Learning From the Past

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I was not born when it happened, but it was close enough to the time when I entered the world that I often heard about it. It was during the reign of terror brought on by Adolf Hitler that book burnings became common place in Germany. Any writing that Hitler and his men thought to be counter to their beliefs was deemed inappropriate, confiscated and burned in the public square. The idea was to eliminate works that might cause citizens to ask questions, to actually think. Books and philosophies have been banned in other eras and societies as well. It has been the topic of dystopian novels and movies depicting dark governments where freedom is obliterated in favor of a set of ruling beliefs. It is something that we particularly find abhorrent here in America, but nonetheless such extreme control sometimes creeps in, often with good intentions. We have learned that there is a very fine line between judging the appropriateness of the written word, and becoming authoritarian in controlling it. If we are to protect our freedoms we must be very careful in our approach to ideas that we find uncomfortable.

It is one thing to avoid certain books or authors on a personal level, and quite another to suggest that particular writings be removed from the public domain. I may find the Shades of Grey books to be offensive, but I would never suggest that others who enjoy them be denied the pleasure of reading them. The rantings of Adolf Hitler in Mein Kampf are impossible to accept, but I plowed through them just so I might know how the mind of a true fanatic actually works. Often our best option with volumes that disturb us is to become more familiar with them. As the godfather said we should keep our friends close and our enemies closer. There is much to be learned from the words of those with whom we disagree. We may never embrace their philosophies, but we know what they are thinking which is always a good defense.

Lately we have a kind of policing of writings that is far from being akin to the Nazi methodologies, but nonetheless should be troubling to all of us. The latests dust up is over the Little House on the Prairie books from Laura Ingalls Wilder. In a series of stories written for children Ms. Wilder described her life with a pioneer family moving west. She spoke honestly of the people and events that she encountered and for many decades now the volumes have been a favorite among readers, even spawning a long running and successful television program. For her efforts a literary award was even named in her honor, but recently the society of librarians who distribute the distinction decided to erase her name from the prize because of a perception that her works demonstrate racist and mysoginistic tendencies. The parsing of her words and ideas has even led to suggestions that schools named for Ms. Wilder be changed, and some question the appropriateness of reading them to children.

I find myself feeling a tiny bit squeamish about all of this, especially since the judgement of the books doesn’t appear to take into account the realities of a bygone era. Instead of using the tales to demonstrate how far we have gone or to hold discussions of how offensive some common ways of past thinking were, we want to just wipe the author away as though none of what she described actually happened. Children really can handle the truth, and usually do it better than some adults. It might be shocking to hear Ma Ingalls making disparaging comments about Native Americans, but think of what a teachable moment reading about it might be for youngsters. When Pa takes off his belt to whip one of the kids yet another dialogue about changing ways of discipline might ensue. It is important that our young understand that in judging historical events we are almost certainly going to encounter ways of doing things that seem foreign in today’s world. It’s a fairly certain bet that our own times will have elements that confuse and confound the people of the future. We are slowly but surely changing and evolving and approaching situations differently than our ancestors did. It should not hurt us to learn about their ways, but instead should enlighten us.

Whenever I read books written in a time passed I always consider the influence of the people and events that were taking place then, not now. Our manners and even our language adapt over the decades. I often wonder how shocked my great grandparents would be if they were suddenly plopped down into the twenty first century. They died without ever having electricity or running water. They lived in the wilderness in an atmosphere of quiet. They had little education and never traveled far from home. Their experiences were limited to a tiny geographical area. They did not enjoy the educational opportunities that we today take for granted. With such a limited worldview it is likely that they may have had philosophies that would make me cringe, but I would not be comfortable judging them because they were not exposed to as much diversity of thought as I have been.

Read the books from Laura Ingalls Wilder or not. It is an individual prerogative. Don’t however indict her for an honest telling of a time when minstrel shows were common and thought to be fine entertainment. Don’t call her racist simply because some of her characters were afraid of the Native Americans that they encountered. Don’t parse her every word to find omissions or slips of the tongue that appear to demonstrate a hidden agenda. I suspect that she was simply a talented writer who wanted to tell her story of a time and people that even she understood were not without flaws. In fact she made her characters very human and did not mince words in pointing out their problematic features. She should be applauded for that, not condemned.

So far nobody has suggested banning or burning Ms. Wilder’s books but a bit of a dust up of indignation has indeed occurred. If we let the ruckus go too far we might find ourselves obliterating the magnificent works of Mark Twain or even William Shakespeare. We need to be certain that our goal is only to critique, not to banish. Every voice must be allowed in the spirit of freedom, otherwise we run the risk of overstepping the bounds of liberty.

