Ok. I admit it. I watch Battlestar Galactica (the new one) on the net after it posts every week. With my husband. After the kids are in bed. It is a delicious, silly treat. Somewhat akin to reading fiction in bed as a child, with the flashlight (dad did not encourage me to read fiction, he said it was junk). But like the Star Trek fans of old, there are people who make costumes, go to conferences to meet actors and discuss plots, and in general show a high degree of focus and energy on these things that it makes me shake my head. Live and let live, but I am just too lazy to do that.
I also read about how pro-anorexia and bulimia sites have ballooned on the net, in all languages thinkable. I looked at some of these sites, trying to understand what goes on in these peoples (not just female anymore) heads, hearts, and bodies. Aside from feeling very sad, because there is a grain of truth in the sentiments that each site echoes about how women (and men, particularly young men) are valued, I also thought: I am too lazy to do that. The discipline and obsession required to pursue those sorts of eating disorders is just not something I could pull off. In addition, I like cheese too much. And bread. Really good bread. And fruit, fresh fruit. . .and garden vegetables. . .and grilled meat. . .and pasta, tossed with fresh tomatoes and mozzarella, or clam sauce. . .mmmmmm.
Ok, I digress.
Digressing is not focusing, I tell myself. I realized with many tears last week that as creative as I can be in problem solving, I am just too lazy to really get crazy about anything. Even when I was dating, I couldnt get too worked up about anyone who wasnt more obsessed with me than I was with them. I usually became friends with the people I dated, because I was just too lazy to do anything else. Being angry takes way too much energy, and there seems to always be something more interesting to think about. Now dont get me wrong. I can be stubborn when it comes to gross levels of injustice, and inconsolable when it comes to issues of profound evil. Yet going over the edge about anything, especially daily habits, seems like a lot of work. It takes enough effort to keep a level of structure in my life that keeps the recyclables going out every week, the floor picked up, laundry done, family fed, my mind and the garden reasonably cultivated, and so forth. To simply stave off chaos requires a lot of work.
I tried being a vegetarian for a while when I was younger (and single) because good meat was expensive, and I wasnt very good at cooking it. It didnt last long. My mother used to tell me with a high degree of irritation in her voice that I always fell into things. I think what she meant was that I wasnt disciplined enough to choose and chase any particular activity, and that all the mistakes I made were not particularly by choice, but due to ignorance and laziness. You can imagine, it frustrated her greatly. It frustrates me now, to think about all the opportunities blown, the paths not taken.
I see some of this in my eldest son. He is very easy going; some call him happy go lucky (not to be confused with Holly Go Lightly, at least I hope not). He did not cry for the first year of his life, but would do this strange grunty thing when he was upset. We used to call him the growly bear with chicken hair (he had very blonde, wispy, unruly hair that stuck out everywhere). He is usually a very sunny child, and many people remark upon it. He has developed an impish, rebellious side though and for that I am grateful (even if it sets me off from time to time). But usually, he is an easy to please, happy, go-with-the-flow sort of little guy. The down side is that he too can be manipulated, and coerced into things he would rather not do, and sometimes be the butt of a cruel childs joke. He does not understand it when this happens, and neither do I. As I said, it takes way too much energy to be mean, and there are so many better things to do.
Husband disagrees with me as I read this to him. He lists all the times I stay up until three to finish a book, or go like a terrier down a rabbit hole when doing research and trying to find out about a subject. I tell him this is not obsession. I say this is not the same thing at all as the comi-con fans, the eating-disorder women, the muscle heads, the political wonks, the bunny boilers, the rebel flag wearing gun-nuts, or any assortment of folks that do not fill the role of hobbyist, or even earnest endeavor, but rather something quite a bit more, something bordering on the crazy, something that requires a large amount of energy, time, and not a drop of laziness.
I think one of the core trusts we have in this country, the comfort, is knowing that no matter how crazy anyone seems to be, how different, how engaged in things utterly alien to some, that these things usually are not truly harmful and usually are not really obsessive. Even differences that are core to our identity do not usually cause harm, and do not fit the term obsessive, but rather descriptive.
In general, I think we have all come to trust that one of the things about living in the U.S. is that we are our own worst enemies. If our government at all levels manages to keep infrastructure going, and stays out of our personal lives above that line of actual harm (not theoretical, an important distinction when dealing with religious nuts who want fascist reforms), if the economics of this country allow for most to work for livable wages under conditions that are both fair and encourage good work, creates considerations for those who cant contribute in traditional ways, and the greater good is achieved not by excluding others, but by trying to work that complex space of liberty and justice for all (the under god part was tacked on very recently by the way, and nothing the Heritage Foundation says or does actually encourages any part of the liberty and justice part, no matter how much they wish to copy-right the verses) well, then we do as we can and as we like. This lays the foundation for the best R&D imaginable (with good education and funding) because it opens up the realm of the imagination, and experience. We trust that people can make costumes for themselves, role play; collect rocks, books, cooking utensils, baby shoes or nail clippers; that people can have organizations that are specially formed for the discussion of these interests, and can lose themselves in these activities. We trust the utter craziness of this social experiment we live within, and shrug when we see the array of parades and web sites for every damned thing imaginable. It is when we forget that this is an important part of our lives, when we try to suppress or actively harm people who are different, that we lose. Because as we do this to others, so can it be done to us.
I should not have to repeat but I will: this is not to say there should be no baselines of law established. But those baselines should restrict those who do actual harm, and do more encouraging of actual liberty. Economic coercion of individuals and groups is not acceptable either, because in practice (as we currently see) it does the same thing as suppressive laws, and not nearly enough economic support for liberty and fraternity, or general social good (I will not even go into the financial support of corporations as individuals, one of the most insane definitions ever made in financial law).
It takes an enormous amount of front-end energy to set systems to do good, and an even larger amount of energy to suppress, harm, and manipulate after the fact. Some say not being engaged in this process at all is the position of apathy, or laziness; and that this leads inevitably to chaos. Also, most will angrily add, this requires that others become obsessed, do all the work. That Hen making the bread story meant to teach children sort of thing. Oh, in all things entertainment related, being lazy is fine- encouraged even. But when it comes to being a citizen participation is essential. I do not disagree. But participation and obsession are two different things. Ill participate to establish those golden means all at once necessary as well as unattainable. I know this requires a constant level of knowledge and action. But I cant get obsessed. Eternal vigilance may be the price of liberty as Milton Friedman posited. But can one be vigilant and jubilant as well? Can we take care of our daily lives with some degree of finesse, attend to the greater good, and still have time for Battlestar Galactica? I hope so. Because if not, be afraid. Be afraid for us all. Because most of us, most of us are just too lazy for that.