Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Being a bus is better than being a tram

Plutarch raises a wonderful subject: changing one’s mind. We’re defined by this, defined too if it never happens. What was your most significant volte face and dare you admit it? First some ground rules.

Mind-changes must not be self-serving. Loving pop music for forty years and suddenly switching to Scarlatti won’t do. Though vice versa might. Being intransigent during youth and becoming tolerant in old age is just a way of saying: look how adult I am. Changeover should ideally involve a price paid, a hint of disadvantage.

My early life was apolitical, then journalism took me leftwards, hating the right-wing ethos and its practitioners. Now I reluctantly identify a few admirable Tories, people of principle. Chris Patten for instance. But hardly a Damascene moment.

As a young journalist I accepted praise and criticism unthinkingly. Only in middle age did I recognise my careless and flashy writing and that I’d never tried to improve things. Twenty-odd years wasted. But, as a revelation, meaningless to an outsider.

Changing one’s mind can highlight regret. I never got on with my father, but came much closer to him during his final illness. This wasn’t theoretical, my new feelings for him were genuine emotions. Earlier I was ill-informed, callow.

During the last decade a hard-held opinion has gone into reverse. Ironically, this blog is the last place I can discuss it – too dangerous. Must ask Plutarch. Hope any commenters are less chicken-hearted.

THE NOVEL Ch. 1 5577 words, Ch. 2 (unfinished) 5104 words. February 8 2010. Last week I celebrated the exhilaration of motorbikes. Bikes, skis, rock-climbing, mid distance swimming are in the past. But an unexpected and lengthy twist in Ch. 2 left me with the same endorphin flow. Affirmation.


The Crow said...

I am neither proud not ashamed to admit this: I was reared in the American Deep South in pre-Civil-Rights days by parents who grew up living, breathing, learning, teaching racism, having learned it from their parents and grandparents, et cetera. I was rapidly becoming a person who accepted that way of life because it was all I knew, all I saw and heard. I didn't give it any thought, never questioned the perceived wisdom of my elders.

When I was fifteen (in 1962), I read "Black Like Me," and my life, as well as my mind, changed forever. I'm still learning. Bigotry/racism is an insidious conditioning that takes viligence to overcome.

The Crow said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Crow said...

Sorry, I intended to type 'vigilance."

Sir Hugh said...

As a young boy I joined the local Church of England Boy Scouts group, and went along with the token requirements for C of E involvement (I was raised in a family vaguely affiliated to that denomination). My rise to power was dramatic from raw recruit to Patrol Leader and then as age demanded Senior Scout Patrol Leader. At the age of about fifteen I was reaching the upper age limit for Senior Scouts and began to receive pressure from the hierarchy to become a Rover Scout which was the final step in the age progression in the Scout movement at the time. On examination of the procedure I discovered I would have to take vows in church, changing my passive attachment with the C of E into something much more positive. At this point I suppose I “changed my mind” and backed out altogether. I think I had been forced to analyse my thoughts about religion and I am glad that I was able to reach a conclusion on my own without reference to other people. I am not sure if all this qualifies for the kind of mind changing you are talking about?

Julia said...

Religious convictions would be my most significant. Most interesting though might be the way I changed my mind about what life was like under Communism. I grew up thinking that people who lived in Communist countries were desperate and hungry, that everything was grey, there was no color, no creativity and resistance only by a very few. Then I moved to a post Communist country. Through stories, family albums, retrospective exhibits and knowing the people who lived through that time, I came to realize that the reality of life under Communism was not the concentration camp I grew up imagining. It was very limiting, and not something any of my friends would want to return to but it was lived in full color, people owned little houses in the countryside, listened to music, put on plays with wickedly clever digs against the administration, were very human and knew how to stretch their independence to the limit.

Barrett Bonden said...

All: The Crow has asked me to delete her comment to this post. Having re-read it she believes it to be “rather self-serving” and “preachy, maybe bordering on the holier-than- thou.” Also she feels it resurrects a period of alienation from her family. I asked her to reconsider this.

I too have been doing some re-reading on this matter. Mind-changing (forgive the less cumbersome abbreviation) is indeed a wonderful subject, rather too wonderful. It requires a degree of self-analysis and unflinching honesty that makes it unsuitable for Works Well, a forum intended primarily for entertainment. My final paragraph hints at one problem and since then I’m reminded of another. I will be surprised if anyone else feels inclined to respond. A step too far.