Life has changed in so many ways. My mother-in-law often told of the time that her father was beaten by a teacher when he misbehaved at school. She proudly noted that her grandmother demonstrated her disapproval of the punishment by summarily whipping the offending educator with a buggy whip. We know that such behavior would have ended badly for both women in today’s world, but the memory is expressive of just how much we have changed. My mother-in-law was one of the most nonviolent people I have ever known. To attribute bad behavior to her because she repeated the story would be absurd. Perhaps we need to think about things that trouble us with less judgement and more joy in realizing that we have moved beyond such beliefs. Use the past as an educational tool, not a whipping post.

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Shades of Gray

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Years ago a friend of mine decided to enlist a professional decorator to help her enhance the appearance of her home. The artist walked through the house quietly looking around, picking up items now and again, jotting down observations. When she had completed her tour she sat down with my friend and bluntly asked, “How much of this junk are you willing to remove?”

There was a stunned silence as my friend attempted to understand exactly what the designer had just asked her. “All of it has to stay,” was her halting reply. “These are my family’s things. We use everything that you see. They have special meanings to us. I just need you to add some color, move a few things around, arrange our belongings in a more inviting way. The books, music, mementoes and such are part of who we are. They have to be incorporated into your plan.”

With a look of unadulterated disgust the interior artist suddenly stood up while putting away her notebook and pen. She announced with an arrogant emphasis, “I can’t help you. I can’t do a thing for you if you are unwilling to completely change the way things look around here. This is too much. You need to find someone else or do it yourself.”

My friend likes to tell everyone that she was stunned into a state of silence as the decorator promptly left. Later she did all of the rearranging and painting by herself and the results were quite lovely. She realized in that moment that she had chosen all of the things that seemed like clutter to the designer, and they were more than just junk. They were pieces of her family’s history.

I was reminded of this story when I recently read one of those click bait articles that often appear on Facebook. The topic was how to know when your home decorating is no longer trendy. The author consulted with respected interior designers to determine how to know when things go out of style. The entire essay came across as being snooty and out of touch with the realities of ordinary people. It insisted that kitchens with granite countertops and stainless steel appliances are already passé. It further suggested that homes done in shades of gray and white are hopelessly behind the times. The author knocked the country look, anything resembling a Chip and Joana home, items purchased at Target, Edison light bulbs and so on. The words reeked of the same kind of arrogance that my friend had endured in her one encounter with a professional. The comments from Facebook users tore the suggestions apart, with readers hurling their fury at the unrealistic haughtiness of the writer.

I had to laugh because according to the article my home should be in the “what not to do” hall of fame. Nonetheless I really like the way things look around here. Every inch of my space tells a story about people I have known and places that I have been. The walls are filled with art that either reminds me of trips that I have taken or friends and relatives who created the work for me. I have books in every room that touched my soul as I read them. The furniture is an eclectic mix of inherited antiques and comfortable modern pieces that I like. There are colors that make me happy, not those that happen to be in style. I have plants scattered about that bring in the outdoors and magazines waiting to be read. There is a lovely memory everywhere that I glance, right down to the heart shaped rock that my grandchildren discovered on a back backing hike that I shared with them in the mountains of Colorado. I am more than content with what I see because my environment is personal and meaningful. I never feel as though I am in a hotel or someone else’s space.

I certainly have no trouble with the idea of incorporating suggestions from someone who has studied color, fabric, furniture, proportion and such. I regularly read Southern Living and watch HGTV now and again. I have items from Target and Home Goods but I also sometimes splurge on something special from Pottery Barn or Restoration Hardware. I consider my purchases carefully most of the time, but it can be fun to bring something whimsical into the picture, and I almost always find a lasting memento to add to my collection when I take a trip. I have a giant pine cone from California and a lovely print of a sailing ship from Cape Cod. A cobalt blue pitcher that was handblown in Estes Park, Colorado adorns my dining room, and prints of Savannah, Georgia hang in the living room. When I see these things I recall the fun that I shared with my family. They allow me to relive such grand moments again and again.

Decorating is a very personal thing, and I suspect that a truly gifted designer understands that. Years ago when my mother in law was redoing a grand old home she enlisted the help of a professional who wisely surveyed the items that would be used as well as the color palette that my mother in law preferred. Mostly the work of creating a pleasing environment involved incorporating my mother in law’s taste into the final product. The result was picture perfect and best of all it reflected the personality of the owners of the home, not the person who would never live there.

