Month: February 2014

“Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”

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As most people concerned about the cultural decline of Western civilization continue to moan in despair* , I would like to take a moment to abandon my own complaining and look at one group, at least, that seems to be bucking the trend.  But before I get to the point, I need to digress again which, I suspect, is why many of you are reading this in the first place.

It used to be, there were places where you could meet the right people, even if you were far from home.

When railroads and a general lack of Europeans from different nations slaughtering each other on sight made travel a lot more pleasant, certain places came to be generally accepted as the ones one went to to meet acquaintances.  Perhaps for the Anglophones among us, the archetypal example is the Pump Room at Bath (below).  Anyone familiar with English novels of manners from the pre-Victorian period will have run into this (even casual readers are likely to have encountered it in Austen).

Pump Room Bath

Essentially, it got everyone who was anyone together in one place, without having to go to the trouble and expense of getting invited to the Royal Gala or whatever.

There are other places (notably certain hotels where one would meet for lunch), which took the anglophone through the Victorians and into the 20th century, but by then, the world had once again become a much smaller place, and culturally relevant people – even insular Englishmen – were no longer meeting exclusively in their own cities, or with people from their own countries.

By now, they were meeting in Paris.  More precisely, they were meeting in the Paris Cafés.  1871 is usually pointed to as the beginning of the Belle Époque.  From then until the first world war, Paris was the place to be seen at, and to meet your acquaintances, French, Dutch, Austrian or British.  There is a myth, an image flying around that this era was overrun with impecunious artists.  It is relatively true, but only tells a small part of the story.

Small, but what a story.  It must have been amazing to witness the birth of a new and major current in art every few weeks, driven not by the established masters but by a previously unknown artist from the countryside, or from Spain or somewhere equally unexpected.  The heady times among the currents and countercurrents in the avant-garde were balanced by almost equally exciting events in what was then considered high culture, from the World’s Fair, to Stravinksy.  Even the now reviled Paris Salon gave us iconic images.  Not all the great works were famously rejected, you know.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Le Moulin de la Galette

But WWI brought it to a screeching halt.  Europe was not really in the mood for it all, and any mingling of nationalities would be best done on neutral ground, so the circus moved to Broadway.

Broadway in the twenties

Eventually, the in-crowds moved to Hollywood,  and then spent some time in Monte Carlo (always at least peripherally on this list), but it also lost some of its melting-pot feel.  The problem is that, as the world became smaller and smaller, the enclaves started catering to the super rich… and no one else.  I’m certain you’ll run into the right people if you snag paddock passes for the Monaco GP, but there aren’t many of them, and you might have to sell a yacht to afford them.  Any Dubai pool party classifies in the same category, too.

The day you sell a yacht is supposed to be the second best day of ownership after the day you buy it, but what about those who either prefer to keep their yachts or simply aren’t in that financial class?  What about the slightly less well-to-do global citizen, who wants to be surrounded by like-minded people, but has accidentally travelled thousands of miles from their usual base of operations?

The answer to that, after decades of traveling in a variety of budget levels is surprisingly heartwarming, and I first got an inkling of it when I bought a pass that saved me money on a variety of New York attractions.  The way it was set up was the clue: each ticket let you enter one of two attractions.  One of the options was something typically touristy, while the other option was generally a museum.  Strangely, the typical things you see on TV were usually mirrored by things that I really wanted to do.

I probably missed out on a lot of people very different from myself by choosing the museums.  But I did enjoy them.  And most of the people I generally have things in common with have spent a disproportionate amount of their time in major cities at the Met, MoMA, the Louvre, the Uffizi, the Prado or the National gallery, and considerably less at the photogenic large buildings / famous actor’s former homes / scenic countryside than others who visited the same places.  Art museums seem to be the one place where you’re likely to run into the polymath and global citizen today.  Even the ones who prefer hiking and hitchhiking aren’t going to miss the city’s big museum(s).  The fact that the great cultural artifacts of humanity also attract much smaller crowds than Graceland is only a secondary consideration to the kind of people this blog is aimed at.

