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adapting like a participle

The Principle is often the greatest offender.

This morning began with a delightful conversation about principals and principles.

I was running late and so I ran into fellow commuter I sit and chat with every once in a while. She fancies herself a “teacher of the world,” a moniker reflecting her avid wanderlust and her profession as a teacher at an alternative education school in Manhattan.

Usually I do a lot of the blathering, so she surprised me this time as she let it all out and talked about everything from scandals involving stodgy school principals who end up being home-breakers to the calamity of coming out after 40 years of being a lesbian in the closet.

I wanted to laugh out loud in celebration of all the splendid and frivolous troubles people go through just to be themselves, to love and be loved, and to laugh as they look back upon the struggle of becoming free and the individual they long longed to be. However, I held back my chuckling, as the woman seated in front of us kept looking back and giving us her evil eye, which was threatening enough to curtail my jovial impulse and natural self-expression.

After this invigorating conversation, I pondered the amusing interplay we endure between satisfying ourselves and the feigning we do to appease society. I rolled my eyes as I concluded that I am cursed with the taste for the fruit that falls from the tree of knowledge. For I know more than others, and yet I know nothing. I asked myself, “So does that mean others no less than nothing, or simply everything I do not know.” Who knows? I certainly don’t.

What I do know and boldly contend is that those who hold to principles are often the worst kind of people—they punish, they grieve, they stew, they act maliciously, they feel anger, jealousy, envy, and avarice—much of the time zealously, with a zealotry that offends and incurs and stirs up all kinds of trouble more than it defends the benevolent values it purports to be stubbornly standing up for and the so-called evil it vehemently rallies against. As a result, they suffer and make others suffer with them. And yet, ultimately they do little to resolve their woes or the woes of the world for that matter. Their toes are stuck in the mud to which they have fallen from the windmill, which otherwise might have carried them to the stars.

So perhaps its more accurate to say that it is actually the principled who are the greatest offenders. I don’t know, and yet I do.

If anything, I advocate that the best of us lie and live and give into something that is somewhere in between what is right and what it wrong, always mitigating the two, depending on who and what and when we are dealing with when it comes to righteousness. The method is a madness in which the protagonist is conscious of her impertinent call to impunity, but not to the point of being indifferent and careless about the well-being of others less enlightened and more frightened about figuring it all out for themselves.

In order to be you, one has to be less of what others want you to be. Ultimately, it is a balancing act between saucily ignoring principle and adapting like a participle, both being and acting—one becoming of the other. For the brave always have the druthers to choose who they want to be, it is the less courageous amongst us who stalwartly stick you with grammar and the antiquated rules of others.

Kasidah Haji Abdu'l el Yezdi
There is no Good, there is no Bad;
These be the whims of mortal will.
What works me weal, that I call good;
What harms and hurts I hold as ill.
They change with place, they shift with race,
And, in the veriest span of time,
Each Vice has worn a Virtue's crown,
All Good was banned as Sin or Crime.
~ Translated by Sir Richard Burton

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