Decorating is fun, but it needn’t be expensive or impersonal. The best homes are the ones that instantly capture the essence of the people who reside inside. A great house is warm and inviting. If done right it doesn’t matter if it is gray or filled with a rainbow of colors, clean and sleek or crowded with interesting accessories. The most important goal of decorating should be to make the people who live there feel warm and comfortable and happy. Once that is accomplished nothing else really matters.

By the way…I really do like the style of Chip and Joanna, my appliances are stainless steel, I often shop at Target, and I still have some Edison lightbulbs. So there…!

When We Open Our Minds

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If you have not yet read Fahrenheit 451 you should put it on your summer reading list. It is a dystopian tale written by Ray Bradbury in the early nineteen fifties. As with most classics it is still worthy of discussion today, and maybe even more so than back then. Bradbury managed to predict a number of pursuits that have almost become an addiction in today’s world long before such things had even been invented. The main idea of his masterful work is that books have been banned in the future world and firemen do not extinguish blazes, but instead burn any remaining volumes that they find. It is all supposedly done to make people feel better along with providing them with mind altering drugs and a daily diet of numbing entertainment.

The main character is a man named Montag who is quite a rockstar when it comes to carrying out his book destruction duties, at least until he begins to question the the process of turning the masses into unquestioning sheep. Ultimately his desire to find the truth becomes his compass.

The book itself is extraordinary and it translates well to film. The first effort was a movie from the nineteen sixties, and most recently HBO took a turn bringing the story to life. The latest offering changes many aspects of the original story, but not the main idea. It shows us an America that has endured a second Civil War in which millions of people died. Books are now contraband and Montag is one of the best at eliminating them. The HBO version is visually stunning particularly in its portrayal of the masses being instantly gratified by watching the firemen in action and tweeting comments as their work unfolds. It is a frightening look into what might happen when the members of a society are no longer able to accept differing ideas. To the victor belong the spoils, and that can result in a total refusal to allow critical thinking of any kind.

I found myself drawing so many parallels with our present day environment that seems to only grow worse. There is a kind of group think within the dominant political parties that actually worries me greatly. Even at universities that used to be centers for open discussion, certain people and ideas are denied a platform. It is so different from when I was at the University of Houston, and part of the excitement was being able to hear every possible kind of belief. Nothing was considered too out of bounds and we were taught to weigh philosophies heavily and ask relevant questions before accepting theories. Now people are judged by public opinion, often without any facts to back up the arguments. It truly worries me that we shut down public debate even before it has happened. How are we to know what different platforms actually are if we never find out about them?

There is a wave of concern that is being voiced by those courageous enough to point out that our political discourse has gone very wrong. We are asked to choose sides and give one hundred per cent agreement or bear the consequences. The militancy that both ultra progressives and ultra conservatives demonstrate is more and more becoming the norm, crowding out those of us in the middle. Few of us have been willing to hold out for individualism and truth rather than blindly accepting the noise of the crowd. It doesn’t take a grand leap to imagine a schism in our country growing so bad that violence ensues.

I suspect that some of my historical heroes would be deemed losers in today’s atmosphere. Imagine Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. insisting on peaceful demonstrations or Republicans providing the needed votes for Lyndon Johnson to get the Civil Rights Act passed in Congress. We are no longer willing to give credit when it is due if the person is not in tune with our way of thinking on every issue. Today’s feminists refuse to consider a conservative woman who is pro life as a success even if she holds a powerful position. They certainly scoff at a woman who chooses to stay home to raise her children. When a conservative like John McCain valiantly votes in the name of honor, he is spurned as being wishy washy if his stance is not in tandem with the president and some mysterious base. We see so much hatefulness coming from all quarters, and we wonder why our teens are turning to violence to solve their problems.

Fahrenheit 451 asks us to imagine taking our anger just a few steps forward until we answer all of our problems by preventing freedom of thought. It is a world in which sadness and disagreements are not allowed in the ridiculous hope that if we simply avoid confrontations and free speech we will all be happier. Instead I maintain that such a world imprisons us. We should all push back at any attempts to treat us like mindless children. We need to be wary of electronic hypnotizers that are stealing away our individualism.

