Nothing that New
By David Weinstein
I write this a few days before Thanksgiving, which, by the time you read this will have come and gone. I hope you are all still on speaking terms with most of your family. I’m sure, despite best efforts to keep the conversation light, some couldn’t help but stray across that invisible border into the No Man’s Land of political controversy. Inevitably, there are always those among us, the inappropriate brother-in-law, or reprobate uncle, who can’t help themselves. I only hope that casualties were light.
I, for one, made a pledge not to discuss anything involving politics or medical issues. However, I am hopeful that at least someone will, because while the salvos are being hurled across the Thanksgiving table, and participants are distracted, I’ll have unfettered access to the white meat, stuffing, and gravy. If I am reluctantly drawn into the conversation, I have come up with a stock answer to get back to the task at hand—“Let me think about that and I’ll get back to you.” All the while continuing to load up on the highest value comestibles.
I am no stranger to controversy. I grew up in a household rife with it. Rarely a day went by in my youth when there wasn’t an argument between my mom and dad, often drawing my sister and me into the fray. If there was an Olympic event for arguing, my parents would have been renowned throughout the “uncivilized” world, and as a mixed doubles pair they would have simply been unbeatable. To this day, when I hear words spoken in loud disagreement, I get nostalgic for my childhood home.
This is not to say I have gotten entirely comfortable around folks who hold wildly divergent views from my own. It’s just that I am able to hold at least several seemingly contradictory opinions in my head until the facts play out, all without marching out to defend my local shopping mall or lay siege on our Capitol building.
This calls to mind a favorite quote of mine from Walt Whitman, “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself. I am large, I contain multitudes.”
Speaking of unresolved differences, I share another quote I recently came across about Laguna from 1937:
“Today a roaring tide of traffic plunges through the middle of our town. A flood of outlanders engulf our beach every weekend. We have telephones, electric lights, sewers, paved streets, and special assessments. Old landmarks make way for specimens of streamlined architecture. Eucalyptus trees go down and service stations spring up even as we watch it.
With this growth comes times of plenty – and also, the threat of cheapness and vulgarity. But the brown hills and the sea are still with us – and so are the artists. And the artists still paint and take pleasure in the simple eternal things. The artists are a link with the past and a bulwark against the encroachment of imported vulgarity and tawdry big-town ideals.
For, underneath all this activity, the old Laguna still persists, unhurried and informal. It is still, thank God, a very small town. Every year we see enacted the little drama of some brisk and angry newcomer determined to make Laguna change its ways and sit up and take notice. And every year a few months later, we see the newcomer philosophically changing his own ways to conform with Laguna’s and settling down to find happiness in its wise and deliberate tempo…” – G.D. From the 1937 Festival of Arts Program.
Sound familiar? In the meantime, you just might cut that brother-in-law and uncle a little slack. After all, it’s the season of goodwill towards all.
David lives in Newport Beach and is an occasional contributor to the Independent.