However, having re-read The Crow’s comment I don’t see it as self-serving. It has nothing in common with the politician’s technique I had in mind (eg, confessing to, say, a love of chocolate as a means of inviting forgiveness for “hating terrorism, serial murder, and trampling on public flower-beds.”) The Crow’s earlier situation is one most of us can be thankful we escaped and a reminder that a liberal conscience may come at a price. For me such a comment raises the tone of Works Well immeasurably and I’m pleased she’s responded to my arm twisting.

The Crown: Don't be so damn punctilious. I know you can spell (and write). No need for all these deletions.

Sir Hugh: Think of it as a fork in the road. If I were playing the role of the miserabilist reporter (which I frequently do) I might ask how long would you have remained a Rover anyway had you not had to make this contract. Was the communal life of scouting the attraction or just the outdoor activities like climbing.

Julia: I suppose you weren't alone in believing that life in the Warsaw Pact countries must have been unbearable. Our respective governments conditioned us to think that way. It's always best to dig up one's own evidence. Yugsolavia wasn't of course Warsaw Pact and Tito's despotism was more benign than malign. He also kept the warring Balkan states away from each other's throats. I holidayed there in 1965 and it was only at the Austrian border that there was any hint of an authoritarian state. The elderly couple, whose house-cum-farm I stayed in, appeared to be moderately free from restrictions.

Anne said...

Well, I got divorced 3 times. That certainly involved some mind changing. Then I resolved never to marry again -- but, lo and behold, I am married for the fourth time.

Besides my marital vacillations I have had 2 careers; 1st as a scientist and 2nd as an artist. Now I think I am making a career out of being an old lady.

Changing my mind is easy. It's consistency that's a problem.

FigMince said...

I was eighteen, and had started playing golf quite badly. I would often play nine holes on a course near my home very early in the morning before going to work.

Other golfers did the same thing, usually in threesomes or foursomes, but I played alone. One morning a man in his fifties, also on his own, suggested we play together.

With two or three other groups waiting their turn to hit off from the first tee, I duffed my drive horrendously. After I'd played my second shot maybe twenty yards from the tee, I muttered something to my playing partner about how tense I always felt teeing-off in front of observers and how embarrassing it'd been to blow it as I'd just done.

His response went something like:

"Why? You don't know them; they don't know you; the closest they'll get to you in the next hour-and-a-half is a couple of hundred yards; and then you'll probably never see them again in your entire life. You duffed your shot because you were trying too hard to impress people who only matter because you invested them with relevance."

Barrett Bonden said...

Anne: Welcome to Works Well. As a scientist you will recognise the need for identifying causal relationships. I assume then that the three mind-changes you refer to were triggered by the three spouses and not the institution of marriage. In fact, looking at things in another way, you may be said to be three times more committed to marriage than I am, even though the maths is dubious. As to making a career out of being an old lady, something tells me this won't work. Feistiness is apparent in the interstices of your briskly chosen words and I suspect this quality may turn out to dominate old-ness.

FigMince: Golf is of course a battleground for the male psyche. The ancient mariner you acquired was telling the truth but applying truth or, more particularly, rationality to golf is fruitless. Like you I had the feeling that I was moving about the course under the pitiless effects of a huge magnifying glass above which was a CCTV recording my idiocies for all time. Thus embarrassment wasn't merely of the moment, but would endure.

The assumption is that everyone else on the course is practising schadenfreude and this is partly true. But it's schadenfreude mixed with relief - ie, Well at least I'm not as bad as him - until the next duff shot forces them to realise they're now practising hubris. Golf, a game of five-dollar words.

DuchessOmnium said...

Nope, I am not showing you mine before you show yours.

Rouchswalwe said...

Well I must admit that I'd feel more comfortable discussing this over a pint or two of ale. But since it's you, BB ... last year, I significantly changed my mind about sopranos. A friend dragged me to a concert last June (with me grumbling that it would be a screechfest) and my ears were opened. By the end of the first song, my mind had been changed. The reception afterwards was a delight. And when the soprano and I bumped into each other the next day at a café, we were both astounded that the one recognized the other. A few weeks later, we ran into each other at a party, and there was no stopping the friendship or my interest in the world of Voice. My mind-change has changed my life.

Barrett Bonden said...

DO: Quite right. I opened a can of worms and it turned out some were poisonous. Meeting the exact terms I laid out is far harder than I imagined. The confession I had in mind would require precise exposition (and careful examination by readers) and might finally induce nothing more than a "So what?" Double damnation. My personal jury is out.

