New Year's Thinking

Embrace the Paradox

The Bar Pilot looks backward and forward

By John Chandler January 4, 2010

Pardon me while I screw on my thinking cap.

I was at Dante’s on New Year’s Eve, awaiting the ceremonial emergence of a fresh 365-day interval. A sparkling clean 2010, as yet untainted by scandal, scuttlebutt, polemics, politics, posturing, and other distractions designed to hammer our collective IQ into the ground like a circus strongman swinging a giant mallet. A flask full of Eagle Rare Bourbon had put me in a reflective mood, and even as I was contemplating another year of cultural kibitzing about beer, bars, and booze, I was bobbing my bean to surf music, a musical genre that hasn’t evolved one whit in nearly 50 years. And then I overheard someone say to the bartender, "Embrace the paradox." I don’t know if this fellow was ordering a fancy cocktail or what, but it made sense to me at that moment in time. So that’s what I’m going to do.

For this calendar year I’m going to take a few steps back from the daily deluge of stimulus, the media-guided slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, and try to keep my temper in check and the whole picture in focus. Positive and negative, light and dark, yin and yang, Hall and Oates, a recognition and appreciation of opposite forces is clearly the way to go. The polarization of our society, (rich/poor, religious/agnostic, conservative/liberal, etc,) keeps me awake and pacing at night. But thanks to an evening at Dante’s spent guzzling hooch and optimistically looking forward to a new year—with a retro soundtrack provided by Church of Surf, the Romanes (Portland’s premier Ramones cover band), and the caped surf sensations known as Satan’s Pilgrims—I was rewarded with a measure of inspiration, even as I watched post-collegiate hipsters that have never experienced a world without email Sufi dancing to "Pipeline."

I think it’s worth noting that our very existence contains its own polar opposite, which is not exactly news to students of physics or my old hippie housemates, Hawkwing, and Winter. Our lives are a flicker in time, but prevailing wisdom would have us believe that our souls, life forces, essences, chi, or whatever, are eternal—that is, if you’ve lived an honest life. Today you may believe that panhandlers are lazy, unmotivated bums, and a blight on our fair city. Tomorrow you might see things differently and volunteer to sling sandwiches at Sisters of the Road. We have the ability to change and adapt not only our technology, but our minds, and history has shown us that those incapable of doing so become part of the fossil record. To thine own self be true, but remember you’re another fish in the sea and we’ve all got to swim, eat, and poop here. Whether you like the guy in the turban sitting next to you on the bus or not, don’t for a moment forget that we’re all in this together. Does this make any sense?

Uhm, apropos of nothing, has anyone else who ate the brownies at Hawkwing’s potluck been bedeviled by hallucinations lately?

I would love to hear any epiphanies, resolutions, or deep thoughts on the coming year from you, my incomparable drinking buddies.

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