Most of them can tell me which wall this…

757px-Van_Gogh_-_Starry_Night_-_Google_Art_Project

is hanging on.

Which, when you stop to think about it, is kind of nice.

*and yes, I know, we urgently need a nice knock-down, drag-out fight about the relative merits of high culture as opposed to popular culture on this blog – the very nature of this space cries out for that particular battle.

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A trip to New York on Hydrogen Wings. It Was Just One of Those Things.

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After the stunning success of our first guest post, I am happy to announce our second, which is also amazing, but in a very different way.  Today’s blogger, Stacy Danielle Stephens is most certainly a polymath in the traditional sense of the word.  Not only is she the owner of Flatwater Press in Nebraska, which puts out classics in affordable editions, but she is also an author in her own right, having written The Nothing That Is and Other Stories,  The Bohemian Girl and Other StoriesWhen So Much Is Left Undone and Other StoriesBut Soon It Will Be Night, and Daybreak in Alabama.  As if that wasn’t enough, she is also extremely knowledgeable about WWII and the immediate prewar era.  And that, of course, means airships. Because, as steampunk writers never tire of telling us, there is nothing more awesome than airships.  Enjoy!

True story.

In 1936, a passenger boarded The Hindenburg, then went to her room to rest before takeoff.  After some time had passed, she began to wonder what the delay was, and rang for a steward.  When he arrived, she asked when they’d be taking off.  He told her they’d taken off over an hour earlier.  This illustrates two things.  Traveling in The Hindenburg was unbelievably placid.  If you weren’t watching the ground passing beneath you, you probably didn’t know you were moving.  The other thing?  You couldn’t watch the ground from your room, because it had no windows.

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A passenger cabin of The Hindenburg was actually smaller than a Pullman car for railroad passengers.  But the Hindenburg passengers didn’t mind this.  They spent most of their time on the promenade deck (below), where they could watch the landscape, in much the way rail passengers in the observation car might, except on The Hindenburg, you watched from above, with just enough altitude for the the view to be dramatically panoramic, yet highly visible.  The Hindenburg operated at low altitudes not just to offer this fabulous scenery, but for the safety of it.  Atmospheric pressure decreases with altitude, and this caused the potentially explosive hydrogen inside to strain at its containment cells.  It would be vented as necessary to prevent damage, but also to compensate for the loss of fuel as it travelled.  And from this lower altitude, the Hindenburg crew was also better able to watch the weather as they approached it, and would not only avoid storms, but even take advantage of them, maneuvering the ship into a useful tailwind whenever and wherever they found it.  The passengers were seldom aware of this, or of the fact that the elevator man was essentially strong-arming the ship’s stabilizers to keep it within five degrees of level, which is another reason passengers seldom felt any sense of movement.  An eight-degree tilt is enough for heavy objects to slide off of a smooth surface, and in household plumbing, drainpipes are set to a four degree slope to ensure that waste water flows easily but quietly.

big_hindenburg_promenade_deck

In 1936, passage on The Hindenburg, between Germany and the US, cost $400; converted to today’s dollars, that would be between five thousand and six thousand, depending on how the conversion is calculated.  For comparison, first class passage on a fast boat was $240.  The Hindenburg would make the crossing in no more than three days; its fastest crossing was forty-three hours.  A fast boat would take five or six days.  For people who could afford it, getting there in half the time was worth paying nearly twice as much, particularly when comfort was only slightly compromised, and any risk of seasickness done away with.

For further comparison, the standard of transcontinental fixed-wing air travel in the thirties was set by United Air Lines Boeing 247.  For $160, United would take you from New York to San Francisco in twenty hours, with five to eight stops along the way.  In those same twenty hours, for still more comparison, the Twentieth Century Limited would take you from New York to Chicago for $52.

