This one’s almost Pulp Philosophy, but it’s more feelings than philosophy. We all have teachers, the people who instill in us specific lessons about life, the universe, and everything. They might be writers we follow, friends and family, or actual instructors in a classroom setting. In the same way, we’re all teachers. We want to be, setting examples and hoping to make an impact on people’s lives. We want to be the kind of person whose lessons people will carry around with them. And we do carry those lessons around. We cart them from place to place, both good and bad, sometimes using them and sometimes not. But they’re always sort of there. Maybe it’s the student in me, but I’ve had a lot of teachers. Some of them knew it, some of them didn’t. So has the Black Canary.
This past Sunday, I wrote about something I learned about saving money over on my website, and it made me think of this. Alan Watts is famous for being a hippie, philosopher, radio host, and East meets West kind of guy. One of his most famous questions is “What would you do if money were no object?” If it really didn’t matter, how would you spend your time? Everyone has a different answer for this of course, but I think this mine.
What? A Concept Crucible video? This week, yes, in part because I totally lost the reference for the post I’ve been working on for this week, and am now going to have to dig through 90 issues of Birds of Prey to find it. It’s a tough job to read all those comic books, but I’ll manage. Instead, how mac and cheese keeps me hopeful, or at least moving. Words of Power live! Only recorded.
It took me a long time to figure out makeup, and why it’s interesting and important. As a burgeoning academic, I spent rather a lot of time being unconcerned with appearances, and that’s what I thought makeup was. It was a thing you put on to augment your appearance. Which isn’t wrong, I suppose. The question is why. This isn’t an argument about whether or not people should wear makeup, but an explication of its power, and where I think it comes from.
Yesterday I wrote a letter to my grandparents. It’s something I’ve been meaning to do for a while, for a lot of reasons. We don’t talk as much as I’d like to, partly because the internet isn’t exactly their medium of choice, and I don’t have a phone that fits a TTY anymore. Still, I love them, and I want to share in my fortune and misery, like family should. Mostly fortune.
But this isn’t Words of Power: Grandparents. It’s letters, because that’s what writing them got me thinking about. Let me explain.
I just got back from Kalamazoo and the International Congress on Medieval Studies, which always puts me in a bit of a medieval frame of mind, so I thought I’d talk about something medieval that fascinates me. Thus, knights. I should stress that this has little or nothing to do with actual historical knights, but rather the ideas we have about knights and chivalry. The medievalism, rather than the medieval itself. Thinking about knights reminds me of important things that, to my chagrin, I sometimes forget.
As a young man with a bookish bent, I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of wizards. At first as a power fantasy, but while wielding eldritch energies and compelling strange creatures to do their bidding is often a hallmark of wizardry, I think there’s something more useful and compelling about wizards. Wizards often make heroes, and because of that become heroes themselves. And they don’t do it by waving around staves and throwing fireballs, but by having a unique understanding of the human condition and using that to help others.
My boots aren’t really a word, they’re a thing. But there’s an idea which goes along with them, and that’s what reminds me of what’s important. You see, I have a pair of Canadian Forces issue combat boots. I’ve had them for about seven years, and they’ve taken me a lot of places. They came with me on my first trip out of the country, to a conference down in Michigan. They carried me over thirty-six kilometers a week as I worked full time and went to school. I attended my mum’s convocation in them, a few weddings, and even crossed the stage at my own graduation in these beat up boots. They’re light enough to run in, incredibly comfortable, warm in the winter, cool in the summer, and utterly waterproof. They also make a weird squeaking sound on the floors of my department, so it’s not all up side. But none of those are the most important thing about them.
In Sacred, I talked about how tying my boots is a ritual. When I lace them up and tighten the captain bars at the top, it means I’m ready to face the day on my feet, and strengthens my resolve. And that’s part of why I bought them. They were my first pair of really good shoes that I bought myself, with money that I’d earned on my own. I wanted a pair that would last, something that would be strong and take me places. If they were designed for people who got shot at every day, I thought, they’d last me a lifetime. And they just might, at that. They made me feel stronger, more sure of myself, like I’d last a little longer too. But even that’s not the most important part.
See, the most important thing about my boots is that they mean I never have a bad day. Never. Not since I bought them when I was 21. It goes along with who they’re meant for. There are soldiers wearing my shoes. No matter how bad my day is, no matter what kinds of issues I’m experiencing, odds are good that none of them involve bullets. But that isn’t true for someone else in my shoes. Someone else in my shoes is putting themselves in the line of fire. And indirectly, they’re doing it for me. They’re training in the ways of war, hardening their bodies in preparation for defending my way of life. When I think about that, I think that no matter how bad my day is, one of theirs is probably worse. But they’re still doing their best to do it, and the least I can do for all the people in my shoes is do the same. Who’s in your shoes?
Stay with me on this, it’s gonna get pretty nerdy, but it’ll make sense by the end. There’s a few things about Babylon 5 that stick with me, and this is one of them. I do that a lot with media, latch on to little pieces which I think are gold, or that teach me something. When I think of Delenn, I think of the difference between how I see the world, and how I’d like to see the world.
I used to not want to do things just because lots of people were doing them, and the one that comes to mind immediately social media. That’s right, I was a social media hipster. Facebook and Twitter were too mainstream for me, I communicated through email, messenger, and phone calls. If I wanted to share my thoughts, I’d talk about it with you, or even write a letter. My audience was the twenty or so people I knew well, one of whom was my mum (though my mum is still in my audience, to be fair). And that was awesome, because it meant that I could talk about things with people who really mattered to me, and I didn’t need all of those fancy websites to do it. I was cooler without them.