Monday, April 30, 2012

The art of confusion...

Want to know more about the world? Try hanging out with my sister and I for a day. Trust me. We'll make you feel a whole lot better about yourself.

Side note: Incidentally, no, I'm not dead. My apologies for not posting these past few weeks. I've since been to South Carolina, Belgium and Spain, and have returned home to Regina in one piece. More on those adventures later this week, once I work up the energy to collect my thoughts (Translaton: lay off the NyQuil and Benylin combos and download photos.) Am I the only one who dreads the monstrous task of sorting through and filing photos? Mercy.

Now, back to the topic at hand.

I was recently contacted by a lovely gentleman named Ralph Clark, who after reading one of my articles in Grainews, felt compelled to share some information with me. Ralph is a retired minister, and he called me to say: “Janita, you are so clever and wise…your articles in Grainews are the highlight of my day. You remind me of Jesus.” No, he didn’t actually say this. But I suspect he was thinking it. At any rate, he wanted to check in with me about my understanding of the word “meek”. I had used this term in a previous article, whilst spewing great wisdom on the importance of being humble. I shared that being humble doesn't mean thinking less of yourself, rather, it means thinking of yourself less often. I also referenced the following biblical passage, likely because I sort of felt like Jesus. “Blessed are the meek and humble, for it is they who shall inherit the earth.”

As it turns out, back in 1949, Ralph started studying Greek and Hebrew through the United Church. His Hebrew professor was a Southern Baptist, who worked on the revised standard version of the scriptures. Through him, Ralph learned that the word “meek” actually means “teachable”; many people assume it means being submissive, passive, compliant and obedient, all of which make me shudder. Violently. So, I was extremely happy to hear that meek means teachable. Blessed are the teachable. Blessed are those people who are not afraid to admit when they don’t know something. Blessed are those people who stop to learn from others; those who have been there before them, those who have more wisdom, those who haven’t just learned something from a book, rather they’ve learned it from actually living it. I’m sure we’ve all encountered people who have no desire to learn from others, or to see things from a different perspective. Hell, I’ve been that person (Why, hello teenage Janita…indeed, you were a nightmare.). So I leave you with this – be intelligent, be teachable. Thank you, Ralph. Those are very wise words. I really enjoyed our chat. Now please, I beg of you, quit calling me Jesus. It’s bound to go to my head.

This conversation got me to thinking about my knowledge of the world in general, and how I still have so much to learn. For the most part, I’ve never stopped to think about this too much; I know enough to get by. But I tell you, when Jeopardy is on, and my husband is rattling off the answers, in a manner à la Rain Man, I start to wonder: “How the hell does he know all this stuff?” I feel like a mere babe in his presence (for various reasons) – I stare at him in awe like he’s a Nobel Peace Prize recipient or something. It got me to thinking that it must have something to do with our educational differences. I’m the proud product of the public school system and he the proud product of a British boarding school. At his school, since they were all virtually locked-down on campus, they had nothing to do but play sports and spend an inordinate amount of time learning about a variety of subjects such as history, geography and politics. I recall taking the odd geography and history class, but for the most part, it focused on North America’s involvement in events that helped shape the world. My husband learned about the world first; how their country was involved came second. Simply put, their focus was not exclusively inward, it was inclusively outward. Big difference. There are limits, of course, on the merits of receiving a better education. Case in point: as he was learning Latin, I was learning some basic things, like how to type (he’s still a two-fingered pecker) and how to operate a three-ton grain truck, whilst perched high on a phone book. So take that, Pontifex Maximus. (Literal translation, Greatest Pontiff. My translation, Master Pontificator. Marginal, but rather important, difference.)  All this to say, when it comes to world knowledge, I concede - he’s smarter than I am. I pray to all things holy he’s not reading this right now. Oh, his grin. Oh, my horror.

To help illustrate my point, I’m going to share a few excerpts from the year my sister came to live with us. My husband and I had just purchased our first home here in Regina, when my sister decided to make her way to the Queen City. We told her to live with us while she took her time looking for a home – we had plenty of space and there was no need for her to rush into buying anything until she was comfortable with the city (Translation: my husband wanted access to her big screen TV and I, her wardrobe.) So, it was settled. I also had a partner in crime to make fun of my husband, when he prattled on about historic events and the significance of geographical disputes, which was often (his prattling on part...). It’s important to mention here that although I feel my knowledge in a lot of these areas is weak, my sister makes me look smart like NASA scientist…I think perhaps she missed our meagre geography and history classes altogether. Not to mention, since becoming an adult, I occasionally read the odd magazine, newspaper and book. Her, uhm, not so much. When I recently asked her what her favourite book of all time was, she responded: “skinny ones”.

Back to that year. When it came time to watch a movie, and it was my husband’s turn to pick, he would spend a fairly lengthy amount of time setting it up for my sister; the background of the movie, why it was important, its significance and so on. One particular evening, the movie in question was Good Night, and Good Luck. The movie portrays the conflict between veteran radio and television journalist, Edward Murrow and US Senator Joe McCarthy. It speaks to media responsibility, specifically, showing what happens when the media openly disagrees with the government.

