March 29, 2008

Rebellion III

If rebellion means doing things differently, breaking patterns, then sure, I have plenty rebelled.

1. When I was three and a half our family drive from MN to AK, five kids in a Ford station wagon pulling a camper trailer. I refused to eat pink fish. One sister thought I enjoyed hearing her read comic books backwards and I asked her to stop.
2. In High School we got good at climbing things, like buildings and water towers. From the top of the water tower out at West Hills you can see all they way to Medford. Once we found an access hatch through the roof of Owatonna High School where you could drop down into the janitor's tool closet/break room. Simply being there in the dark school hallway at midnight was all that was required. Another time we got into the school around five on the morning of December 8, 1983, and covered the halls with posters wishing Jim Morrison a happy 40th birthday. Principal Souter asked me to take them down by the end of the day. We were not punished and I think Jean Kaplan was impressed.
2a. For years two of my siblings have tried to get me to admit that I glued letters onto a street sign so it would read 'Van Halen Ave.' instead of 'Van Buren Ave.'. Yes, it was me.
3. Once in Stockholm they gathered all the Fulbright scholars to meet the former Prime Minister of Sweden and they told us how to dress-- ties and jackets for the guys. I made a point of just wearing a shirt. Who did that guy think he was anyway, the Prime Minister!?
4. When I started at the University I had a teaching mentor and he and some other brass attended one of my lectures in atmospheric chemistry to evaluate my teaching, and it was related to whether my job would become permanent. I was told in advance to be sure to do a good job. I refused to give a normal lecture and instead had an hour long discussion with the students about the atmospheres of Mars and Venus, driven by student questions. I prepared by reading everything I could find about these planets. I was annoyed that these guys would even think of trying to evaluate my teaching. What was I thinking and couldn't I have just done what they expected?

These days.
1. I live in a far away place among people who have a different word for everything.
2. I drive as little as possible.
3. For a time there Dad was hinting broadly that I could choose to go into the ministry. I did not, but I subvert people to the cause when I get the chance. Keywords: kindness, respect, humility, dignity, listening and being open to opportunities.
4. I am not a regular churchgoer (I did celebrate my 40th birthday by going to Lutheran High Mass) but I don't think that's what counts. How often do Jesus' acts take place in church? Rather, living is where it counts. I am never going to whack anybody over the head with religion like happened to me a few times growing up. (To be clear, Dad never whacked me over the head. OK, he did, physically, but only in jest.)
5. Being the youngest kid by a good stretch (my four siblings had left their teens when I started mine), growing up I was in the minority, the exception, an outsider, powerless against the group will. So I know how power can be abused and avoid it at every turn. I have taken that Question Authority button to heart.
6. I am usually pretty suspicious of things (at least my wife says I am) and like to think them through for myself. For example I was suspicious of this idea of 'trying on different masks' because masks are superficial. I have a feeling that I have always been me, a constant kernel invariant in time, showing up at different places, like whacking a piƱata in kindergarten or listening to tapes in the Lincoln Elementary media center or improvising an anchor-- always an oiled slab of decency between two slices of whole grained looking elsewhere. I can't put my finger on a time when I thought, Oh my, that was a useful mask I will have to use again. Rather, it is just me who shows up. Shows up to give lectures, shows up at school meetings, faculty meetings, at the dinner table. That's mostly what I do these days, show up. It's just like Dad told me once, 'Sometimes all you have to do is show up.'
7. Being the youngest kid I always got things explained to me by just about everyone. They say that what you lacked as a kid you can never get enough of as an adult. So I can spend hours and hours explaining things to others.



At March 29, 2008 7:03 PM , Blogger Papa Twister said...

Okay, you proved it. You have never really rebelled. I also have a confession... You left some music books at my house years ago. I never returned them. I still have them. I keep thinking I should post a picture of them on my blog and apologize, but I'm not even a real blogger. I feel guilty every time I read your blog, but I am rebelling against my guilt. To make things worse, the transcriptions of most the songs are wrong.

At March 29, 2008 7:05 PM , Blogger Papa Twister said...

Laura just looked over my shoulder and said that you're going to want those books. She'll mail them to you if you would like. I'm sorry.

At March 29, 2008 8:49 PM , Blogger Matt_J said...

AHA! So that's where they are. If one of those books is the one I think it is then it's not mine but was lent to me by a Hippie Mountain Man Blacksmith named Tiny.

So, what qualifies as rebellion?

At March 30, 2008 7:10 PM , Blogger Papa Twister said...

I liked your first definition of rebellion, where independent thinkers weren't rebells. They were just people who didn't like pink fish. I have more on this, but I need to go help needy kids. I also have an innate appreciation for the Van Halen sign. Do you want me to send the books? It would help me get beyond this. Finally, what if you knew that the color of fish flesh was dependent on the type of bugs that the fish was eating?

At March 30, 2008 8:20 PM , Blogger Matt_J said...

Yes, please send. There's nothing to get beyond in my mind, but as long as you are thinking about it, it would be fun to see the books again. I am teaching F to play the guitar and we could use the material. Also thanks for the tip 'Rise Up Singing' we are making good use of it.

At March 30, 2008 10:24 PM , Blogger Matt_J said...

Yes the Van Halen sign did brighten the neighborhood.

At April 01, 2008 1:33 AM , Blogger Papa Twister said...

Email me your snail mail address and any requests from Los Angeles, and I will put together a package for you with the 3 books that I believe are yours. Just in case you lost my email it is my first initial with my last name at roadrunner dot com. I don't actually feel that guilty, but I would love to send a package to you in Sweden. There is one page that I am going to photocopy before I send it, the page with my favorite fishing song of all time, Sunny.

Also, if you'd like to see more pictures of my family, I just joined Facebook and have posted pictures there. I still have internet-identity-phobia and don't want to post family pictures for the world, but some how the "friends" element of Facebook makes me feel safe for showing my children to bad guys. M-D-Y-E told me to join and she has family photos, too. So join and request to be my friend. I go by my legal name on Facebook.


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