I used to tell my students that the most priceless thing in their lives was education and the freedom to learn about anything that interested them. It is true that the first thing that autocrats do is kill the educators and destroy the books of which they do not approve. That is the exact opposite of how a free nation should be. Over time I have read painfully horrific books so that I might better understand even the minds of evil. I plowed through Mein Kampf because I wanted to see for myself just how twisted Adolf Hitler’s mind actually was. I find the exercise of reading and seriously studying all forms of thought to be an important exercise. I find that I rarely am able to align myself totally with anyone because I am a free spirit, and I love that being that way is still allowed. Nonetheless, I see signs that being so are often misunderstood, and I have had my share of ugly criticism, Still, I will fight for my right to my own thoughts and I will continue to do so for others as well, even those with whom I vehemently disagree.

I sometimes wonder if we have become too prone to victimization. It seems that almost everyone has something to complain about rather than focusing on progress and all that is good. If we are continuously seeing half full glasses we change, and not for the better. It’s time for real dialogue, and lots of research and reading. We should beware of soundbites and slogans and ideas that bully us. There is no greater right than the ability to read and discuss even difficult tracts. We should be eager to hear from everyone, even when the words disturb us, perhaps even more so in such cases. We cannot allow ourselves to be drugged by the opium of mass media and entertainment. Like Montag we will find ourselves when we open our minds.

It’s My Hobby and I’m Sticking To It

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I was reminded by a Facebook memory that I have been posting blogs five days a week for six years now. If my math is correct that means that I have somehow managed to write somewhere around one thousand five hundred sixty essays, a number that is almost overwhelming when I think about it. I suppose that in many ways an undertaking that was supposed to be an avenue for advertising the book that I have written has become an obsession, while the book itself languishes in a state of unfinished editing which leads me to believe that I have some sort of psychological hangup regarding my opus magnum. Surely there is a reason for prioritizing my daily chatter over the work that took so much of my time. Anyway, this is an anniversary of sorts which brings me back to one of my earliest and most memorable posts.

Husband Mike and I had gone camping with friends at Ink’s Lake State Park located in the hill country of Texas. Things went awry from the start, beginning with the failure of one of our tent poles that resulted in a fix that left the structure leaning to one side. We should have taken this as an omen and either left immediately or made a visit to a camping store to purchase new outdoor living quarters. Instead we soldiered on, and for a time everything went remarkable well until the next bad sign came with the arrival of a group of young people late one evening. They literally came into the campground like storm troopers intent on stealing our sense of security

The members of the group appeared to have no sense of the lateness of the hour as they set up their tents using the bright headlights of their trucks to throw light on the project as well as all of the nearby sites including ours. They bantered so loudly that we heard every sound that they uttered which included both arguments laced with profanity and laughter laced with profanity. One of the members of the group had a chortle that most surely had been designed to drive people insane. Unfortunately he seemed to think that everything was funny. Even after the new folks finally went into their tents they chattered on and on and on, with the sound of that horrific laugh punctuating every single comment.

Needless to say it was a very long and unrestful night, but I was encouraged when I awoke to find the irritating people packing up to leave. In truth I almost asked if I might help them in order to hurry the process along. Instead I simply observed them while I ate my breakfast. I noticed that they were flying a large flag that was unfamiliar to me so I Googled a description and learned that it was something known as the new Nazi banner. Somehow I wasn’t surprised at all because the group was accompanied by a black Labrador Retriever whose name was a pejorative starting with the letter N. I held my temper as best I might, and soon enough they were gone leaving behind so much garbage that vultures came around to clean up the mess. As creepy as those birds were, they were preferable to the people whose place they had taken.

I was able to laugh at the adventure and enjoyed a lovely day at a winery with our friends.  Later that evening we enjoyed dinner together and played a rousing round of Scrabble while sipping on wine, so I truly thought that I would enjoy a night of deep sleep until thunder, lightning and a torrent of rain began falling mercilessly on our tent. The “sturm und drang” only got worse as the wind picked up and took advantage of the broken tent pole that now threatened to collapse under the intensity of the weather. I was far too terrified to sleep and so I lay on my cot hoping and praying that the little stream right behind our site would not decide to flood the floor of our home away from home, or that the wind might become too much for our structure. All kinds of warnings were making frightening noises on my cell phone, so when there was a small break in the downpour I raced to our car with a pillow and a blanket and found the refuge that I needed. It wasn’t long before Mike had given up his post and joined me. It wasn’t the most comfortable situation, but at least it felt safe.

By morning we assessed the damage and decided that it was time to bail and head back home. As we were leaving the park rangers mentioned that we had been the only tenters left in the park during the storm. They said that they were glad to see that we were okay because they had worried about us and even considered coming to check on our safety,\. Sadly they felt that it had been just too dangerous outside for them to brave it. Somehow I did not feel better for their kind thoughts.