Now contrast The Hindenburg’s reading room (below left) with the 247’s interior (below middle) and the 20th Century Limited‘s observation car.

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I have yet to write the passage of my War Correspondent novel in which a woman who travelled on The Hindenburg wistfully recalls the absolute wonder of it some twenty years later.  If you don’t want to wait, you might want to visit The Zeppelin Museum in Friedrichshafen, Germany, and see the Hindenburg replica there.

 

The Grand Tour – Not Just For the 1%

In a world where most travel is vicarious, just a few clicks away, the concept of the Grand Tour may seem wasteful or even immoral.  Something for the 1%, or, much worse, the people who want to be like them, the wannabees, nobles plotting to become royalty (or whatever the 21st century equivalent is).  I believe that it isn’t – but that it has also changed shape, to become almost unrecognizable.

English Gentleman on Grand Tour in Rome

So what, exactly is this Grand Tour thingy? Well, there’s a long, complete article on Wikipedia, of course (which is where the image above of an English gentleman posing in Rome came from), but for our purposes, suffice to say that it was a custom among upper-class gentlemen to take a long trip to continental Europe after finishing their university studies.  It is mainly associated with British gentlemen, but was practiced in most of northern Europe as well as North and South America.

Ah, it’s just like when modern college kids finish college, then, and it’s nothing special.

No, it’s not.

While the purported objectives of both kinds of trips are similar (get to know other cultures), that is where the similarities end.  While a typical modern student trip might involve coming into continued contact with the local populace and seeing the local culture, a Grand Tour would would put one in contact with the creators of that local culture, as well as an understanding of why that culture exists, from the horse’s mouth.

The differences don’t end there…  A grand tour would last months, even years even had youth hostels existed during its heyday, no one on the tour would ever have gone near one.  No, if you’d been visiting the continent, you would have been lodged at the homes of notables in the countries you visited.  You would have been exposed to the top of society, as opposed to the bottom and sides.  There’s a much clearer view from up there, of course, which meant that the Grand Tour would create a much deeper understanding and, in so doing, remove a layer of ignorance and arrogance.  It was a good thing.

It was not universally loved, of course.  Isaac Asimov wrote a story called “Good Taste“, set in a future in which mankind has colonized parts of the solar system.  Essentially, the main character goes on a “Grand Tour” of other celestial bodies, where he gains knowledge and loses some of his prejudices – which eventually leads to serious problems (I don’t want to spoil it for you, if you’d like to read it, the story is available here).  

Fittingly, the conflict centers not on the knowledge gained but on the prejudices lost, and that has always been the Grand Tour’s greatest value.  It takes more than a couple of weeks in Paris to accept the French attitude towards sex (hell, even I was surprised that they show hardcore porn on normal cable channels, completely uncensored) or, on the other side of the spectrum, Arab marriage customs.  You need to understand the people’s quirks, get more than just a passing feel for their beliefs, and see their culture as more than just a tourist.  But in doing so, you will lose part of what makes you similar to the people back home.  It’s the fear of the different, the “contamination” that it brings, that leads to the fear, and this is what Asimov was pointing at in his story.

Of course, there is ample reason to fear, at least in the eyes of the narrow-minded.  On returning home, the attitudes of your acquaintances will seem primitive, provincial and narrow.  Their attempts to right the world’s wrongs will seem basic and one-sided.  Finally, you will not be able to resist speaking out initially out of a desire to help them expand their views, then out of frustration and, finally (if you are too dense to shut up in time), out of self-defense.

I know that among some super-rich families, this is still a custom, but other than that, there are many ways to go on the tour.  Probably the most popular is to get transferred to a job abroad.  This has the advantage that you will be living in relative luxury on company accounts, hobnobbing with the upper crust and other expats, and – though you may not enjoy it – being exposed to other default conditions.  It also lasts long enough to make a lasting impression (three years is typical).