Anyway, after a solid five minutes of detailed pre-analysis, I was getting kind of excited to watch it. His commentary was making the whole thing sound rather exciting. He pressed play. Within seconds, my sister bellowed: “Why is this black and white? Is something wrong with the TV?” To which my husband replied, “It's black and white because it helps bring us back to that specific point in history. It helps us relate to the story.” Her response? “So what you're saying is the WHOLE ENTIRE movie is in black and white? Well, that’s just f*cking stupid. I’m going to bed.” And off she went.

Excerpts of a few other conversations that have happened over the years:

Example one:
Me: Now there's a face. That's a Helen-of-Troy face.
Sister: Who?
Me: Helen of Troy. You know...the face that launched 1,000 ships.
Sister: I have no idea what you’re talking about. Are you talking about my hair straightener? 'Cause now that you mention it, I think mine’s called Helen of Troy.

Example two:
Me: Man, this is like Pandora’s Box…all we have left is hope.
Sister: Who?
Me: Pandora's Box. Please tell me you know the story.
Sister: Is she an adult-film star? I really don’t see the connection to this conversation.

Example three:
Me: Wake up!!! OMG.I think that’s Vladimir Putin! (lying on a beach chair in Mexico, punching my sister to wake her up). Holy crap! Does that ever look like Putin!
Sister: snore…repeat, punch…snort… Who? What? Did you just say poutine? Hell, I’m hungry. Is it at the buffet?
Me: No. I said Putin. That guy who just walked by, who you missed incidentally, looked like Vladimir Putin.
Sister: Who?
Me: Vladimir Putin.
Sister: Who the hell is Vladimir Putin?
Me: Tell me you’re jok…never mind. He’s the President of Russia.
Sister: I wouldn’t know him if he came up and clocked me in the face. And another thing? If you ever wake me up for something that f*cking stupid again, I’ll kill you. No word of a lie.

Example four:
Started with me, tapping my toes and singing along to this song by REM.
Husband: Do you know why this song is called “What’s the frequency, Kenneth”?
Me: Ah, no. Is that what they're saying?

Pregnant pause. Very pregnant. Prayed he wouldn't ask what lyrics I'd been singing for the past decade.

Husband: It's actually based on a real-life incident. One night, Dan Rather, who’s a CBS news correspondent, was walking down the street when he was punched from behind and thrown to the ground. His assailant kicked and beat him while repeating, "Kenneth, what's the frequency?” REM decided to write a song about it.
Me: Are you serious? How cool is that! I mean, I’m glad he’s OK. That Dan seems like a rather nice dude. I just had no idea that's what they were saying, erm, ah, that the song actually meant something…I really like that song, too. What’s the frequency, Kenneth, uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huuuuuuuuuuh…da da da da da da.
Husband: Please stop singing.
Sister: (only half-listening, wanders into the living room from the kitchen…) So, what you’re trying to tell us is that this Dan Rather guy says the news for CBS and he’s a singer with REM? Holy shit. That's a pretty cool gig. Very cool. How old is he?

(My husband was entirely and utterly speechless for a solid hour after this comment. He still clocks it as my sister’s all-time best.)

And I’ll end by sharing my own baffling shocker:

Example five:
Husband: Are you going to watch the election results with me?
Me: No, I’m really not that into it. I’ll just read while you watch.
Husband: You should really be more interested.
Me: Yeah, yeah. I’m sort of listening.

Minutes pass, hours, days for all I care…

Me: What’s the nationality of that candidate they just read out?
Husband: What?
Me: That candidate. Juan something or other. Sounded like quite the handle. Just wondering what nationality he is.
Husband: Are you referring to Esquimalt - Juan de Fuca?
Me: Yeah, him. What’s his nationality? I mean, obviously he's Canadian if he's in the running, but I wonder where his ancestors are from? Spain?
Husband: Silence, of the deafening sort. I swear I heard a cricket fart.
Me: Nervous to look up from my book.
Husband: That’s a riding. In your country…you know, Vancouver Island…in British Columbia. Does any of this ring a bell?
Me: Hm. Good to know. I thought that was someone’s name. I shall store that information away for future reference. Locked and loaded.
Husband: You thought Esquimalt Juan de Fuca was somebody's name?
Me: Yes. Yes, I did. And what a cool name that would be. First name, Esquimalt. Last name, Juan de Fuca. Sounds kind of Spanish, doesn't it? Exotic, at any rate.
Husband: You really have no shame, do you?

So to all you kids out there, remember the importance of learning – be intelligent, be teachable, be humble. As an adult, it’ll make for much easier discussions and it will also help you understand social references in movies, art and literature. Or, you can choose not to worry about it and be the one who provides all the cheap entertainment. Clearly, the world needs those types of people, too.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...