The Briar Philosopher - Thicket

May 19, 2024

There’s a thing about briars that is unavoidable. They have thorns. These thorns are a part of who and what they are. Take them off and they’re not briars anymore.

I’m a briar and I write like one - thorns and all. Y’all know that and you read me anyway. I don’t know for sure if it’s in spite of the thorns or because of them. Probably depends on who you ask.

I also expect that in writing this column I’ve barbed a few folks. I haven’t, however, met too many people around here that are so thin skinned that a little scratch from my pen would bother them too much.

It’s my thorns that make me different I guess, as far as my writing is concerned, and for some people, who probably have a thorn or two of their own, that may be what makes my writing interesting enough to read.

I’ve had folks tell me that I might make them mad or sad or make them think or laugh but I almost always make them feel something. They seem to like that. There’s plenty of vanilla and beige and bland in print. I’m a lot of things but I’m none of those. I’m more rocky-road and paisley and intense. I can’t write any other way. It wouldn’t be honest. I try to tell the truth about myself, who I am and how I see the world even when it’s not pleasant.

Some folks do tend to get a little “tweaked” around the edges when I stray into “unsafe” areas - those beyond the boundaries of the “main steam.” Very few of us, however, actually experience life in that main stream, although we are encouraged by society as a whole to behave as if we do.

I’ve often wondered if that particular stream might be a myth all together. What is “mainstream” anyway? For that matter, what is a “normal” childhood or an “average” person or a “common” situation? I don’t know that I’ve ever met a “normal” child or an “average” person or been involved in or witness to a “common” situation. There are just too many variables in human beings when you look beneath the surface to make that possible.

We can make some broad generalizations and predictions based on statistics but they are rarely more accurate than a best guess would be. There are just too many things that aren’t and can’t be taken into account - things like thorns. When something doesn’t fit it’s always said, “It’s the exception that proves the rule.” In my opinion that sentence isn’t complete. It should read, “It’s the exception that proves the rule is a crock.”

Most of us have a thorn or two - something we feel strongly about or some “unusual” bent of personality that doesn't quite fit the status quo. Problem is, for the surveyors and pollsters and marketing geniuses who make it their business to define and capitalize on the mainstream, there usually isn’t anywhere on their forms or in their questions to fit a thorn. Heck, the 1990 census didn’t even have a spot in their race section for Native Americans. Such a narrow frame of reference certainly can’t be relied on to define “mainstream” or “average” or “common”. We have to agree to pretend it’s real.

That’s how we have created this idea that the mainstream actually exists and many of us try to live within it. We try to hide our thorns, our quirks, our differences or inconsistencies - anything that would make us appear different. Funny thing is, we’re all doing it. If everybody is trying to be like everybody else, no one is actually making a decision about who they are and the deciding gets left to pollsters and surveyors and marketing manipulators who don’t even ask the right questions about us in the first place.

I guess that’s why I have a hard time shopping. I rarely find things I like. When they defined mainstream I was probably off on a sandbar fishing and there wasn’t a place for that on the survey. I know I’m not the only one.

My problem is, I guess, that I never grew out of that childhood phase of asking “Why?”

Why should I act this way as opposed to that way? Why should I wear this instead of that? Believe that instead of the other? Eat this? Drink that? Read this? Buy that? Why? Why? Why? Because everybody’s doing it?

Why shouldn’t I talk about things that annoy me, pester me, hurt me or tickle me? Because that’s just not done?

Am I just rebellious by nature? NO. I’ve noticed that when someone “rebels” you usually end up with a whole bunch of people conforming to rebellion. Take body piercing and baggy, underwear exposing jeans and backward hats and gothic garb and makeup and a thousand other things for instance. You’re still getting holes in your tongue because everybody else is doing it. You haven’t rebelled. You’ve conformed to a myth of rebellion just as surely as those in the mainstream have conformed to their own myth.

So, where do I fit in if I’m neither. Is there a place for me at all? Sure. I’m just a briar, a wild rose maybe, growing in the thicket in the fence rows between two realities that only exist because a whole bunch of people agreed to make them up.

Feel free to join me. There’s always room in the truth of who we are for a few more thorns.