The downside is that people with the experience to deserve a transfer are usually a bit old and set in their ways to be truly moldable.  Maybe the ideal would be to be the child of one of those expats (which has the added upside that you will possibly end up at one of these schools), but that isn’t something you can choose if it didn’t happen naturally.

As a counterpoint, being a world citizen on the internet is just about the worst way to do it.  It gives a lot of information around which to form an opinion, but none of the context that is, by definition, unwritten.  A lot of people believe they have had contact with other cultures or ideas, based on their online adventures.  That is about the same as saying that you’ve climbed Everest because you’ve seen pictures taken from the top.

Anyhow, I think that, if at all possible, everyone should be exposed to an immersion in a different culture at an early age – or at an advanced age.  And never stop teaching what you’ve learned, even if most people won’t want to hear it.

10 Reasons Why It Sucks to Be Single, Female and Smart

Note: today’s post is an important milestone for Classically Educated.  It marks the first time that we have a guest columnist on the blog, and I must say that Scarlett has done an amazing job in the face of that pressure.  She definitely fits the definition of a global citizen and polymath, and yet, her vision of the world is so different from mine.  I hope you enjoy the piece as much as I did!  Scarlett will be answering comments, so feel free to chime in!

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Before we begin digging into the main topic of this post, I must notify all readers that these lines are not likely to touch the heart of most men, and probably most women in their 20’s. My point of view is that of a single female, 40+, professional and single by choice… only not MY choice!

My journey up to now has been quite interesting, fun and enlightening, not to mention frustrating and sometimes sad. At this point, if I hear one more well-intended urban legend on how someone like me, at my age just magically found love around the corner and happiness ever after and everything worked out for them, I’ll run to Tibet and hide with the Dalai Lama!

I’ve had my share of relationships by now, the good, the bad and the ugly… The good were in my 20’s, the bad and the ugly in my 30’s. Now I’m facing a new decade, relationship free, with all my choices open some might say, and it sucks BIG TIME!

Let me tell you why:

1)     Most people who learn about your “condition” (being a single female I mean) for the first time will look at you and think (and even sometimes say): you must be a very difficult person, surely something is wrong with you, otherwise you wouldn’t still be single. You can get angry, fight for your right not to be misjudged, hate the person in front of you, but this is a fact: this is a very common perspective where I live, and many other places around the world.

2)     After having been of great value to your loser ex’s lives, you will at some point casually meet them on the street. You will be wearing sweatpants, no make-up, inexplicable hair, and they will be at their best: fit, tanned, looking like a million bucks, and they will be very nice to you and tell you how happy they are, married, with children and great new jobs where they have been promoted. There will be a moment where they will ask about you. Mark my words: don’t answer!! RUN!!!! Otherwise you will end up feeling even sorrier for yourself, because you will confirm to them that YOU are now the loser ex…

3)     Most of your friends are married with children, which makes it hard to have a fluent conversation, in which both parties pay undivided attention to each other for more than … 20 seconds. Here’s a transcript of a typical catch-up conversation with them. In this self-explanatory example we are describing a conversation with a female friend:

–      Friend: So tell me, what’s new with you?

–      You: Well, not so much, works is fine, a bit unstable as usual. I’m starting a new project with… (my friend is talking to her kid now)

–      Friend: Sweetie, please leave that, you’ll break it and you know how mummy will get upset… Sorry, you were saying?

–      You: I’m starting a new project with this new company, and it’s exciting because… (again talking to her kid)

–      Friend: Darling, stop chasing the cat, she is clearly not interested in playing with you, cats are not like dogs sweetie… We’ve already talked about that, remember? Sorry, you were saying?

–      You: This new project…

–      Friend: What new project? Honey! Come back here now! I told you not play with that! Give it to mommy… OK, that’s better, now sit down and play with your ipad. There you go… Sorry, you were saying?

