Saturday, June 25, 2011

Why I Like Sweet Potatoes

When I was a kid, and even now really, I loved potatoes.  Mashed, baked, twice baked, au gratin, hash browns, home fries (if you're familiar with Bob Evans); potatoes prepared in just about any damn way you can imagine.  I'm not really a fan of potato chips, however, because they can be entirely too salty and greasy for my taste.

But when I was a kid, I fucking hated sweet potatoes.  The whole thing just seemed asinine, because why the fuck would I want my potatoes to be sweet?  Potatoes, to a young child, are supposed to be all about savory tastes.  Add some sour cream and butter, maybe some garlic and chives.  Give me an onion-like taste, but not sweet.  Don't put cinnamon in my fucking potatoes.  Why the shit would I put sugar on it?

Now that I look back on it all, I can't even remember if at any point I actually tried a sweet potato when I was a kid.  I think that the idea so disgusted me, the notion that someone could actually fuck with the consistency of something that I perceived to have been already perfected was ludicrous.  So literally, up until about age 25 or so, which was about 2 years ago, I thought that I hated sweet potatoes.

My grandmother seems to always make a sweet potato casserole for damn near any family get-together, and a couple of years ago I finally said "fuck it," (quietly to myself, as I am not nearly as foul mouthed around my family) and tried her sweet potato casserole.  Well, I'm glad I did, because it was like my tongue had an orgasm.  It was *so*fucking*good* that I couldn't believe I spent all these years not eating it.  My preconceptions, irrational and ridiculous, about how a potatoes should taste were completely dashed.

On my article about sex addiction, KP made an excellent observation about the human brain and what it is capable of doing.  I mentioned that when I first heard about sex addiction, my instincts told me that it was a load of bullshit that people shit out in order to not have to take responsibility for being douche bags.  But knowing what I knew about the human brain, and the varied and fucked up compulsions it can cause us to have, I had to reconcile what I knew to be true with what I felt inside.

KP said that he thought it was admirable how I always question things, whether it be myself or others, and that my ability to reason comes from my spirituality, and in part from my intelligence and humility.  It's funny how often someone else teaches us something about ourselves.

My spirituality is a bit different from many people--probably different from most people--in that it's truly about faith and hope.  I'm not the type of person that has any sort of comfort on the notion of God and the afterlife.  Neither faith nor hope have anything to do with knowing, and in fact, both of them assume that you can't know.  I can't know whether or not God exists, but I have some degree of faith that God has given us many clues that he does exist.  And I also hope that my reasoning is correct on it all, and that there is more to existence than just this life.  I doubt my ability to understand the unknowable, and I doubt the ability of others to do the same.

So if I can understand that there are some things that no one can know for sure, then there must be other things that I can't be certain on.  I can't always be right.  Knowing that there is at least one question that I will never be able to answer with any complete certainty, I have to admit that there are other questions to which I have not the answer.  So I am one of those rare people that assume that I am probably wrong on most things that I hold to be true.

As far as intellect goes, it's true that I'm a smart guy, as arrogant as that might sound.  I graduated summa cum laude from college without so much as breaking a sweat (intellectually), and my professors were tough on me, because they knew I needed extra challenge.  But true intellect comes from one's ability to question.  Because once you question yourself and others, you're forced to consider arguments that oppose your own sentiments.  When you've done that long enough, you then realize that your brain has its limits.

And that brings us to humility.  I'm humble enough to admit when I'm wrong, and to admit that I know there are people out there who are far more knowledgeable than myself on every subject.  I'm not afraid to admit when I'm wrong, and I'm not afraid to change my philosophical outlook on something.  It's only been in the last few months that I've come to the realization that I'm pro-choice, and that the death penalty is probably immoral.

So for those of you who think I am just like any other pundit out there, that I've got my ideological guns that I stick to whether or not I think they're valid, then please banish that thought from your minds.  I've changed my mind too much over the years and endured too much philosophical discomfort to be called closed-minded.  In fact, I still feel like shit over being pro-choice.

