Friday, May 23, 2008

The Gossip and the Green

Eradicating vice from our daily life is an onerous task. The devil in many lives, my own included, is the daily dose of gossip and erroneous language that passes from mouth to mouth, infiltrating and infecting the wrinkled gray matter of everyone it contacts. Like a computer virus traveling by email, gossip races across its course with alarming speed and even more frightening it travels over multiple race courses, proving it possesses far more lives than the ordinary house cat. The vice of gossip is often attributed to housewives and women with nothing better to do with their time. The sexist notion wrapped therein is demonstrably false by simple observation. Men delight in gossip just the same as women. It is a non-biased stain on both genders.

Let’s talk about gossip and the green.

Recently, the American Institute of Architects instituted a new requirement for its membership to earn continuing education credits in sustainable design, a code phrase for ‘green movement architecture’.

This comes on the 15 year old heels of the requirement for continuing education in the first place which produced a vast array of education providers feasting on the Architect’s dutifully coughed up seminar money. Green is now gospel. Throughout the streets of America folks are wearing their ‘go green’ t-shirts with smug smiles of self indulgent pride in their do-goodness.

Now begins the task of preparing for the commercialism of the green movement. Look around and gather the easily apparent clues of the blossoming attempt to take your money and mine by promoting the ‘green movement’ in products. Stand back as the green commercial stampede claims its victims. This cascading phenomenon is firmly rooted in the fantastically fertile mixture of capitalism and gossip.

There are only a limited number of scientists with the credentials to understand the impact of man’s activities on the future of our planet. In reading what some of them have to say I have discovered they possess a large measure of humility, often stating directly that they are unsure of the results gathered at the end of their well intended and carefully controlled scientific pursuits. This appears to be a way of saying that they understand nature and science, but do not own the skills to extrapolate the longevity of the polar ice cap and other geographies from the gathered data. I also read disagreement among a few of the less humble scientists. One group espousing the coming doom, the other group lecturing to hang on a minute before you take the next flight to Mars; another way of saying that not even the brightest knows for sure what our future holds. The less objective of the scientist and the non-scientist shills with a platform use the whole discussion for personal gain. Al Gore secures a new fortune by preaching the coming firestorm. Rush Limbaugh pontificates that global warming is a complete hoax though my research shows he has no scientific training. Michael Moore continues to muddy reality with multiple lies disguised as truth, a fact well documented, aimed at the youthful, the ignorant and the blissfully absorbent and angry rebels in need of a cause.

None of the three individuals I mentioned has a scientific pedigree to make any statement whatsoever that should cause anyone to pay attention. The corollary that comes to mind is that this is the same as if your bank teller has diagnosed you with a malignant brain tumor.

My position in all of this ‘g-warming’ discussion is a simple one. I don’t know because I don’t have the credentials or scientific intelligence to know. A good portion of the reports I read I don’t even understand due to a lack of scientific background.

I consider the discussion analogous to gossip. Rush wants his listeners to believe in the hoax of the movement. Former VP Gore wants his listeners to believe the earth hangs in the balance of buying his book and stabilizing his legacy. This is the common form of gossip. It is the spreading of words, not dipped in the well of truth, being nonetheless orated as though it were true beyond any doubt. The listener believes it as truth, then passes it along to the next gossip participant. The underlying premise that this is a giant hoax or else a 180 degree opposite calamity with earth in the balance strains a rational man’s patience.

And so I am now stuck, with equal parts of amusement and disgust, as I watch the green movement turn into a products parade. The fertile mixture of gossip and capitalism tilled together, reaping a giant harvest of the ignorant and absorbent souls of our world wearing their new $21.95 “Go Green” t-shirts. Al Gore stares back at me from the cover of his apocalyptic revelation. Michael Moore apparently continues to harbor a misplaced need to unleash his vast anger and corpulent image on the general public. Rush smokes his cigar after lighting it with a $1,000 bill and smiles as he reminds the largest radio audience in America that it is all a hoax. And now, to continue being an Architect in good standing I have to sit in a CE class with a lecturer half my age teaching me how to collect rainwater from the roof, drain it into a cistern and wash my hair with it as though it were actually complicated and had not been first accomplished around 900 BC. The fact that I have no hair is seemingly immaterial in the face of this hurricane of gossip and fresh t-shirts.

