may you be free from physical suffering.
may you be free from mental suffering.
may you have ease of well-being.
--lame old Buddhist prayer
—Uncle Jerry’s pal Victor
Peace and joy, Camper. It’s time once again for Your Uncle Jerry’s Lessons in Language Learning.
Why do we need other languages, anyway? When your Uncle Jerry was just a wee camper growing up in the north woods of North America, he knew a few people who spoke Yupik or Athabascan or German or Chinese or Swahili. He knew where his dad, Grandpa Jerry, had stashed an old letter from a friend in Puerto Rico—a letter all in Spanish.
For a while, Uncle Jerry felt that perhaps he should learn another language, too. But why bother? It is clear from everything you hear in school and town that the world is learning English. In fact, other languages are actually dying out; no one is speaking them anymore. Look it up, Scooter. You’ll like this: there are about 7000 languages right now, but half of them are declining rapidly.
And good riddance. Who can keep up with 7000 languages? Besides, if people in so-called other countries want to buy M&Ms, or KFC, or GE products, well, they’re going to have to learn the English alphabet, anyway.
Plus, you wonder what they have to hide—speakers of other languages. Why not just come out and say what's on their minds, instead of disguising it with foreign sounds and hidden meanings? If it weren’t for Chinese and Russian, we wouldn’t have had the Cold War. And what about Arabic? Did you realize the Arabs write backwards? Your Uncle Jerry’s congressman thinks this should have been our first clue that they were up to no good. Frankly, we don’t want young campers getting into Arabic; they’ll just learn to see the world from right to left. We don’t need to help the terrorists, do we?
Still. This is a little embarrassing, but lately, Your Uncle Jerry and the Missus have started learning another language. In spite of all the good and patriotic reasons to keep ourselves irretrievably ignorant, Your Uncle and Mrs. Jerry did find one good reason to study Spanish. It’s the kids—no entienden español.
Joy and peace.
In chapter eighteen Molly and the Geezer are working hard not to speak each other’s language.
Pretending is a big part of writing; don’t kid yourself about that. It doesn’t matter what you’re writing: it could be fiction, a book report, a sales analysis, or a love letter. Point is, when you put yourself into words, you’re not just writing down what you think; you’re creating a character. You’re working from what them big-time, tenured professors call a “subject position.”
Having a subject position is nothing to be ashamed of. It just means you lean one way or another. In the act of writing, you are creating yourself and leaning yourself into a subject position. It's not your fault; you can’t avoid it.
Uncle Jerry’s friend L.T. Green, from Muleshoe, Texas, used to say he leaned one way or another only when he had to pass a little gas. Was L.T. a professor? Well-spotted, Camper. "Professor" is a subject position, too, though some professors are not full of gas.
Sometimes, amazingly, you find yourself writing along, and hey—you didn’t know you were going to write what you just wrote. Your position has changed. Things look different. It’s like finding yourself in someone else’s house, looking at furniture that doesn’t belong to you. You step over the cat and pick up the guitar; you look at the photos on the wall—you don’t know these people, but somehow they look familiar.
Once, as a small boy, Your Uncle Jerry found himself looking into a neighbor’s very well stocked liquor cabinet. What happened next, Uncle Jerry can’t remember, but the nice doctor is helping him recall some of the following weeks in the juvie detention center.
Never mind about that.
What Uncle Jerry’s friend Michele means by “I pretend I’m not me,” is simply this: when she writes herself into a new subject position, she tries it out for awhile. She leans into it. Why? Well, Camper, sometimes it’s just fun to see the world from a different angle. And sometimes everyone needs to pass a little gas.
Peace and joy.
Chapter Seventeen of Molly's story finds the uncles in a very difficult position.
Joy and peace, Camper.
Revenge. Vengeance. Getting Even. Payback. Settling a score. To strike back at someone who has done you wrong is a primal instinct, and it is one Your Uncle Jerry recommends indulging as often as possible. But how often is that?
Uncle Jerry’s older sibling, Aunt Blue, was a pincher. And not just a pincher—a fingernail pincher. Aunt Blue lived mostly in the back seat of the family car on school days, from where she would often inflict, without ANY provocation, a most painful torture with two fingernails on the skin of Your Uncle Jerry’s thigh.
Did Uncle Jerry take revenge for this outrage? Dang right. He crushed her peanut butter sandwich.
This is deep biology talking. Don’t fight it. It is survival itself that drives us toward revenge. Why? Because revenge draws a line between us and the other person. It says “this is my side of the backseat; you stay over there, unless you like tread marks on your wonder bread.” It’s a beautiful thing, when you think about it. Even-ness is fundamentally democratic, and something we should all support.
Unbelievably, there is a certain class of persons who do not understand the fine symmetry of getting even. “Even” is not a concept they are interested in. "Above" is more what’s on their mind. "Over"—as in you.
Be careful of such persons; they have no sense of balance, and this makes them dangerous and unfunny. When tempted to settle a score with them, Camper, ask yourself two questions. 1) “Will I ever have to deal with this person again?” and 2) “Will I ever have to deal with this person again?” Uncle Jerry knows that’s the same question twice, but he doesn’t trust you to answer truthfully the first time. If the answer is Yes to either of these questions, your best revenge will be watching someone else take that person down.
There is another class of persons on whom you should never attempt revenge. This group includes those who look up to you, baristas, and honestly stupid people, especially those in elected office. Yes, yes, of course, they’re annoying. Yes, they deserve it. Yes, whatever. But listen, Camper. The only thing worse than NOT getting even with someone who is invincibly ignorant is GETTING even with them. Revenge is a dish eaten eye-to-eye. Which part of “even” don’t you understand? And you need the proper wine to serve with it. Duh.
Which brings us to: Uncle Jerry’s Six Persons Never to Pay Back.
In our story, Molly sets out for revenge on Rhinehart. Let’s see how that goes.