Category Archives: Self-sufficiency

Sing to the Tune of a Different Choir

According to a poll released yesterday (9 October 2012) by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, Americans in increasing numbers do not affiliate with any particular religious organization. The results are published here. There are a lot of data in the survey results, but the overall trend is that not belonging to a group is becoming more common among young people. That group tends to lean left in American politics. There’s no concentration in any one ethnic group, income level, or, surprisingly, education level. Almost seventy percent of the unaffiliated believe in God (or gods?) in some fashion. All told, one person out of five in this country now does not identify with an institution.

I see this as a good trend. As I’ve said before, I don’t trust large groups. Human beings, taken individually, are often good, but put them together, and they sink to the lowest level of behavior and mentality and stay there. This is true in businesses, academic institutions, governments, and religions. The megaphone of association magnifies the worst in us.

This is also a continuation of the Protestant movement that began in Europe in the late Middle Ages. The assertion of that movement was that an individual is responsible for and capable of communicating with the divine directly without the need of another person. That view was a heresy in the best sense of the word. Heresy comes from a Greek word meaning “choice.” In that way, Protestantism fits in nicely with the general trend toward individual rights that has been working its way through the minds of thinkers in the West for thousands of years. Institutions are often the antithesis of choice, and it’s good to see more and more Americans either loosening or leaving those institutions.

The trend here is reminiscent of a book by Martin Gardner, The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener. Gardner was a noted skeptic on matters of religion and the supernatural, and yet in that book, he identified himself as someone who believed in God and the afterlife. He did this on his own, as a result of his reading and thinking and also of his personal nature. He made a leap of faith, and that leap had to be done out of his own choice, not at the calling of an institution.

In summary, this is the distribution of power that is necessary for a functioning democracy. The more of us who take on intellectual and spiritual responsibility for our own lives, the better. Carry on, my brothers and sisters in personal faith.

You Just Don’t Do That!

Today on NPR’s Talk of the Nation, the second hour had a discussion about eighty-eight American books that the Library of Congress believes have been influential in who we are. The discussion itself was interesting, even though the librarian, Mark Dimunation, kept using the word, impact, when he meant to say “influence” or “effect.” But that’s not what drove me to the keyboard today. Near the end of the segment, one of the guests said the following:

“It’s like cutting your own hair. You just don’t do that.”

This is an example of synchronicity, I suppose. Today happened to be the day that I had set aside for doing exactly what the guest said I don’t do.

Yes, I cut my own hair. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t waste time on such a trivial matter on this weblog, but hearing that remark brought up a thought about our culture.

Some five years ago, the last time I went into a hair salon, I sat in the chair and allowed some apparent child to run a razor with a guide comb over my head. That cost me $15 plus a tip. It occurred to me that I could do the same thing. After a trip to the local big box store for a $30 razor, guide combs, and scissors kit, I have done what the talking head believes to be the impossible or undesirable.

To be sure, I favor an easy style and don’t care about being stylish. It works for me. Thirty dollars in five years and counting is a price that I can live with. But that’s not the main point.

What matters the most to me is that too many people have an attitude that they cannot do things for themselves. We used to be a country that valued self-sufficiency. Now, we have “experts” who tell us what we can’t do, and no one on the program even reacts. I want control over my own life. When I went to hair salons (barber shops being hard to find), no matter how many times I told the child what I wanted, she wouldn’t comply. Cutting it myself means I get exactly what I want and what I deserve. It’s a test of my ability to do for myself. It’s a reflection of the fact that your opinion about my hair is none of my business.

It’s the American thing to do.