Questions for a Maniac

Part of an ongoing series of questions supplied by an excellent blogger and even more excellent friend.

1. Should you be judged by your worst or best deeds? Does the answer change if you substitute “mankind” for “you”?

Once upon a time I would have said we should be judged by our best deeds.  But since then, I have become more balanced (or cynical, or pragmatic, or whatever nomenclature applies) in my view of life.  We each should be judged by all our deeds.  Human beings individually are highly flawed and highly exceptional.  We are truly capable of mind-boggling cruelty and unbelievable kindnesses.  I think the problem in judging, or better yet, assessing, each other is when we limit ourselves to only the best or worst.  Celebrities are a perfect example.  We love them as long as they conform to our preconceived ideas about who we want them to be as people.  When they confound our expectations, we pillory them.  This is the basis for the cult of failure we currently see running rampant. When they act like human beings, we deride them instead of absorbing those deeds into a more complete picture of them.  It is one of our ugliest traits as a species – the desire to watch each other fail.

It does not change when we substitute mankind.  If anything, it is more important to judge us based on the complexity we exhibit.

Personally, I used to want t0 be judged only by my successes.  But I’ve been very self-critical since college, at least emotionally.  I think that is one of the very few ways I motivate myself, as I am a notoriously poor self-motivator.  It also stems from the guilt I tend to carry around much longer than necessary.  I usually do not judge others harshly, a strange double-standard to be sure.  Now, especially with the advent of this blog, I expect to be judged as a complete being.  There are flaws and strengths in me, and I try and leave it to those who read to come to their own conclusions.  Wish I could be more balanced in my own self-assessment.

2. Would you rather be whole or good?

An interesting follow-up to the first question.  Truly, I wish I could simply be good.  It’s positive, it feels good, it is rewarding.  But, I am who I am because of my weakness as much as my goodness.  And my weakness really is bottomless sometimes.  In fact, I have surprised myself with the extent to which I will debase myself.  Moreso than I could ever openly admit here.  But, even yet, while I try and improve myself and shore up my weaknesses, there is no doubt that the journey through them has shaped me, for better or worse.

So, I will take whole.

3. Describe your first – or best, or worst, or most notorious – brush with danger.

I simply do not do dangerous things.  I am not a risk-taker by nature, except possibly on here.  I do like riding roller coasters, but I don’t consider that dangerous.   In the physical world, the most “dangerous” thing I have ever done is ride a horse.  I was actually fairly good at it, except I could not ride a galloping horse to save my life.  And that leads to the one thing that I consider a brush with danger.  While out in the field riding my chestnut mare, she got spooked or stung, I am not sure which, and began galloping away.  I lurched forward and rolled off her shoulder, landing flat on my back, just missing a clump of rocks.  She galloped off.  After getting my breath back, I started walking.  I figured she had sprinted back to the barn without me and everyone would be wondering where I was.  But, no… over the first rise, she had calmed and stopped and was now eating grass as if nothing had happened.  I lost it.  I grabber the reins and led her back up to the barn, cursing vociferously all the way.  My family was waiting at the top of the field and heard me all the way up the hill.  Much laughter ensued.

Of course, danger is also part and parcel of pursuing that which is forbidden, and so, my greatest failure is a matter of dancing with danger and losing more than I ever expected.  So, danger and stupidity are inexorably linked in my psyche.

4. Opening lines. Are you good with them? Can you comfortably open a play? Can you walk up to someone in a bar (restaurant, bookstore, etc.), to find out if they are, indeed, the old friend that you think they might be? Or are you, like comedian Mike Myers once called himself, a ‘selective extrovert’?

Well, if by opening lines, you mean, do I have “game”?  Absolutely not.  I am the epitome of un-smooth.  Self-conscious about my looks even though I do have the capacity to make someone laugh.  However, am I capable of initiating contact with strangers?  Certainly!  Of course, it is quite dependent upon my disposition on any given day, so, in that case, I am a “selective extrovert”.  I have no qualms about initiating something that is non-confrontational.  However, I am a horrible negotiator and am not one for making a complaint, unless it is egregiously warranted.

The thing is, I am also a watcher.  I like to take in a place, the atmosphere, and the people before making any kind of move.

If I am utilizing someone else’s words, I have little fear at all.  So, in that way, I can definitely comfortably open a play, and have done so more than a few times.

5. Photographs. How do you feel about them? Do you take many? Has your frequency and taste for photography changed in the digital age? Do you prefer color or B&W? Describe the best photo you’ve seen.

As a visually centered person, photographs are a wonder to me.  I do not take as many as I should, because I feel like I can never really capture the essence of what I am experiencing in a photograph.  That is my own limitation.  I use photographs more as a record rather than a personal expression.  Which is why I find those who have a talent for capturing art via photographs to be so intriguing.

My taste in photos has remained constant.  I value photos that capture what we know from a different perspective.  And there is nothing quite as breathtaking as a moment of transcendent natural beauty suspended in time.  That is probably why Ansel Adams is my favorite photographer.  Admittedly, it’s like picking a Top 40 tune as your favorite song, but there is no denying the beauty in his images.

As for whether I prefer color or B&W, it really comes down to the subject.  I think portraits lend themselves better to black and white.  Especially if the person has a rugged face.  The play of light and shadow is endless in some portraits.  Landscapes I prefer in color, unless they are winterscapes, where the monochromaticism of B&W really shines.

I don’t have a single favorite photograph, but one of my favorites is one of my mom.  It was 1976 and we were on vacation up by the headwaters of the Mississippi.  It’s a photo of her leaning against the railing on a bridge and it’s my favorite photo of her, because she looks happy and beautiful. It captures the best parts of her personality.



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