Ultimately Mike and I gave up on being boys scouts and invested in a nice trailer that has kept us safe from other storms that we have endured. We were eventually able to laugh about our adventure in the tent, and I felt some sense of gratitude that it had given me a topic for launching my blog.

I’m not quite sure why I still get so much out of writing so prolifically. I sometimes wonder if anyone other than my good friends Linda and Adriana or my cousin Terri are reading my work. I know that I am addicted to putting my thoughts on a page. It is my drug of choice and since it does me no harm I suppose that it is as good as any habit gets. The ironic thing is that six years later I find myself in a new state of chaos much like the storm of long ago, and it is just as humorous. Who knew the power of water? Just a brief sprinkle from a hot water heater has upended my household for six weeks now. By tomorrow I should have all of the repairs completed including getting new carpet, but the process has been akin to moving out of the house, tearing it apart, rebuilding it again and then moving back in. For someone as obsessive compulsive as I am it has taken a great deal of laughter to keep me from losing my perspective. I’ve even thought of those God awful campers of late and chuckled at the thought of them just to stay sane.

Right now every item from our walls, closets, drawers, etc. is stored in boxes stacked high in the garage. We attempted to remember to leave out things that we would need for the duration but have found ourselves returning again and again to those boxes because we neglected to keep something at hand. Mike realized that he was going to need his checkbook after we had boxed it up,  and after a bit of a hunt retrieved it and carried it around in his back pocket. One morning he came to me and announced that he had somehow lost it. We searched everywhere and were on the verge of calling the bank to have the account changed when I used my most excellent sleuthing skills to retrace his steps. I eventually found the missing item on the floor of the guest bathroom where it had apparently fallen from Mike’s pants when nature called.

I’m doing rather well given my perfectionist tendencies. I’ve made my journey a study in empathy as I think of friends and family who suffered far greater devastation in the floods of last summer. I also have a new appreciation for anyone who is remodeling in any way. I remember Adriana telling me once that she and her husband had been forced to stored their belongings sky high in their garage while new floors were being laid in their home. I honestly had no feeling or understanding for her situation. Now I just want to give her a long overdue hug for what she must have endured.

In the meantime I suppose that I will keep writing, even if it is only for myself. I’m part of a vast group of people crying out in a kind of wilderness, unknown authors who write out of compulsion. Perhaps I am a bit crazy for doing it, but it’s my hobby and I’m sticking to it. Oh, and I really do want to get that book out for the public. I really believe that it has some merit. I hope it won’t be another six years before I get it done.

The Geniuses Among Us

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I’ve never forgotten a moment during a mathematics test when I was walking up and down the aisles of my classroom monitoring the progress of my students who were working away to complete the calculations before the bell rang for the next period. I quietly looked down at their test papers as I strolled from one desk to another trying not to disturb them unless one of them had a question. I was happy to note that all of them appeared to be working away in a frenzy of understanding, ratifying my hopes that I had somehow done my job of teaching them well. As I neared the end of my route on the last row of desks I noticed a boy staring intently at the bulletin board that was located adjacent to his desk. He appeared to be in an almost hypnotic state, so I worried that he was somehow confused by the questions on the test paper that lay on his desk or perhaps concerned about a personal problem. Whatever the reason, it seemed to be all consuming.

As I made an uncharacteristically swift bee line to his location he didn’t even notice my impending arrival. Instead he continued to almost burn a hole in the display on the wall with his unmoving eyes. Even when I was standing right behind him he did not move a muscle, seemingly unaware of my presence in his personal zone. Before I had time to interrupt his thoughts I noted with horror that he had only finished half of the problems on his test and the clock was ticking rapidly toward the final ten minutes of work time. I was about to shake him from his reverie when he suddenly turned in his seat with a smile and triumphantly announced, “I found him!” Only then did he glance my way and notice me for the first time. He looked at me in wonderment and repeated his words once again as though he believed that I understood their meaning, “I found him!”

I was agitated and confused, but he was disturbingly calm as I asked  him what he was doing and why he was making such an enigmatic comment. He looked at me with a kind of amusement that I was so dense, explaining that he had managed to find Waldo. That’s when I realized that he had been peering at a gigantic poster that featured the little guy with a stocking cap who over and over again becomes lost in a sea of humanity. The student had become mesmerized by the hunt to the point of losing his way into the world of a make believe puzzle rather than attending to the work of the test. As I stood incredulously before him I didn’t know weather to laugh, cry or visit an outburst of anger upon him. I chose quiet resignation instead, and gently congratulated him on his victory while reminding him that he had only a few minutes to complete as much of the test as possible. I physically handed him his pencil, focused his gaze on the teat paper and indicated the urgency of the matter with a concerned expression on my face.

