Yesterday was Ivy-interesting. First, I get this great email from Chris with an article from the Washington Post about Socrates and our lack of civil discourse. A subject on which, as an aside, I think we have turned a corner, having moved now from “I can’t tell you what it is but I know it when I see it” to “that kinda talk ain’t getting us anywhere.” It was by George Will, who I read anytime I have the opportunity (yes I know our politics are different, BUT he is a brilliant thinker, a decent writer, and an Ivy guy whose baseball book, Men At Work, inspired me to score an entire Red Sox year. (2009).
The call for civil discourse is getting old, and this is ME saying it. Ever play records? Vinyl. These calls for civil discourse are the space between songs where the record is spinning, the record player is still technically doing what it is supposed to do, but nothing is happening. Back to that in a minute.
Will writes about a Mr. Roosevelt Montás, who came to New York from the Dominican Republic when he was 12, with “a head full of lice, and a belly full of tropical parasites.” Mr. Montás went to and works at Columbia now (coincidence I am not showing favoritism) and wrote a book on Socrates and Education, and of course because everyone has to, a plea for civil discourse. He talks about liberal education and has a good line: “education not for making a living but for living meaningfully.” That’s a good line. I don’t know that the two are mutually exclusive. Perhaps it is better put that there is a fulcrum somewhere between making a living and living meaningfully. Will then goes on to talk about a big library (always good) and how people don’t talk to each other anymore.
On civil discourse. Gramercy (my daughter) babysits for this amazing couple and their two year old boy. The couple just moved here, they are young and still have things to say to each other, and G and I met them for an interview and they just wanted a dinner out every other week. This family gave Gramercy an amazing Christmas bonus (I mean, she is a babysitter and new to the job, and they handed her a bonus) and then gave us a great Christmas present too. So I said that she needed to take some of that bonus and buy her client (the boy) a present with it as a show of gratitude. She had two weeks to do it, and it didn’t get done, so this afternoon I will be racing around with her in the small time slot between the end of school and the start of babysitting to buy the gift. I do not parent alone, and The Mother this morning was on me – how did I let that slip this long? As I was working through the wisdom of noting that I am not the only one with either (1) Gramercy and (2) a car and time and money, the thought came to my head:
You know, having an opinion about how to get something done is very different than actually doing something.
Wisdom prevailed though, and I put down the phone and saved that gem for the site. I don’t give a S+#t if my testosterone is getting lower, I am getting smarter. I wonder if all of these town criers bemoaning the lack of civil discourse are actually having any?
This ties in. My next email was from a reader looking for a company that manufactures collars with holes he can run a collar bar/pin through. I don’t know of any, so I posted it in the group and laid the issue at the feet of the masses. There were some good ideas, use a tailor, maybe Brooks MTM. Then this one guy jumps on and tunes me up a bit about the difference between a collar bar and a collar pin. His assertion was that this is a collar bar:
… and this is a collar pin:
And I don’t disagree with him necessarily, but this guy likes to push my buttons because he thinks that my radical Degage ways have polluted the Ivy air, so he started in with me that I mislabeled them. See the one there with the heads on it that you unscrew? J Press calls that a collar bar. I see the logic of calling it a pin. Pins go through something. But if J Press calls this a collar bar, then we have to at least allow for the fact that it might be one. Am I right?
Of course I am. But as I say, this guy, who has namedrop reflux (I swear, this could be a sentence he would write: I went to the grocery store the other day to get goat yogurt and my uncle and father both went to Harvard) kept at me and I was trying to learn French (thank you Claire-Marie Brisson) so I finally asked Mr. Everyone-I-Am-Related-To-Is-Better-Than-Anyone-You-Are-Related-To-And-My-Dog-Went-To-Brown whether he was wrong, or J Press was wrong? His answer: I am bored.
That’s not civil discourse, it isn’t even authentic discourse, but he did get me who preaches civility all the time out of my lane.
I think the time for the discussion of civil discourse, with all due respect to Mr. Montás and Mr. Will, is over, and the time for the practice of it has arrived. It is only with practice that we, and I include me front and center, will get better at it.
By the way, here is my answer to the Pin The Bar On The Collar game. A collar pin can be both a collar bar and a collar pin. A collar bar can only be a bar, as it does not penetrate anything.