Doubt me? Look around your local stores carefully at how many products are now “green’ though nothing really changed. I saw a plumber’s truck on the highways of Dallas yesterday with fresh painting on the sides declaring he was a ‘green plumber’, whatever the hell that might be. It‘s only the beginning.

Resist. Admit your scientific ignorance and save yourself a bundle, and if not money, maybe you can save yourself a lot of misplaced energy and frustration. Can we acknowledge there may be intelligence illustrated in knowing what we do not know?

Enjoy the sunset tonight instead of MSNBC. Yes, the sunrise and sunset are still out there, and that's not gossip. Its fact.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

"Son, are you hungry"

My father was a hard working man that selected his words carefully. Truth actually told he never selected more than a mere handful at any one sitting. On odd occasions he would pack me into his work pick-up, a 1957 red Ford, and haul my pre-teen randomness out to my Grandmother’s house in deep west Texas. It was a drive of over 300 miles, straight as an arrow through the Texas desert flatlands and cotton fields. Our mission was always the same. The back of the truck was stacked with building materials. My dad and I would spend the weekend fixing and renovating my Grandmother’s home. It was my father’s generosity and carpentry craft rolled into a gift, given in virtual silence and received by his mother in like silence. At the close of the day Sunday we would pack up and head home across the starry skies and flat plains of Texas. He would return to his regular work that following Monday morning. I would go to school, sleepy as a Mardi Gras partier after an all night parade.

On those long rides down the straight and dusty Texas highways, my Dad would always say the same thing to me. Its entire content was the useful question, “Son, are you hungry?” If I answered in the affirmative he would pull into some clapboard mom and pop restaurant along the side of the road. His door would open and then slam shut without a word while I tagged along after him. After all, it was perfectly clear to anyone except Larry, Curly and Moe that stopping at the restaurant meant we should go inside and eat. The meal and the remainder of the journey were executed in silence. That is also the manner in which he taught me carpentry. He used words only to make clear the aspects of the craft hidden from visual observation. What could be observed and translated with one’s eyes was assumed to need no explanation by word.

He has been absent from my world for more than 20 years, his early sixties life claimed by a cerebral aneurysm. I miss his silence as though it had been a symphony. And now in the 56th year of my life I work at my own use of words. I work at how to best use them. Or more accurately I wonder how to not use them when silence is the better selection.

Words are surely the most powerful tool we own. They can hurt. We can all give testimony to their sting. They can heal the soul and dry tears just as easily, and this remarkable reversible property is always dependent on how we select the words we wish to use and the tone of voice we use to grant them life.

What I know with the degree of certainty that is the consequential partner of the older man with half a brain remaining is that our words matter a great deal. My words have been missing here for a while, but they have been applied other places, for better or worse. Or maybe they have been spent on the great god of Who Cares. I know my father sometimes seemed to look at words that way. His eyes frequently said “Who cares about all that talking?” Maybe it was nothing more than the silence of his own mother that birthed the silence of the son.

But I have discovered I do care. Words are a gift to be used with wisdom. Ignoring their power and usefulness can be as sinful as using them to negate.

I am working on using words in a better manner. Maybe the path of Goldilocks is what I seek, where my words are neither too few, nor are there too many, but somehow just right. And maybe by some sort of grace the words will even be the correct ones delivered in a suitable and welcomed tone.

For now I am having a small problem with this new exercise. I have been listening very carefully to my questioners and fellow conversators. (yes, conversators is a new word created here for my personal use) Now I think carefully before responding and I try to choose words that are appropriate and carry the proper meaning of what I want to convey. Several people have become agitated at my tardiness and repeated the question thinking I didn’t hear it on first resonance. I suppose next they will merely walk away. If they do they might miss the most carefully thought out and meaningful response I can give. I mean really, it could be very good after I have thought it all out.

You know what they say, “everyone wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.” I suppose waiting on me can be a bit like dying if you are already old?