Have you ever metaphor you didn’t like; well I’ve had a simile experience, and the weekly writing challenge has helped me to relieve myself of that burden. If you’d like to give it a try, check it out here.
Here’s my take on fighting the culture war – or, my ‘clash of civilizations.’
A few years ago, shortly after the tragic events of 9/11, Samuel Huntington wrote an essay on the ‘Clash of Civilizations.’ Huntington’s treatise primarily addressed the potential for conflict between traditional Islamic societies and secular Western civilization. I have a news flash for the good professor; the clash of civilizations has been going on for millennia, and it’s played out in the arena of cross-cultural marriages.
I’ve been engaged in a clash of culture for nearly 40 years; I’m married to an ethnic Korean from that generation of traditional Koreans. Our clash begins with the oddities in our personal histories; she’s a Presbyterian who thinks Buddhism is old-fashioned, despite the fact that her late parents were both Buddhist, and I’m a former Baptist, who left that religion when I was a teenager, and, after experimenting with a number of different faiths, decided that Buddhism was the path I was most comfortable following. I’m a laid back type, preferring to take the middle road, while she’s a complete Calvinist; and a worrier to boot.
A recent conversation will illustrate the course of our perennial bouts. We were sitting around; me pecking away at my keyboard like a hungry chicken, while she sat with her eyes glued to the screen of the idiot tube, watching some news show. Now, I can sit quietly for hours, listening to nothing but the pecking sound of my fingers on the keys, lost in the ocean of my thoughts as they crash upon the shores of my consciousness; while she, on the other hand, is like the air that must fill any vacuum it encounters – silence to her is brass, not gold. She also has a rather annoying habit of starting conversations at random points, often somewhere near the middle of her stream of thought; words bobbing up and snatching at the unwary dragon fly that was hovering above the surface.
“I really feel sorry for those old people,” she said.
She had to be talking to me, because she only talks to the TV during soap operas when she’s upset at one of the characters.
“What old people?” I ask, removing my fingers from the keyboard.
Now, I have long since learned, is the time to move away from what I’ve been doing and pay attention – there’ll be a test, mark my words.
“You never pay attention,” she said. “Those people there on the TV.”
“Oh, yes, those people. Why do you feel sorry for them?”
“They still have to work, and they should be retired.”
“Maybe,” I say. “They enjoy working. Some people don’t handle idleness well.”
“That’s okay if you’re the boss. Then you only have to give directions. But, if you’re just a worker, you have to take orders and have more responsibility and pressure.”
At this point is where I want to say that there’s far more pressure on the person in charge than subordinates; the responsibility of being the boss is tremendous; but, I don’t. Instead, I say, “Yeah, I guess you have a point.”
Then, I unplug my laptop, and taking it and my notes, retreat to my Fortress of Solitude; the office I’ve set up in my garage; a place she avoids like the proverbial plague because along with my computer mouse, there is the occasional four-legged variety of rodent running around beneath my desk. I do this because to do anything else will expose me to the Kryptonite of her criticism of my leadership style, which she thinks is too generous to subordinates, far too easy on people who should be jumping whenever I say ‘jump.’ On those rare occasions when I foolishly engage her in this conversation, I’m drowned in a tidal wave of instructions on how to be a ‘proper’ boss, sucked ever downwards in a whirlpool of dictatorial management advice; until I come to my senses and quietly stroke to the surface to gulp the clean air of silence.
You might ask how I have endured nearly four decades of this culture war? Easy; I long ago declared an armed truce; a cease fire that is only occasionally broken by cross border sniping, which, wisely, I’m usually the one to take finger off trigger. The guns are silent now; the news show has been replaced by another of those moan and groan soap operas in which everyone is sleeping with everyone else, and the hero loses in the end. That ensures the guns will be silent for at least another hour, and maybe, just maybe, I can get some writing done.