Analyze this: Confronting personal prejudices

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At a certain point in every life there comes a time when one feels the need to confront his/her prejudices once and for all. For me that time is now.

Having just turned 60, I have finally realized, much to my own amazement, that I am not a perfect human being. In fact, I am a deeply flawed and prejudiced individual. I hold unfavorable opinions that have no basis in knowledge or experience. I just don’t like some things.

Surrealism, for instance, has always left me cold. A great handicap for an art critic. In fact, though I hate to admit it, I’m prejudiced against fantasy of any sort – science fiction, horror stories, “Harry Potter,” you name it. I’m a realist, a pragmatist. I just can’t get interested in nonsense.

This bias against the fanciful even extends to dreams. I’m certainly not interested in my own dreams (as my analyst can tell you), but I am especially put off by those of other people. My mind starts to wander immediately when someone (usually a family member) starts a sentence with “I had this weird dream …” I mean what are you supposed to say when someone tells you they were walking naked through the Metropolitan Museum of Art switching the labels on all the Etruscan artifacts?

“That’s nice, dear. I have that dream all the time myself.”

“You can be in my dream, if I can be in yours.” Bob Dylan said that. “I won’t tell you my dreams, if you don’t tell me yours.” I said that.

My total indifference to the fantasy life of others also extends to their genealogies and medical histories. In fact, I had to resign my job at the Portland Public Library back in 1980 because I just couldn’t pretend any longer that I cared whether your great-great-uncle Amos fought with Gen. Pershing at San Juan Hill. Get over it. His life had nothing to do with yours. And, please, please, I don’t want to know anything whatsoever about your blood, your bowels, or your hip replacement surgery. That’s what skin is for – to keep your unmentionables out of sight.

While I like to think of myself as a serious sports fan, I must admit that there are any number of athletic competitions I can do without. Auto racing, for instance, always struck me as a high-speed traffic jam in search of an accident. Wrestling, hockey, and cycling are also on my short list of sports we could easily eliminate. In each case, I suspect my distaste has something to do with the unflattering outfits the contestants wear. Spandex – need I say more?

The worst-dressed people in the world, however, are professional poker players, followed closely by professional bass fishermen. Why anyone would want to watch poker or bass fishing on television is beyond me. If you’ve seen one large-mouth, you’ve seen ‘em all.

It’s not just poker that bores me, however, it’s all cards games and most board games. When it comes to canasta, pinochle, bridge, Monopoly, I’m Clue-less. In fact, other than an occasional game of Scrabble just to keep peace in the family, you can count me out of anything that involves dice.

Or boats, running, dinosaurs and video games for that matter. No time. Not interested. Can’t be bothered with fine wine, either.

I am, however, a very cultured guy. (Just ask my urologist.) But while I am fascinated by art (except for surrealism and maritime paintings – no boats please), architecture, literature (except sci-fi), and film (well, romantic comedies at any rate), I must admit my musical appreciation is woefully limited. It runs mainly to folk, rock, jazz and blues. No hip-hop, rap, country or opera, please. While Broadway musicals are lousy plays punctuated by a few good tunes, operas are good plays interrupted by a lot of lousy songs.

Sorry, but it had to be said.

This partial catalog of my indifference may suggest a rather shallow, provincial mind at work (at least to those who love NASCAR, family trees and Verdi). But I assure you my keen intellect is capable of encompassing and then eliminating vast areas from consideration. All of China, for instance, indeed all of the continent of Asia except for Tibet and Mongolia, is Terra Apathetica to me, as is most of Europe, except for Portugal, Wales and a few villages in Devon and Cornwall.

To know thyself is to know thy limitations. Mine just happen to be many and precise. (I’m not crazy about the word “thy,” come to think of it.) I’m pretty sure, though, that if you examined your own prejudices once in a while, you’d feel a lot better about yourself. I know I do. And after this wet blanket of a column, unless you laughed at the appropriate places, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if you found me rattling around in there somewhere amid the black-sheep relatives, repugnant ideas, circumscribed subjects, tedious pastimes and sundry rejected notions.

Sidebar Elements

beem-edgar-op.jpgThe Universal Notebook is Edgar Allen Beem’s weekly personal look at the world around him. “Backyard Maine,” a collection of his columns, is available now at local bookstores.

Editor of The Forecaster; prior reporting/editing gigs at Automotive Age magazine, Daily News of Los Angeles, Biddeford Journal Tribune; Syracuse U. Orange-bleeder; lifelong NY Yankees fan, longtime resident of Red Sox Nation.