Later that day I felt compelled to grade the boy’s test first to determine how much damage he had inflicted on himself with his distraction. Perhaps not so amazingly he had actually finished all of the problems and his mistakes were minor enough to earn him one of the few almost perfect scores. It was only then that I burst into unmitigated laughter, because I had always believed that this quirky child who often challenged me and his other teachers was in truth a kind of little genius in our midst. I understood that his mind was on a slightly different plane than the rest of us, and that his utterances revealed the workings of a mind running free through a world of thoughts that were often provoking and sometimes strange. Indeed he was gifted, of a mind that confounded us as it raced from one idea or question to another.

I’ve taught a number of students like that during my career. They are quite different from their peers and more often then not misunderstood. They rarely fit into a mold that defines them and many times even their teachers wonder if they are really great thinkers or simply frauds who enjoy rocking boats for their own entertainment. Genius does not always reveal itself easily. Sometimes we don’t see the clues and we misinterpret the behaviors.

We’ve all heard about the difficulties that Albert Einstein endured in his early years. His questions and frustrations were viewed by his teachers and those who attempted to manage him as audacity and laziness. Even after earning a degree he was unable to land a position as a teaching professor because his thinking was so orthodox that nobody was willing to provide him with a reference. Instead he was reduced to working as a clerk at a government patent office where he often became the target of his frustrated boss who complained that he worked too slowly and without any discernible enthusiasm. It was not his job that fascinated him but rather the research that he conducted in the evenings that occupied his mind. He prolifically published one theory after another until his thinking finally caught someone’s eye and eventually that of the entire world. Even at the height of his fame, however, his beliefs were often controversial, exposing him to criticism and even investigations and persecution. Somehow like most geniuses he lived in a world of his own creation inviting those with an open mind to partake of his thinking.

We have geniuses in our own time and in almost every case there is something almost other worldly about them. They are creators and free thinkers who see the universe through lenses that are different from the rest of us. Their minds are ablaze with thoughts which when uttered may seem bizarre, impossible or even controversial. We may view them as being a bit crazy because they are willing to suggest ideas that appear to be foolhardy or out of touch. They many times endure the ire of society when they innocently express their beliefs. They often live in ways that fly in the face of convention and refuse to apply filters to their behavior and utterances. They make enemies, but also force us to pause for a moment to consider possibilities that have never before crossed our minds. They provide the engines of progress and debate that we humans require to solve the mysteries of the world.

Of late we’ve been hearing about Kanye West, a celebrity who at first glance appears to be little more than a spoiled entertainer whose wealth has isolated him from reality. Things that he does and says sometimes  appear to border on insanity and other times seem more like heresy. He becomes an annoyance that we want to crush, but then we study the body of his work and his many careers and realize that he is much more complex than he at first appears to be. He is more akin to the boy who has found Waldo than a trouble maker. While we are doing our best just to get from one day to the next, Kanye is constantly thinking about things and rearranging accepted beliefs and values. He is asking questions and challenging conventional wisdom. Taken in soundbites his utterances may seem to be the product of someone who lacks empathy or manners, but when considered against the backdrop of all that he has achieved they become the intellectual considerations of a true genius. Rather than condemning him we would do well to allow him the free reign to develop critical questions and thoughts that few of us would have the courage to utter.

Kanye West is a true genius who was writing poetry at the age of five and went on to create some of the most poetic lyrics in hip hop. The world is his canvas and the wanderings of his mind rarely stop. We may not like some of the things that he does and says, because he is a free thinker who does not hide even his most controversial ideas. Like so many geniuses before him he is unwilling to be fettered by convention or political correctness, and the truth is that we should all want to protect his right to be who he is regardless of how uncomfortable it may make us. He is thinking out loud and his stream of consciousness may be confusing unless we take the time to contemplate his thoughts in context and with deliberation. Like all geniuses he ultimately is not worried about what we may be thinking, so it is up to each of us to carefully parse his words and allow him the freedom that each and everyone of us deserves. In the end his are simply opinions that we may take or leave. It would only be wrong if we were to dismiss him only because we disagree. Kanye West is figuratively searching for Waldo and it is important that we encourage him to find what he seeks.