Smile and hang out with intelligent people

On a fairly regular basis, people use words like curmudgeon, cynic, pessimist, even “grumpy old man”, when speaking about me.

‘Tis true, I do on occasion, have a little trouble seeing the positives of hanging around this mortal coil. But c’mon people, all one has to do is catch a whiff of the the news, and you too can be a complete and total bummer.

Yesterday, I saw pictures of people celebrating the Supreme Court’s decision reaffirming individual rights of gun ownership, some waving flags depicting automatic weapons, and I must confess it made me a little sad.

Personally, I have no issue with folks who wish own guns for hunting and for sport, but does anyone really need to own an M-16 or an AK-47? Despite having been on the wrong end of a gun at least once in my life, I’ve always subscribed to the theory that the further away I am from guns, the safer I am.

I also love those folks who cling to that romantic notion that guns will protect them from government tyranny. I guess it depends on how you define tyranny, but given that most of the big decisions impacting our daily lives are made these days by huge corporate entities and their soulless government lackeys, I think gun-owners have missed the boat on that one.

But then many of these folks are the same ones steadfastly supporting the current resident of the White House (206 days and counting). I don’t know how anyone can argue that he’s not the single worst President ever in recent history, but people do try. They’ll defend him to the death with those guns, I suspect.

Locally, there’s been a lot of focus on the tragic and unnecessary shooting deaths of Tony Bologna and his two sons. By all accounts, this father of four, was shot without provocation, because he momentarily blocked another car’s path along a street too narrow for both cars, and then did the courteous thing by backing up to let the other driver pass.

Shootings such as these have been on the rise in the Bay Area in recent years. Presumably these are the type of incidents, those celebrating gun owners, are hoping to protect themselves against. Forget that this poor man never saw it coming. Who would? This shooting defies any kind of rational explanation.

Regardless of where you come down on gun ownership, I think any reasonably sane person would look at this story and wonder – who are these people? Who are they that can take another human being’s life without so much as a second thought? I’ve seen the existence of these beings explained away by any number of causes, from economic status, lack of education or broken homes, to video games. But at that moment before they pull the trigger, do they really not know any better?

Clearly, there’s a shortage of foresight or consideration about the ramifications of what they are about to do, but somewhere, deep down in their heart of hearts, do they understand? Are they simply shutting out that internal voice, screaming at them, “THIS IS WRONG”, or does it just not exist? The term, “moral compass” gets bandied about a fair amount lately – but is it really possible we’re cultivating a nation of sociopaths, who lack this mechanism? Aren’t there plenty of broke-ass, ignorant, video-game players without a reliable parent at home who are not out there shooting people willy-nilly?

So forgive me, if after digesting stuff like this with my morning cup of tea, I trudge off to work feeling a little less bright and sunny. But my real dirty little secret, shared by only those closest to me, is that I’m actually a closet optimist. If I didn’t have a firm foundation of hope, brother I would have hung it up a long time ago.

Still, the news isn’t all bad, even if the mainstream media tries to make it appear otherwise – if it bleeds, it leads, I think is the old adage. There’s plenty of really good people out there, doing really good things. People with big, generous, warm hearts. I’m fortunate enough to know a few personally, and even more fortunate to have married one. And I do try to apply myself in ways that make a positive impact on the little threshing floor, if only by treating people in the way, in which I’d like to be treated.

I end up getting by much in the same way Joe Cocker did, and I survive with distractions such as my support of Arsenal FC. In terms of really good people that I’ve met, becoming a Gooner, has enriched my life in ways I could have never imagined. Then of course, there are the staples of any really meaningful existence: good food, books, movies, and music.

I would not be exaggerating if I said music had saved my life a thousand times over. Rather than belaboring this point, I’d like to share a small example of a song that’s had a massive impact on me. Rob Dickinson is a criminally underrated artist, who achieved a modicum of success with his previous band, The Catherine Wheel, and about two years ago, he released a brilliant solo album, Fresh Wine for the Horses, which was recently re-released with a disc of bonus live material.

One of the songs off this record, Intelligent People, has become a bit of a mantra for me since I first heard it.

Arise my son, weary and bleary eyed
You gotta fight, my son
Seek out good souls cause they will be the ones
to hang around and prosper from
Right now it’s all that you can do

You’ve just gotta smile and hang out with intelligent people
You’ve just gotta smile and hang out with intelligent people

He’s playing Friday, July 25, 2008 at Cafe Du Nord in San Francisco. I’ve already bought my tickets.

Cheers, Mark

Comments are closed.