To quote the great Albert Camus again "certainty is not gaiety of heart."


KP said...

Please excuse the long winded post (dump):

Life is crazy. If we are not evolving we are not learning and growing. I was a different person in my teens than my twenties. In my thirties it was another light year of change. In my forties I rediscovered my spirituality and got mentally and physically fit. “Mental Fitness and Physical Fitness Go Hand in Hand” …. Plato

A couple years later in my forties my 14 year old daughter was diagnosed with a horrible cancer. For the rest of that decade we battled that. She has survived and I became wealthy in other ways then financial as a result of being humbled and learning humility (we can find peace in the middle of the storm by focusing on others).

In my fifties I feel mortal. From my twenties to my forties I went from politically liberal to quite conservative. Most of my political positions have evolved or have been altered in some way. Over the last decade I have become more as a pragmatist then left or right. When I feel myself starting to get frustrated by ideologues who seem unwilling to consider the ‘oppositions’ point of view, I remember; we are more alike than different. I like to be reminded of that; often.

Politics, while important, don’t necessarily determine the real qualities each of us want to be remembered for: being good dads, good moms, good sons, good daughters, good spouses, good friends, having work ethic, having spirituality or anything else we respect in people other than politics. So when I see the levels of anger generated on some websites when discussing policy or while attempting to whip up enthusiasm that focuses on power, I am alarmed. Rather than trying to change opinion I seek to encourage ideologues to question themselves.

If we want to widen our and strengthen our message, we need to let others know that we are listening. One step in the direction is letting go of the need to be continually right by assessing our own attitudes. No matter how we try to disguise them, they leak out with the openness of an anatomical chart. If we begin to search for reasons for the friction we create we can discover things about ourselves we were not aware of. The good news; we can change our attitudes and behavior.

I have recognized that I can be harder on my family than anyone else in my life. A friend or client would never continue to be subjected to my raw opinion the way my family does.

Interestingly, politics is the one other area where so many people feel free to act out. Like parenting and being a spouse, politics is an arena where you can never win by being an ideologue. By ‘win’ I mean an ideologue cannot have his way _long term_.

An ideologue can only have his or her way over the short term. No family or citizenry likes an ideologue. Ask any successful parent of a teen if acting like a czar ever generated real respect long term. Lifetime relationships are built on seeking to understand the other side when we disagree. There are times in politics and parenting when hard decisions have to be made and it becomes my way or the highway, but this is not a consistent way to build long term consensus.

Let me say it before the far left and far right do. I know they are trying to save the country. I agree with some of what both extremes have to say. But how can both Far Sides (Gary Larson humor) know better than the other extreme. Ten percent of the population on either end of the spectrum is diametrically opposed to one another. They know better. Sure they do. If we want to get important things done we will need to work together. We are more alike than different.

Harrison said...

Then I assume gaiety of the heart is not certainty, either.

KP said...

Agreed, gaiety of the heart could well derive from naivety. Outside of being in love (possible naivety) and owning a vintage VW Bus, it probably does.

Harrison said...

Corky from Life Goes On had gaiety of the heart. He also had Downs Syndrome, too.

I wish owning a VW Bus produced gaiety of the heart. It doesn't most of the time. Your knees are your crumple zone, your steering column is an Spartan spear ready to impale you in an accident, there's no A/C, things go on the Fritz sometimes, you get your hands greasy, and your car always smells like horsehair.

It is worth it in the end but since life is short it doesn't last that long.

Jack Camwell said...

KP, thanks so much for sharing those sentiments. I've taken sort of the same political odessey in terms of shifting from liberal to conservative.

In high school I was a bleeding heart. I thought that humans were generally good and intelligent, and that we could do things to get to some sort of utopia. After 4 years of the Navy and being over in the Persian Gulf, I became extremely conservative. I believed that humans were generally pieces of shit and all stupid, and that the possibility of utopia was retarded and foolish.

