From Salmon Rushdie’s “Satanic Verses”:

What kind of idea are you? Are you the kind that compromises, does deals, accommodates itself to society, aims to find a niche, to survive; or are you the cussed, bloody-minded, ramrod-backed type of damn fool notion that would rather break than sway with the breeze? – The kind that will almost certainly, ninety-nine times out of hundred, be smashed to bits; but, the hundredth time, will change the world.

Play close attention to the phrasing.  The prompt does not ask whether you tend to compromise or not.  Compromise, dealmaking, and survival mean and imply different things when an idea is at issue.  Therefore, before jumping into your response to this prompt, you should consider reflecting on what it means for an idea to compromise (etc.) and how that might translate into human actions.

I don’t fit in a category. Not me, not my ideas. The concept of “compromise” as wrong bothers me. Not because I “go with the flow.” I have no idea what “the flow” is. Or who is doing the flowing. I’ve never been in touch with popular thought because I don’t care what’s popular — or unpopular — or even hated. What I believe is subject to lots of varying forces. What you might call compromise, I call being in touch with reality.

The world and I have undergone dramatic change with the passage of time. Isn’t that the way it is supposed to me? Is not life a learning process? If life does is not growth, what is it? If my ideas are fixed and cannot change, they will become ridiculous. Irrelevant. Stupid. And so will I.

What might make anyone think their idea is “The Idea?” Or that it will be adopted by the “world?” (Whatever that is.) What historical thing, event, process, cultural trend, would make someone expect righteousness (as they perceive it) to prevail? Throughout human history, exactly the opposite has been the invariable human experience. I don’t see it changing.

When reality bites, I don’t stand around waiting for it to eat me. I think. I test my ideas to see if have legs to stand on. If not, I try to figure out what can I do to make them sturdier.

Some call it compromise. I call it smart. I know people who can not change. Refuse change. Are stuck in a fixed belief system. Maybe their system made sense. Then, not now. Today, they are relics. Laughable parodies of who they once were. We find them pitiable, that they can’t let the light in. They’ve locked the doors and drawn the shades of their minds. So sad, we say.

For most of my life, I believed everything could be fixed if we kept trying. Fifty years later, the world is no better.

slouching towards bethlehem yeats poetry

My generation is weary. Our children are trying not to drown. Their children — the grandchildren — are even more cynical.

So what kind of idea am I? What kind of idea are you? I am not an idea. I’m alive and constantly changing. If that makes you judge me weak or unrighteous, too bad. Holding to ideas that don’t work renders them meaningless. Ultimately, renders us meaningless. Written or shouted from a rooftop, it is just noise.

Rigid ideas of good, bad, right, wrong, evil, and righteousness are the problem. They will not save the world. Not now, not eventually. Not. Ever. Nor will they lower the heat of hatred and rage threatening to engulf us.

Rigid ideas are destroying us, marching us in lock step to nothing and nowhere.

Categories: Challenges, Ethics and Philosophy, poem, Poetry

Tags: , , , , , , ,

29 replies

  1. Thank you Marilyn, that was well put. My birth sign is Libra and I tend to follow it pretty closely. Balance and justice are very important to me. Also, I believe somethings are worth dying for and other things are worth the time of the day.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A good read Ma’am – thank you. I feel so likely to say ALL on my mind re change – I shall try not to! I have been thinking a lot about change (well frankly it is generally always in my mind) The idea that we are everything we are supposed to be or know everything we are able to know is arrogant I expect? SO much to live and learn about ourselves other people and our world. If we are not willing or able to allow change to ourselves or our outlooks…how miserable we may become. But people seem to find that so hard. I would rather be tree that can bend with the seasons and winds and SO stand my ground and let my roots go deeper – then be tall and proud and break…I would still be there giving back shelter to the birds or squirrels – when the proud trees have been uprooted and fallen with no means to recover and continue living. OK – weird analogy – I will leave it there!


    • Thank you. I put a lot of thought into this one. I wanted to keep it short, so I didn’t try to cover the whole range of issues involved. There are so many, you could write books and books about change and life and politics and history and everything.

