2.24.2009

An Observation that May or May Not be True, May or May Not apply to You

He most honors my style who learns under it to destroy the teacher. --Walt Whitman
I observe that the vast majority of the young men of my generation ('74-'82ish) have yet to overcome their fathers. Accepting and sharing their fathers' views, they do their best to justify all that their fathers have taught them. They have not yet learned how to read about the legendary patricides of history and fiction, have no authentic understanding of Oedipus, or the Karamazovs, and dismiss Freud as if it is Freud who is fixated. They are not Russian enough. They have understood love shallowly, or not at all, as a kind of petty loyalty. They are a generation of Nietzsches, grown up to be pastors like their fathers and grandfathers before them. They may be worse: obedient Adams, yet to taste the fruit of the Tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil.
Tyler: After I graduated, I called him long distance and asked, "Now what?" He said, "Get a job." When I turned twenty-five, I called him and asked, "Now what?" He said, "I don't know. Get married."

Jack: Same here.

Tyler: A generation of men raised by women. I'm wondering if another woman is the answer we really need.
Would you ask for my credentials? I do not vote the same way as my father. He was a basketball coach; I sit still and do yoga or study ethics. He believed that "Persistence and determination alone, are all that matter;" I believe patience and silence are primary virtues. He lives for golf and never gets upset when he plays; I play only when he visits, and break a club over my knee once or twice a year. He eats meat and potatoes; I eat tofu and broccoli. He combs his hair--I don't! He is a trinitarian--I may be a Unitarian, or a Buddhist! He wears ties--I hate ties!!!

And yet I think I may know my father in ways that my unrebellious peers cannot: see, my grandpa (my father's father) smoked cigarettes; my father did not. My grandpa loved boxing; my dad did not. My grandpa was casual; my dad is not. My grandpa devalued religion; my father is quite religious. My grandpa was manic-depressive; my father is steady-Eddie. My grandpa managed a bus station; my father is a professor of kinesiology.

In short: my father and I, even as our worldly experiences and preferences diverge, are united by the psychological structures, by the experience, of rebelling against the father. It is in this way that I have come to understand the meaning of the Gnostic Gospel of Philip: "What the father possesses belongs to the son, and the son himself, so long as he is small, is not entrusted with what is his. But when he becomes a man, his father gives him all that he possesses." It seems to me that the son who does not make his father's ideas look ridiculous has not fulfilled one of his most fundamental duties on earth.

Become men, lads!--receive your inheritance bravely!

2 comments:

Insignificant Wrangler said...

Perhaps this is my cynicism, but I'm thinking of Derrida's thought that there are no fathers, only sons. Fatherhood is as unachievable an ideal as pure logos or a debt free economy.

Casey said...

Hmm. What that's not your (Derrida's?) cynicism talking, but your fear?