Better to avoid such proclamations, such claims of difference or sameness. Instead, I'll go with the less debatable route: I am settled.

For now.

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