"From this hour I ordain myself loos'd of limits and imaginary lines, going where I list, my own master total and absolute, Listening to others, considering well what they say, Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating, Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me."
Walt Whitman (1819-92)
"When I look back now over my life and call to mind what I might have had simply for taking and did not take, my heart is like to break."
Akhenaton (d. c.1354 BC)
And now, the current weather, from some random person we pulled off the street:
Sunday, March 28, 2004
This week's Blogger Idol topic is "Blogger Pageant," and we are asked to answer a beauty pageant question from Pageantclub, something I must admit that, being a somewhat paunchy, somewhat balding, somewhat 40ish guy, I am unfamiliar with. But here goes.
The Important Questions
pag-eant Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English pagyn, padgeant, literally, scene of a play, from Medieval Latin pagina, perhaps from Latin, page
1 a : a mere show : PRETENSE b : an ostentatious display
2 : SHOW, EXHIBITION; especially : an elaborate colorful exhibition or spectacle often with music that consists of a series of tableaux, of a loosely unified drama, or of a procession usually with floats
3 : Where you might win a title for impressing people by being what they want you to be.
Sometimes, you can actually taste tension.
It's nine thirty two in the evening, sharp, and this year's "Blogger Pageant" is down to the short list. We all stand backstage, nervously awaiting our next turn in front of the judges, which will be the dreaded QUESTION.
I hate the QUESTION. We all hate the QUESTION.
Earlier, we had the evening wear competition. I was confidently striking in my jet black two button shawl lapel tuxedo with red velvet vest and matching hand tied bow tie (inhale here), and sure enough I made the cut.
Next was the swimsuit competition. Amazingly, my risky gamble of wearing a 1920's style horizontal striped trunk and tank top worked like a charm. No one suspected that the tank top was really lycra, designed to hold in my 40 something paunch. I think the big fake handlebar mustache drew the judges attention away from it, too.
No pain, no gain, ya know.
The music stopped, commercial breaks over, and the Master of Ceremonies introduced the next section of the competition. We would each answer a question, one question, unrehearsed and randomly selected. We knew we were supposed to be short and sweet, meaningful and succinct in our answers.
Then one by one, we would parade out onto the stage, and under the spotlight each of us would be asked a different question. You could just smell the nervousness in the air here, as we all strained to hear the questions the others were asked.
"What teams played in this year's Super Bowl?" Sheesh, some people get all the breaks. "Uh, the Cleveland Browns and the Detroit Lions?" Oops, thats a miss, girlfriend. You need to watch more Sunday Afternoon TV.
"Who is Sandra Day O'Connor?" Holy cow, such easy questions! Uh, no she isn't the actress that starred in "The Pajama Game!"
"What is your best quality?" That's easy. Being a caring person, right? Apparently not. According to her, its cuteness. I guess cuteness is a quality, technically.
Uh oh, I'm up.
I walk out into the spotlight, blinded to everything beyond the very edge of the stage itself. Somewhere out there are my parents and friends and my fellow bloggers, I smile dazzlingly, knowing that the caps on my teeth were worth every penny. I pose deliberately at a 45 degree angle when I reach Dave, the Master of Ceremonies, including both him and the judges in my answer. I stand proud, chest out, tensing my muscles just the right amount...
Here it comes.....come on, something easy....something simple....
"What is the greatest crisis facing America?"
Goodness. Leave it to me to get the question that is far from easy, and far from simple.
My mind flashes instantly to moments in my own childhood. Watching Bullwinkle and Dudley-Do-Right on TV, and Wonderful World of Disney on Sunday nights. Spending hours and hours with chemistry and geology sets. Fishing and flying kites and building treehouses. Going to Sunday School every week, and also on Sunday nights. Watching films like the Glass Bottom Boat, Peter Pan, and the Wizard of Oz, and anything with Don Knotts or Peter Sellers in it. Playing games like Checkers, Parchesi, Old Maid, Go Fish, and a thousand others like them.
Then I focus on the children of today. Playing video games that involve killing huge amounts of other people from behind a gun. Watching pounding videos on MTV for hours at a time every day, and carrying them along on their Walkmans as they leave the house, immersing themselves in a culture of anger, death, violence, wanton sexuality, and callousness. Watching movies that we would never have been able to watch at their age, and being confronted at obscene ages with concepts they should never have to deal with. Idolizing and dressing like Eminem, Brittney, and Miss Demeanor.
I see a starving world, doing everything it can to emulate our depravity. Dressing like us, moving like us, listening to our music. America, the blind Pied Piper leading the other helpless nations.....where?
After this instant's thoughts, I return to the moment.
OK, short and sweet.
"The greatest crisis facing America, Dave? Why, that's easy."
I leave it at that. There is a hushed silence in the room. I smile again at the crowd I can't see, at the judges out there in the dark, and as I walk off stage there is a smattering of applause from a few people scattered around who actually understood my answer.
The rest, the ones who did not get it, sit in silent confusion.
I think to myself that I might have blown the pageant, but maybe I planted a seed.
Behind me, the pageant goes on. "Can you name the Vice President of the United States?"
"Um, Hillary Clinton?"
The reason people blame things on previous generations is that there's only one other choice.