Chronicles in Ordinary Time 52: Secret Identities

heroes1Secret Identities.  We all know about them. All of our childhood [fictional] heroes had secret identities in order to protect their families and friends, and to avoid a source of moral blackmail.
So what about the rest of us?
I grew up with these heroes; they were my role models. I had working parents, my first babysitter was a rectangular box with a fuzzy black & white screen. I spent more time with these heroes than with my family.

So why do I have a secret identity?
I’ve never been very heroic, I’ve never feared for my family, based on my heroic exploits.
I’m just not very fond of people.
I like persons. Over a long period of time, I’ve learned that you only get to know persons by putting up with people. It was awful for a long time. Some days it’s still awful. But not for as long, and not to the same degree.
When I was a building contractor, in my 20’s and early 30’s, I hid my identity behind a beard; supposedly it made me look older, but in retrospect, it made me look scruffy.

I got into sales. I studied personality, sociology, psychology and  self-esteem for years. Tapes and books whenever I wasn’t working at my job. I wore a suit. Shaved the beard, got haircuts regularly. My secret identity. Clark Kent, hiding Superman.
After a few years, I finally realized that I was viewing people as prospects and potential customers; not as persons. In the process of becoming a better me, I found out that I really wasn’t becoming a better me.
I dropped the suit; didn’t visit Marsha as regularly for my haircuts [she’s been cutting my hair for 30 years]. I tried to be more real with people, and to listen to what they were saying. To get a glimpse of their Secret Identity.

My Secret Identity today?
Mikey bushesMikey. My inner child. The kid who embraces zip lines and COPE courses; the kid who gets in squirt gun fights with other kids; the kid who plays with kids. The Secret Identity working in reverse. Clark Kent protecting Superman.

Another school shooting today; another ‘random act of violence’ here in my home town. And all of the ranting about guns and ammunition; and very little public ranting about broken souls seeking attention, seeking to act out their anger… People looking for meaning, or trying to cope with their lack of meaning, and acting out their pain.

Does violence happen more often because there are so few heroes today?

heroes2I think this is the reason. We live in a society of instant gratification, instant fame, instant popularity. People become ‘heroic’ by performance in a video game, and that heroism becomes more gratifying than life in a cubicle or life behind a food order.
And I think that we realize that it’s a game. We fear that it will always be only a game. I played games within games. My family’s favorite card game involved bidding on the number of hands that you would win per round, based on the cards in your hand and on the table. My cousin counted cards; I never had the patience, the planning. So I decided that I wouldn’t try to win, I would aim for winning a certain number of hands, which often meant sacrificing good cards in order to hit my number. I often won. Lost the game, won my game.

I knew a man who spent a lifetime beating on industrial sawblades with a hammer–hand-tempering industrial sawblades. Big discs of steel with teeth. Day-in, day-out for 40 years. He couldn’t understand that his son, and I, could not find jobs to stick with. In his private time he served his church congregation, carved wood and trained plants. He made his world a better place, and that was enough. A different pace for a different time.

I think there is a movement today toward longer-term thinking. It’s a movement that is being drowned out by the clamor of the 24-hour news cycle and the latest technology being obsolete in 2 months.
To succeed in this endeavor, it requires a willingness to step away from our Secret Identity and become real. To be willing to be willing to walk a different path–one that treats people in the manner we would like to be treated.

My wife is one of my heroes. She treats all people equally. She treats the homeless person in the same way that she treats those in authority over her. She doesn’t fear for her personal safety; she fears for people’s well-being. She’s an odd person, and she doesn’t care. Because she loves people. Far from perfect, prone to moods; and at the same time, willing to stop her world’s schedule in order to make sure that a dead possum gets moved to the side of the road; so that it can have a more-dignified death.

My goal in this next chapter of my life–to become more fearless in my willingness to live honestly.

 

 

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