Sunday, January 22, 2006

The scowl-iPod fashion trend

We’ve just finished up the second week of school and I’ve learned a very important lesson: Nothing ruins a person’s aesthetic appeal less than the latest fashion combo of a scowl and an iPod. I have to wonder if everybody with an iPod is walking around forcing themselves to suffer through Wagner’s entire ring cycle – that would warrant more than a scowl.
Maybe the scowls come from listening to podcasts of the news. A brief look at recent headlines would include: Veiled threats of nuclear strikes against terrorist states (a.k.a. nations with a different agenda than the west); Mixed messages to love fellow members of our species but that we are at war and will kill our enemies; Iran threatens Israel; Israel threatens Iran; and so on. Great, now I’m scowling.
And then, there’s my personal belief for the dour expressions I’ve been seeing not just on students, but on faculty and staff as well. I think that we have forgotten what it means to be curious about those around us. Why? Well, we are in the sixth year of an perpetual war – how can there be an end to a war where an offered truce is summarily dismissed as a ploy? And that can’t help but to buildup levels of distrust, fear between various groups of people. People begin to look at their neighbors differently, particularly if the neighbor is not white: “Why is my neighbor of (fill-in the blank) descent taking pictures of a particular tourist attraction? I should call homeland security just incase.” And so we put on iPods and crank the Wagner, J5 or even Acta Non Verba and tune out the rest of the world. Of course, we don’t feel any better, just safely isolated.
What ever happened to just saying hi and inviting your neighbor over for coffee to get to know them? Is this the future? Is this how we are supposed to live from now on? I can’t accept this sort of life. Please tell me that as a diverse nation we have not forgotten how to be curious without suspicion – curious simply because we want to know, not because we’re scared.
In 1927, Max Ehrmann of Terre Haute, Indiana wrote a little poem encapsulating some advice that is cross-culturally relevant, even here and now. Here’s the opening stanza:
Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant, they too have their story.
It probably sounds familiar. The Desiderata was a rallying point for San Francisco’s flower-children. The words in it are very beautiful, but the lessons are just as hard now as they were in the 60s, if not harder.
But maybe, for just this week its words will make some sense and the scowl-iPod fashion trend will be bucked. I just figured it couldn’t hurt to try.

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