Now, after college, I'm much more in the middle. I realize that most people are just trying to survive, and many are willing to do less than moral things in that pursuit. While I still think that most people are fucking idiots, I know that there are some thoughtful and intelligent people out there (as is clear from some of the excellent commenters here at CFGM). Although utopia will never, ever happen, it's a worthy goal to strive for.

Not utopia in a socialist sense, but a world in which people are free to pursue a happy life without any violent impediments. That's the hopeless hope that Camus always talks about. The world will never be perfect or free of violence and discontent, but it's a worthy cause to try to make it at least a little bit better.

And Harrison,
"Corky from Life Goes On had gaiety of the heart. He also had Downs Syndrome, too."


Damien said...

KP, your comments are inspiring and I believe nobody could (or would have the right) to fault it.

I believe that I have experienced a great deal in my life. From working and travelling in many hell-holes and wonderful places, to seeing death and destruction (such working for the UN in post Srebrenica) to pretty much fulfilling my goals and slowly winding down to retirement. I have seen tragedy in losing a younger sibbling to cancer, discovered my dead father (heart failure) and I survived a train wreck that killed half of those in my carriage.

If I have a message from that it is when one experiences life enough through age or events, you start to learn what is only words, what is actions, what is really important and most of all how much effort is really in place to get things done - and thus how pettiness and agendas slow down or block any progress.

Youth and perpetual dreamers more than often lack that reality and many as they experience begin to understand. That is why so many start of as liberal and very socialist as they discover the word equality and slowly go conservative as they lose the "e" and discover the word "quality".

Ronald Reagan when he toured Europe and made his famous "wall" speech to Gorbachov had an interview with Sir David Frost, he said that liberals who can make a good change by default must then become conservative to defend it. That is how I feel.

Sorry for the long post.

D Charles QC

KP said...

Damien, warm greetings to you from across the pond! Thank you for your encouragement and please accept mine. I enjoy you sharing your wisdom. Keep it coming here and in all places where wisdom is helpful.

Across a table from you and over a pint I would ask if in your vast experience you have met extraordinarily wise men and women who were surprisingly young; and older men and women who are surprisingly intractable and immature.

KP said...

I am guessing your answer is yes but please feel free to correct me. Over our second pint, in the pub of your choosing, I would ask you how could we get more men and women to ask themselves which group they belong to?

Damien said...

KP, the answer certainly is a yes. I always wonder, in fact I am pretty much sure, that parents or the peer and social climates people are in add or subtract to that element I mentioned.

In certain parts of the UK we have a strong "thug mentality" that equates to gangs in certain cities of the US. They are, of course, creations of economic and social climates, fed by desperation and then pushed by groups that wish to cash-in or control it. I have witnessed gransparents whom are just as much football hooligans and street thugs and they can witness anything and still believe view. Though I keep my views on Israel to myself and have I think a rather different perspective to most, I see generations of both Israelis and Palestinians whom are both sage, peaceloving and hard working to peace (from both age groups) and yet other examples of the exact opposite.

Why stop at two pints KP? Damn, my wife reminded me that two is usually my limit each week.... (she is a doctor).

Jack Camwell said...

I don't think it's entirely a matter of what group one belongs to. I think assigning oneself to a group limits thought. Any time you start to deviate from the accepted ideas of the group, you tend to feel bad and are often labeled a traitor, or in the parlents of modern Republicans a "RINO."

Although the parties in American politics serve a practical political purpose, the negative consequence is that by their nature they place a high premium on ideological conformity and "loyalty." That makes party membership tough for guys like me who are bold enough to think for themselves and go against the grain.

As for wise young people, most people I know have called me wise beyond my years. It's some comfort to me to think that the wisest people never feel like they are wise at all.

Perhaps that's a paradox I've just talked myself into, but I never feel like I'm saying anything particularly wise. I'm just talking about the world in the way I see it.