4)     At some point you will start feeling that your life has become a series of New Year’s resolutions and renewed hopes that this year will be your year, the year your life finally works out and you’ll find what you’re looking for…  Trust me there is no such thing as “YOUR YEAR when everything works out”, etc. It’s a myth, like all the already mentioned urban legends you are frequently told about happy people who finally got their lives together. My advice? Don’t expect so much from one year in your life!

5)     You will have tried everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, in an attempt to open to new experiences, meet new people, expand your mind, and … eventually find your soul mate. Here’s a list of EVERYTHING, are you ready? It will take a while … :

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–      You read The Rules

–      You put The Rules into practice and played hard to get and high value woman

–      You tried online dating… more than one site… more than one year in a row.

–      You tried speed dating

–      You tried slowdating

–      You joined new social networks

–      You accepted unknown callers on Facebook

–      You searched for eligible candidates on LinkedIn and tried contacting them with some lame work related excuse

–      You accepted EVERY blind date you were offered, even though most of the times in the past you couldn’t figure out what could possibly go through your mutual friend’s mind to introduce you to that guy

–      You read Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus, and you found it enlightening and very true…

–      You read Eat, Pray, Love and started thinking how you could manage to get paid to travel the world, learn to enjoy life, master meditation and fall in love like she did … and then write about it and become a success!

–      You are in therapy for as long as you have memory

–      You read The Secret, and firmly believed it works

–      You’ve watched What the @$%&# do We Know” and learned about quantum physics and how your life is your entire mind’s projection…

–      You’ve explored the possibility you might actually be a lesbian in the closet

–      You’ve considered that your soul mate might just be in front of you all this time and you just haven’t realized it

–      You’ve tried having a friend with benefits on the side while you dated other guys just to reduce your anxiety during the process of meeting someone new (a brilliant concept, I believe, as it works just like eating before going to the supermarket: you make better choices and stick to the list if you go on a full tummy :-D)

–      You’ve tried celibacy for a year (or more) to focus your energies on the present, what you have, your work, your social life, your friends, etc.

–      You’ve considered that YOU are the problem and worked out a plan to improve your rough edges with your therapist

–      You’ve considered that THEY are the problem and stop worrying about changing yourself inside out to fit in with other people’s neuroses

–      You’ve recently learned about a new app called Tinder, works similar to an online dating service, but a bit simpler and on your smartphone. You are thinking about joining it …

6)     Your married friends are jealous of all the freedom you have to do as you please, so whenever you complain to them about your so-called “condition they’ll dismiss you with: “Oh honey, it’s not that great as it looks. It’s bloody hard work every single day, you completely lose your freedom, and your hobby of choice is napping when the kids are with their grandparents…” Need I state the obvious? At least you guys will have someone who will feel guilty enough to visit you when you are in a nursing home!! Jeeez …

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7)     At work you will be given harder challenges for the same pay, because you can keep up with longer hours, and being on call. After all, no one is waiting for you to come back home … (Gulp, handkerchiefs please?)

8)     There will be a very hard moment, sort of a sad penny drop moment – it might probably happen when you are about to reach 40 – when you’ll realize that the marketplace you are dealing with (aka the available options of single/ divorced/ separated members of the gender of your choice) is more of an Outlet experience, rather than a Premium / VIP experience. It will seem as if what you have available for dating are leftovers from a Season Sale… Yeah, life is so not fair, I know…

9)     You will also realize that you have a better chance of a healthy long-term relationship with a pet than with a human being. I strongly encourage you to adopt a pet, it’s great experience. Animals are simpler than humans and they are great company. Also they make you look less crazy when you talk to yourself… If this is your case, I would recommend you choose furry pets, as they tend to be more interactive than reptiles or plants.

