Thursday, July 27, 2006


People like checkboxes. Clear choices where, with one stroke of a pen, you're on one side or the other. Democrat or Republican. Christian or heathen. Good or evil. Fight or flight, nature or nurture, normal or weird, it permeates every aspect of our lives. Our entire system of government is built on it -- you walk into a private booth, pull a curtain, and put check marks in boxes that determine who gets to make the rules from then on.

Checkboxes are clean; the choices you see are the only choices there are. If you don't like one of them, or you think more than one is good, tough. It's time to fish or cut bait, shit or get off the pot, push has come to shove and you have to be with us or against us. You get one choice and you'd damn well better check one of them because blank forms aren't accepted.

Most people live their lives by checkmark. When they meet someone, out comes the checklist -- let's see, it's a white (check!) male (check!) Baptist (check!), that means he's going to believe A (check!), B (check!) and C (check!). No need to think about things too much, the checkmarks never lie, just fill them out and by the end of the process all your choices are made and you can get on with watching "American Idol" (Taylor Hicks, CHECK!) without all the bother of thinking about items not on the checklist.

The thing about me and Annie is, most checklists don't have boxes for us.

Annie's a successful entrepreneur who made her business by interacting with and impressing people from New York to LA, from nationally televised adaptations of a best-seller to appearances on "Oprah", but she has chosen to spend most of her time and love on animals, not people, in a place that doesn't even have basic cable service!

I work on computers and with the Internet, something that exists only virtually, and yet I walk through horse poop and haul rocks on the weekends. I'm a Democrat who believes in a strong military and a smaller government with a balanced budget. I'm a devoted patriot who loves my country but believes it does very stupid, evil things on occasion. I'm a cynic who trusts humans (but not humanity), an introvert who loves performing, a devoted heterosexual who loves "Trading Spaces", an atheist/agnostic who thinks people ought to be able to worship their gods in public as they see fit -- where's the checkbox for all of THAT so I can check it and move on?

I feel like checkboxes are little rectangular fences that seek to surround and encapsulate not only what you are, but all the things you possibly could be.

Living outside the checkbox isn't always easy. It's fun, exciting, and interesting, yes, but also frustrating, bewildering, and contradictory. There's comfort in knowing there's a place for you on the form, and from time to time I miss that feeling. But I can't bring myself to put pen to paper and make my mark in a blank I know doesn't fit me.

I just can't.


Jarrod said...

Uncle Jeff, what's your email? I'd love to talk to you about some stuff I'm going through. Mine is, thanks!

David M said...

What part of "Mere Christianity" triggered that post? :-)
Do you find that you have to work to not put other people in checkboxes? Especially when first meeting them.

ps Awesome post!

Denise said...

I agree with you to a point. However, when I meet new people, I particularly look for areas where they don't fit into that preconceived check-box system. I don't think -- here's a white/black/female/male/heterosexual/just like me/not like me person. The true fun is finding out all the nuances, and if I go into a new situation with a checklist in my head, then I have already limited myself. Checklists are really for the grocery store, but I've never stuck to one in my entire life, hence the reason we have four jars of pickles in the fridge... Checklists exist primarily to keep us from spinning off the planet and to keep lawyers from suing the poor schmucks who don't follow the checklists provided by corporations. Me thinks you were born about 30 years too late -- take a listen through some of John Lennon's and Joni Mitchell's songs, dear brother!

Jeff Hebert said...

Well yeah, but you're an extraordinary person, Denise!

annie'sbuddie said...

Think that's why as a child I hated coloring books & paint by number art. I couldn't for the life of me stay inside of the lines or use the correct paint number. My teachers said I was rebellious; my parents insisted I was just dyslexic.

I'm not at all artistically or creatively talented but I loved the huge sheets of discarded drafting blueprints that my dad would bring home to me in a roll. Get out the big colored chalks or finger paints and slather all over the backs of them.

Sometimes I find myself wondering how I manage to deal with engineers on a daily basis - they are VERY "boxy". Must be the geologists that keep me balanced.

This week my box got a little fuzzier. I was satellite surfing out of boredom Wednesday night when something on the sci-fi channel caught my attention. So I stopped awhile to watch which was unusual in itself.

It was the premier of a movie called "Lightspeed" created by none other than Mr. Stan Lee! I thought to myself, had it not been for this blog that wouldn't have meant anything to me - thank you Jeff - and I probably wouldn't have kept watching. Oh, and I liked it - hokiness and all!

And there were commercials for "Who Wants to be a Super Hero?" which premiered last night. Unfortunately I had to miss it to attend a wildly exciting WNBA game between the Phoenix Mercury & Houston Comets. We WON!

Are those edges blurred enough?