The argument sketch plus Barbie

I got back very late last night from a party in Long Beach. Here’s what I loved about it: you have a bunch of thoughtful people eating their strawberries and cream, drinking sneak-attack sangria, and talking about Barbie. I mean talking about Barbie in very specific, coherent terms, including the recent history of her troubled relationship with Ken, all as though they were not seeing clear to thirty. This led, as it was bound to do, to our would-be Barbie, “Subculture Barbie.”

Subculture Barbie is many things to many people. For example, you can get the Goth-pack, which causes Barbie to draw gargoyles all over her binder. Or you can get the Hipster-pack, which causes Barbie to ignore you. Or you can get punk Barbie, who refuses to be sold in stores.

I spent what free time I had today posting to a different blog, an academic forum called Acephalous. I question the wisdom of this decision, because everything I posted was very reasonable. Reasonable debate, especially the sort which must continually address itself to the rabid trolls of the Internet, is not especially useful compared to, for example, carrying a car door on foot out to the middle of the desert, and rolling down the window when it gets hot.

I was over there arguing for civility and the gentle arts of persuasion. Meanwhile I had Tool coming through my headphones at a million decibels per second. This is a bad sort of contradiction.

Scene: my living room today. Having just recovered from the flu, I caught a case of Jehovah’s witnesses. My roommate invited them in for a Jehovah’s Witness vs. Lutheran deathmatch. Two on one, with me washing dishes in that atheist way of mine. They were arguing back and forth about whether or not Jesus was inferior to God, less than God, a question which is apparently crucial in determining whether you will go door-to-door selling God.

They were (all three) talking very low, and showing deference. The two young men would say in a flat tone: “Well, we believe that…” Then they would narrate a little story but hardly raise their heads. No spark at all. I wrote them a little substitute script, got as far as printing it, but didn’t have the guts to play reader’s theater.

FORGOTTENBOY: OK, Jehovah #1, instead of saying “Well, we believe that God created Jesus as a mortal,” this time you say, “Don’t you see he was a man, a man is all, but a beautiful man, a man who lived with God the way the rest of us live under the sky! A man who felt love! Who felt pain! Who humbled himself infinitely! I love him! Amen!”

JEHOVAH #2: What do I say? I was going to say “I see where you’re coming from.”

FORGOTTENBOY: You must not say that, Second Jehovah. You must admit to my roommate that he originally made this appointment with a different Jehovah’s witness and that you feel like an unworthy substitute because you are a mousy guy with halitosis and she was intentionally cute. It was a lowdown dirty trick, and lowdown dirty tricks are super interesting.

I felt like John Cleese, professional arguer, at the moment when his sad little paying customer announces, “I didn’t come here for an argument.” Frustrated.

School has been eating at my writing like an undetected worm. I realized today that I use the word “seems” a dozen times every day, in places where it adds nothing. I vouch for my uncertainty. I volunteer it. Hell, I let it cut in front of me in line. Perhaps it began as something gentlemanly, but now it’s like a pale and listless friend whom I can’t bear to give the slip.

So instead of writing about how things seem, I’ll write about what they are: totally unknown and merely dreamt, or as ordinary and delicious as strawberries in cream.

Goodnight to you.

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