10)  Last but not least, if you are smart, you will realize that most of your dates are not as smart as you are. Some of them will realize it and some will not. I would give more credit to the ones acknowledging their limitations, if I were you. In any case, this shouldn’t be a problem as long as you find something else where you actually have limitations (it might be hard to find, I know…) and they are more competent, and that might actually work to your advantage. For example: you are average looking, they are gorgeous; you are nearly broke, they are wealthy; you are lazy, they are hard-working and active… You might also find common grounds where you can connect, such as, you are sad and lonely, so are they!

Bottom line, you’ve probably realized by now that I’m a silver lining kind of person. So, if by any chance you see yourself reflected in more than 2 of these points (or, more precisely, facts of life) join the club! You are not alone, you are certainly as hopeless as I am, but not alone, no siree… Some people say your life begins at 40, so whatever age you are: hang in there, and keep the faith!

On Words, as they Relate to Worldview

I once had an online conversation with a writer who really, really doesn’t like me.  We were arguing about something and he responded, that writers should be careful of the words and phrases they use, as they need to be precise.

He was objecting to my use of the phrase “knee-jerk” to describe a decision that he claimed had been taken after consulting everyone involved.  While the original discussion that engendered his comment was never enough to really get my juices flowing, his statement about the importance of precise language stuck with me (you may draw your own conclusions regarding what interests me from the preceding sentence).

Of course, it’s probably a good thing for prose intended for publication to be quickly and easily understandable by the widest audience possible.  But is it really that important outside of the confines of a book?  Even within those confines, I’d argue that a certain amount of transcending the rules is acceptable, so you can imagine that precision in daily language is something that I really don’t think is all that important.

xkcd.com recently summed up my view of this:

Screen Shot 2014-02-12 at 2.06.02 PM

Link to the original comic here.

Sums it up, doesn’t it?  It just seems to me that if people understand what you’re talking about, it’s fine.  I have worked with a large number of accountants and engineers in my time and, as you can imagine, many of them disagree vehemently with this point of view.  And yes, I’ve seen a strong correlation between people who need everything to be in neat little labelled boxes and people who think this way – but that’s not the point today.  I really want to focus on the language implications, because these are the ones that have more to do – in my opinion – with being a global citizen.

How often do you find yourself involved in a conversation with someone in which language barriers mean that you have to pay attention to the context of what the person is saying in order to be able to understand a particular word?  If you move in the circles I do – and I assume that anyone reading this probably does – you often find yourself trying to understand some heavily accented English, or even trying to make yourself understood by reviving those old French lessons.  When you are in the latter position, my structured adversary is probably not the kind of person you want listening to you.

Experience teaches one to relax this requirement for others, and eventually brings one to understand that it isn’t all that important. I think what irritated me most about the original discussion was that he wasn’t focusing on the message but on the language, which has in human history led to a whole bunch of stupid (including the once-relevant PC parrots) , and is something I can never understand.

So I have more questions than answers for you.  Was he doing it on purpose to bug me?  I doubt it – he seemed genuinely mad at me for using the phrase.  But it was clear from the context that it was just a place holder for “making an insufficiently reasoned decision and the wrong one, to boot”, which leads me to the conclusion that he chose to interpret it that way, and to take umbrage.

In this particular case, it’s his problem…  But what does he need to get over something like this?

Essentially, the best way to get past this is actually to be truly global in your outlook.  A big-picture approach is required, and you really can’t get that from books or from your peers, and you can’t really get that if your main contact with the larger world is online, with people you’ve never met.

So, you ask, where is my nemesis from?

If you guessed he’s an American who doesn’t move too far from his home in the midwest, you get full marks.  No bonus points this time, because we all know it was just too easy.  Of course, this is unfair to many midwesterners who actually have outgrown the limitations of their geography, but such is life when space forces one to generalize…

Anyway, I promised eclectic, and eclectic this blog will be.  Art, travel and guest bloggers are coming now that we’ve goteen some of the philosphy and our first list out of the way…

Stay tuned.

