A long look back — and a quick one ahead


What word is so lost, so unused and so dismissed in this world of trigger warnings, Ponzi schemes, term paper mills, “rape culture”, revenge porn, and hedge fund cheaters as the word honor. The word “diss” is used a lot, a strange truncation spoken as if the speaker just ran out of energy before it could be finished. To be dissed doesn’t mean the loss of honor, it’s merely a squawk at a perceived insult.

But honor is an old word and has meaning that modern ears seldom hear. Now, it implies something old fashioned and vaguely useless, an impulse that leads people who believe in it into blind alleys. Where’s the profit? the modern citizen asks. Is our modern world of capitalism even remotely honorable? What’s the value of honor in corporate culture? In a world governed by implacable meritocracy someone who doesn’t cheat is a loser. The word has even taken on a negative meaning when it is used to describe aspects of tribal culture in less advanced societies – “honor killings”, for example. In short, in our bright new grifter’s world, honor is a handicap.

Yet once, an honorable man or woman was someone whose word you could trust. “My word is my bond,” they would say and mean it to the bottom of their hearts. They had a sense of self worth that people like Donald Trump could never comprehend. Don’t we all, in the bottom of our hearts, want to be thought of as honorable? How could we let that slip away?

September 13, 2015


I’ve developed a blather deflection device in my mind. It’s located at the end of the hood on my mental automobile, and looks a lot like those old bug deflectors that blew insects away from the windshield on Mack trucks. The last word that it deflected right over the top was “cisgender”. Cisgenger is a word that does a 360 degree circle and bites itself in the ass. Look it up if you have to.

July 29, 2015


The Perfumed Letter

It was a loss that defined one age passing to another – perhaps like the one that divided the pre-Cambrian from the Cambrian — when the mighty pen fell to the overwhelming army of ones and zeros. The pen that was once mightier than the sword. As for the sword itself, the primitive weapon that forced victor and vanquished to fight within arms reach, it is reduced to a thing used in computer games. The only blood it can draw now can be staunched with a reboot. But it was once made of Toledo steel and had a jeweled hilt and was passed from father to son.

There is now a generation – maybe two – of young men who have never received a perfumed letter. A letter their grandfathers carried around for months until it tore at the creases, even then still emanating a faint ghost of its sender’s affection. In those days, young men were moved around when their parents moved, or they went away to school or the armed services. Relationships that were begun in a high school hallway or classroom and that took such strong adolescent root could be completely at the mercy of forces outside the young couple’s control. First the separation then the grief of distance then the arrival of the letter. It was usually a robins-egg blue or light pink and the handwriting on the envelope was carefully round. In an instant, the manly heart of the recipient became a puddle. The envelope was torn open with a thumb – no time for even a penknife. The words inside might have been inconsequential, vacuous, yet carried so much between their lines than what they specifically said didn’t matter. The more times they were read, the greater the cargo of love they bore until the young man didn’t even need to read them any more; just the physical presence of the letter in a back pocket was enough.

Now, in addition to the antiseptic email, we have snapchat and vimeo and the ultimately clumsy text message that often manages to actually repel affection. It is as far from a perfumed letter as can be imagined.

It’s the back-handed ease of communication now that is at the root of this problem. Now we can sext. What fun! We have no waiting period, no time to think and let things settle between letters, something the old post office once forced on us. Yet in those days, our imagination was there to give so much more meaning than ones and zeros can ever do.


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