RW (zS): Apprehensions about a screechfest. I hate "brilliant" music intended for virtuosos: in particular many solo violin encores, much of Liszt's stuff and, worst of all, so-called funny songs that some singers reserve for encores. I fully understand your reluctance and I'm delighted it came out well in the end. Check out what your friend thinks of Richard Strauss's Four Last Songs and if she gives the thumbs-up listen to them together. When Strauss died many sopranos wept bucketfuls at his interment, knowing how his music had loved them.

Rouchswalwe said...

Ah, early in our friendship, she turned down the lights, told me to go lay down on the sofa, close my eyes, and listen to the Vier letzte Lieder sung by Kiri Te Kanawa. In hindsight, I think it was some sort of test that I seem to have passed.

Lucy said...

I've gone away and thought about this and yet I still find it very difficult to answer. I think perhaps like Anne, it's not so much what I've changed my mind on but what I haven't. I am sometimes quite worried about my inability to maintain firm opinions at all, but now having encountered Pyrrhonic scepticism, via Montaigne, perhaps it doesn't matter too much after all, which is comforting.

I have learned to like pickled gherkins, though I still prefer the sweet and sour ones. But then I always wanted to like them, and set out to train my tastes. I still can't do pickled onions or eggs though. But a gustatory sensation is not an opinion is it?

Sorry BB, I'm just hopelessly flabby on this.

Barrett Bonden said...

Lucy: Not flabby; what a horrible self-condemnation. One reason why it may be difficult to track down changes is because few of them are of the on/off variety. The process is much slower and harder to identify. However, you have cast up a fascinating sideline when you refer to "always wanting to like" something. Gherkins haven't figured that way for me, but music has. When I first heard about, say, the Grosse Fuge and Messiaen's Quartet For The End Of Time (both of them via written references) I felt I had to - should - like them. Almost as if I had an obligation. Perhaps that would be a more accessible subject to discuss.

Avus said...

A bit like Lucy, really. I don't think it is so much "flabby" as the sometimes maddening ability to see both sides of the arguement.

"During the last decade a hard-held opinion has gone into reverse" - but you are not going to tell us. You are tease, BB!

Avus said...

How did that extra "e" creep into argument? Has Crow left a bug around?

Barrett Bonden said...

Avus: "hard-held opinion". See more recent post.

Lucy said...

Bessie Smith, Mahler(much, do like the 1st), John Cowper Powys (tried in my youth, failed and gave the books away, now re-approaching 'Wolf Solent', will either have more luck or decide I was right the first time), the Gnostic gospels... too many things really go into the pickled onion bracket, or have done at some time... Even andouillette I tried several times to swallow but finally concluded it really did taste like smoked rubber bands marinaded in pig poo and I was on a hiding to nothing.

To come back to mind changing (as opposed to mind-altering) matters, I tend to think that many of the things I've recanted on, which are very, very many, I never really believed in in the first place, but simply wanted to, thought I should, or received them cravenly in the form of attitudes and reflexes from those I thought must no better than I. Having thus lost all conviction I tend not to argue much with those filled with a passionate intensity, which is doubtless a terrible kind of inverted arrogance.

Why is your comments box such a more interesting place to write than my blog?

Barrett Bonden said...

Lucy: As I've said several times before on WW, antipathies (especially those born out of changed opinion) tell more and create a closer bond than enthusiasms and I have made a mental note never again to refer to Das Lied Von Der Erde or Symphony for a Thousand on this blog. Why do antipathies say more? Often because they reveal a certain amount of daring (eg, Bessie Smith - a first in all my lifelong experience) and one always hopes one's friends have the qualities that are lacking in oneself.

Your final remark is very kind (if oblique) and I should have made it on my own behalf to several of the bloggers I respond to. Just recently my comments have been getting longer and longer and may well have exceeded blog wordage over the same period. There's a desire for dialogue, of course, but sometimes I could no more fail to respond than to take breath when I read a completely individual observation (ie, in the unmistakable style of the writer) which hits a spot I'd imagined to be deeply buried.

Barrett Bonden said...

Lucy: I have re-read your comment several times and it's quite possible I am (as we technocrats say) 180 deg out-of-of-phase with the opinions you advance. Luckily Plutarch has paved a way out of this incompetence with his Whitman quote about contradictions and multitudes.

Lucy said...

and I can't believe I typed 'no' for 'know'...

WV -unclook. Sounds like a good idea.