Understanding Everyone Else (hint, you won’t manage it, but they’ll appreciate the effort)

So, there you are, sitting around a table at a party, or talking to people at work, or even in a pickup bar.  There comes a point where you realize that the people around you are talking about the same things every day, all day (if this happens to you in pickup bars, you seriously need to consider doing something else with your free time) – and the things they say seem to consist mainly of stuff that only a game show studio audience (or mammals of similar intellect) could possibly find interesting.

It’s kind of hard to know how to react in these cases.  Let’s be honest with ourselves for a second: what we actually want to do is to tell them that they should look into purchasing a brain, or getting out and seeing a little more of life.

Try to resist that temptation.  The people you offend may not be worth much as companions, but they can make your life miserable in trivial ways as long as you have to have contact with them.  Not worth the aggravation.

A better strategy would be to try to understand the people around you.  Why, exactly do they insist on talking about Pharrell Williams’ hat (deduct 100 points if you knew who Pharrell Williams is without clicking the link)?

Simple: the people around you have negligible inner lives.  Their idea of heaven is waiting for 6 o’clock to roll by and then going home to watch TV.  On weekends, they get hammered and have sex with strangers who never call them back.

OK, we admit that there’s some merit in this last bit, but still…

Try to see it – or at least analyze it – from their point of view.  It is likely that most people reading this blog will have had structures shattered at an early age for some reason or another; many of those reasons will have to do with travel, but other motives are likely present, too.  That means, essentially, that you will be more flexible to understand other points of view (you may not agree with them, of course, but that’s another discussion entirely).

But imagine that you are not you.  Imagine that you grew up in a small town somewhere – not necessarily in the US, but anywhere.  You went to school there, you spent your childhood summers fishing in the lake with your friends, and your high school summers making out on the shores of that same lake.  You know exactly what’s right, what’s wrong and how the world works.

It doesn’t even have to be a particularly small town.  Hell, I’ve seen this in people who live in ten-million-strong cities.  Many people seem to need to make the world around them as small as possible, even when the evidence is shouting at them that it’s a reasonably big place.

The above doesn’t paint the whole picture.  In that simplified model we are leaving out parents, and the guy at the general store, and the local newspaper.

Oh, and religion.  Don’t forget about religion.

While it’s sometimes fine for young people to wonder if there might be more to life than what they know, it takes a particularly strong personality to face down a bunch of people he loves and admires who are also armed with millennia of experience in the art of telling people what to think, how to think it and even when to think it.  “Normal”, under these conditions, becomes a very limited set of characteristics.

You, of course, are different.  You know that there is more out there, that being flexible, open-minded and learning about everything is a wonderful way of life.  You want to share it, want to expand the minds of people with small horizons, and you get really frustrated at unnecessary mental blocks.  Even slightly structured people can get on your nerves.

So what do you do?  If you’re like me, you can’t resist tweaking them.  You will make little comments based on the exact opposite of their assumptions or (and I don’t recommend this, as it’s a time sink of epic proportions on the comments front) write a guest blog post about how they are wrong about everything on a site with major traffic, in a nicely dismissive tone.  Yes, the temptation to make them jump is very strong… and the situation is made worse by the fact that the reactions are often extremely entertaining as well.

But my advice is to resist the temptation (do as I say, not as I do, and all that).  The reason has nothing to do with getting along with others and playing nice and everything to do with the fact that it’s a waste of time.  Anyone who’s gotten to adulthood with an excessively rigid set of values isn’t going to change, and the fun of watching them grow angry grows old after a while (OK, some people are extremely funny when angered, but even so).  Plus, there’s the added benefit of people liking you more if you do resist.

So, now that you at least have a slightly better understanding of where everyone else has their heads at, I’m certain you will be much more pleasant to be around.

Oh, who am I kidding?  Just send me the anecdotes when you do tweak them.  I’ll laugh at most and probably ask you for permission to post the better ones here.