Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Logic and Appropriateness

What is appropriate? That is a question I ask myself every day, multiple times a day, about a multitude of situations.

I have a reputation of being very decisive, and I am. And yet, I find myself asking that question repeatedly. How those two things can coexist, I'm not sure, but they do. I often find I'm a study in contrasts. When people talk about wanting to find someone who can understand them I'm awed by that. I don't even understand myself a huge amount of the time so how can I expect someone else to understand me.

I am a person who hates rules and yet I have my own set of ten "Patsy's Rules for Living." I guess what that says is that I only like my own rules. I'm a person who's incredibly spontaneous, but I have things on my calendar into 2009. I am an incredibly loyal person, but I periodically go through my address file and delete people I no longer have a connection with.

The appropriateness question comes up all the time. Is it appropriate to call this person for lunch? Is it appropriate to say what I really think in this situation or do I need to play politics? Is it appropriate to ask the drywall guy hired by the contractor about a side job? Is it appropriate to send email about this topic? Is it appropriate to blog about this thing or that, or is it too personal? Is it appropriate to display this artwork in public areas of my home or is it best kept private? Is it appropriate to ask the question I really want answered? The "Is it appropriate..." questions seem to have no end.

What I've learned as I ponder that question each time is that I have absolutely no idea what "the norm" is. I've known this about myself for awhile, but it continues to crop up. If you know what "the norm" is, then you know when you're outside it. I have never had an idea of what the norm is, and I'm guessing I never will. I am probably well into the latter half of my life, and I don't know what the norm is now so I'm not likely to figure it out.

The first time I realized I had no concept of the norm was when I was telling my friend, Leah, about going with this man I met in Egypt to meet his aunt and her family outside of Luxor. I thought it was a great travel story of spontaneity and what wonderful things can happen when you leave yourself open to experience. As I watched Leah's mouth drop open I understood, for the first time, that "the norm" and I are not really acquainted. The norm is that you don't go off with someone you just met in a country where you don't speak or read the language to his relative's house on a dirt road where not even taxis can run. The norm tells you that very bad things could happen to you. Honest to goodness, it never occurred to me until I saw her face. The real kicker is that I'd do it again in a second, even if I now know it's not the norm, because I'm not going to live my life being afraid of what "might" happen. If I die doing something like that, I'll accept the risk - I'd rather live fewer days fully than live more days going through the motions.

I've always been more of the creative, somewhat flakey, type. But, I also live with a lot of logic ruling my daily life. And it puzzles me greatly when people who claim to be logical do things that make no logical sense at all. It's this sort of conundrum that causes me to have to ask if something is appropriate.

If you are a guy who wants a family, at some point you have to walk up to a girl and introduce yourself. Nothing else is logical to me. If you want a new job, you have to apply for it. It's not logical to just talk about how much you hate the current job and expect it to change. I don't understand how people benefiting from social service programs can ever vote for people who would discontinue them. If you're living in a house you got through a government loan, voting Republican is like shooting yourself in the face. I don't understand why people can't say what they think - kindly. I believe the truth can always be spoken. It can be spoken without harshness, but it can be spoken. If you don't say what you think/feel/believe, how can you expect others to know it? There is no logic in assuming people will divine that information.

In the news now is a prime example of something I cannot grasp the logic of. The Los Angeles Archdiocese will pay out $660 Million to victims in child abuse cases. This will bring the total the church has paid in such cases since 1950 to $2 Billion. Why is anyone still giving money to the Catholic Church? There is no logic in that to me. For years they have been shunting "problem" priests away, without dealing with the problem, and using contributions given to the church to do the church's work to pay off victims. It's not logical to me that you would give your money to do the church's work to a church who has determined that a large part of their work is paying off sexual abuse victims. Why would you not give your money to an organization like Habitat for Humanity that is truly doing the work that has been defined for almost every religion in the world - service to the poor? Logic says to me that giving your money to an organization that has been paying off child abuse victims for 57 years is giving tacit approval to that practice. Your money says you think this is all OK. I cannot believe that most people think it's OK for priests to abuse children. But, logically, if people did not approve of it, they would not support an organization that makes it possible for it to continue. But it's been going on for hundreds of years. The church first acknowledged the problem in 1741 when the pope published the four page long Sacramentum Poenitentiae. Of course, the Catholic church is not hurting. At all. That $2 billion dollars could do amazing things. Logic says to me that people would not support an organization that has this kind of a problem. But, that is not true.

Religions of all sorts do many things I can't see the logic of. And I'm not speaking about belief systems at all. That is about faith, and that has nothing to do with logic and I understand that. But it's not logical to me that if you are a gay man you would choose to be part of a congregation that preaches against homosexuality. I don't get that. If you want to do "God's work," you can certainly do it outside the structure of a church.

I don't understand why if you want to end abortion you don't want to end unwanted pregnancy. I'm not saying you should or should not want to end abortion. I'm saying if you do, then logically, what you really want to stop is unwanted pregnancy. No unwanted pregnancy = no abortion. Why focus on a consequence of the problem instead of the problem? The problem is unwanted pregnancy.

People often say they want honesty, and yet I find that's not really true. That's fine - but why say it's what you want if it's not? That's not logical to me. Women say they want to settle down with a nice guy and yet pick another "bad boy." That's not logical - if you want a nice guy you've got to pick a nice guy.

The world is a mystery to me in many ways. I guess that's part of the reason I find myself continually asking, "Is this appropriate."


janilizi said...

Not everyones norm's are the same - i think that you will find that me included would not disapprove of what you did in Egypt,in fact I have done that in other countries - yes it is a gamble but so is walking across the road. Your blog is very thought provoking and it is often the first thing I look to read when I go on line.
Janice in England

Patsy Terrell said...

Thank you so much for your note. It's so kind of you. I appreciate your words. Sometimes writing the blog seems like a foolish way to spend my time. At other times it seems a wonderful way to connect with people. You've made me very glad I'm writing it today!