Sunday, April 17, 2011
A piece below I'm submitting to The Sun, on the topic of Authority. More mind-mapping this weekend... I hope it's all taking me somewhere important... And on the plus side, although my toes are numb right now, it is beginning to feel like spring here.
The first garden plot is finally half-free of snow, and Crockett says we can put peas into the ground April 20! Woo-woo!
James Dean is the rebel, his stodgy father is the authority. Lyra is the rebel, and The Authority is dying in a bombed-out popemobile. The dorm girls who listen to The Cure and wear black eyeliner are the rebels, my dorm dad, Uncle Art, is the authority.
I’ve never claimed or respected any authority. I’ve always placed myself on the other side of that line. The introverted girl on the sidelines, or the sneering teenager, leaning against a figurative motorcycle, or the twenty-year-old blowing smoke into a cop’s face. Questioning everything appeals more than having authority.
Like James Dean, I chose to question authority. I attended a boarding school for the children of missionaries in Manila, and my dorm dad took issue with any questioning. Especially of him. It didn’t matter how logical my question, how well-thought-out a position. Questioning authority itself was to be condemned, a punishable offense.
In my dreams, to this day, I’m chased by mysterious “administration officials” out to get me. I’m haunted by the administration as a symbol of the unforgiving God of my childhood, the God that mimics Lyra’s Authority, a heartless, cold, controlling bastard.
Authority isn’t cool. As I wave at thirty zooming by, I realize I’m at the age past which Bob Dylan, the apostle of cool himself, says I can’t be trusted. As I age, I find myself changing my opinion about authority, too. The jaded aura of cool that used to mean so much to me means less as my years pass. Instead, I realize that it’s always easier to stand against something than it is to stand for something.
Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to be an authority on something. “Author” is hidden inside of the word neatly. What I most want is to author my own reality, to shape my future. I want my questions have the same value that Uncle Art’s answers did. I want to possess moral authority, for my opinion to have weight, and substance.
Part of that moral authority, and part of the answers to those questions, is coming to terms with the God of my childhood. I’ve come to understand that I can stand for something, but I can also submit to the will of a higher power. That the true author doesn’t mind questions—welcomes them, in fact. And that as much as I try to create my own reality, I’m not the Creator.
Maybe the essence of authority is knowing when to stand for something, and knowing when to let go. I’m still the rebel. The Creator has the authority.