      But ultimately, there IS reality. We either accept what is and what is on the way … or we become irrelevant and pathetic. Unfortunately, a lot of the people who run our government ARE pathetic. They are entrenched into positions, without regard for reality and the good of the people they are sworn to represent. This goes, to some degree, for both parties … but the right wing is certainly got a real advantage in refusing to deal with the present and future.

      Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but being entitled is not the same as correct, useful, or responsible. There are a lot of stupid opinions around. Baseless, dumb, SELFISH. Flawed logic, factually unfounded, no connection to the real needs of our people and no one accepting responsibility for the ugly results.

      Find it hard to change? How hard it is to stand pat when everything around you is changing? Isn’t that hard too? How much energy does it take to pretend you are living in the past and seeing only what you want to see? I really DON’T get it. I’m not sure I really want to.


      • I don’t know which I enjoyed more – your post…or your comment here 😀
        I think so many people have their heads either in the ground or in the air… frustrating. I have a LOT to learn still – but I AM glad – that I AM learning.
        Thanks for the cool reply!


        • Thanks. I get frustrated by the lack of progress I see in this country. Other countries too, probably, but I’m not as well acquainted with them. In the end, it won’t matter how hard they try to keep the status quo. Things change. It’s not a choice. You can go screaming and kicking, or gracefully. We seem to prefer screaming and kicking, at least in the U.S.


          • Other countries too – maybe all in different ways.
            I only suppose if we go far enough back we would see change? Then again… perhaps all we will see is the same stupid ways repeating themselves in a fabulous cycle!
            Not sure Ma’am – I have not been around long enough to be fully equipped to determine with knowledge social change and historical changes and how it may be like a pendulum.
            Culture is seems to be a BIG thing for a lot of folks… the problem is when one culture impedes others from finding their path.
            AND ON we could go about the species. 🙂


            • There have been many periods in history where change was welcome. The Enlightenment. The Renaissance. Mid to late Victorian era. Beginning of the 20th century. The 1940s and briefly during Post-war. 1960s to early 1970s. Attitudes are cyclical. Hopefully I’ll live long enough to see the cycle come around again.


              • I am hopeful it is not too far in the future – sure does seem to be reaching a pinnacle. Or maybe we are just more aware and exposed to it.
                Got to hope.


                • I think there’s a lot more media noise than there was ever before. It used to be you could turn it off. These days, it seems to come from every direction and it is difficult to be unaware or withdraw from the fray.


                  • That is the era of the changes we now face I guess. We cannot remain ignorant and yet some still choose to.
                    Frankly – I can only handle so much at a time. I recently reached my MAX overdrive and had to switch off. I planned to do so for a fairly long period. HAHA! There is JUST too much happening!
                    I want to be a part of it – you know? Not sure WHAT part often – but part of these times. It is almost tangible in the air sometimes – the unsettledness of people – just waiting for the next shift. Better be a BIG one 😉


                    • I think it will be huge … but when is another question. I think we are about as far into quagmired as we can go. Obama’s a lame duck. Things will change. I believe people will start to demand it. I sure hope I’m right because if not, we are so screwed.


                    • lol… The enigmatic – ‘when’ –
                      From positive to negative – lets hope the change we anticipate is not TOO drastic… and one we do not appreciate…
                      Stupid thing is – that could honestly be different for different groups of mindsets. It is the getting folks to ACTUALLY agree with each other on what sensible solution to moving forward would actually be…and back to the beginning: AND getting them to do it 😛
                      Back to positive! I DO hear and see a lot of passion and zest in the right direction from a lot of the young people that are not mindless zombies influenced by mainstream thought and media. AND it IS encouraging. I THINK a lot of them have much better outlooks than gen x. – Just hope the fact that they are gen Y is not indicative of something..as we are already into gen z! Maybe THEY will be GEN ZEN…in all the best ways possible lol,

                      Liked by 1 person

  3. Enjoyed reading your post. I’m with you as far as not wanting to be categorised. Our grand children keep us young. Ideas continue to change.


    • It’s not only not wanting to be categorized. It’s also recognizing that you can’t make a stand against LIFE. If you dig a hole and pull the earth over you, what kind of life can you live? What kind of world can you build? Not much, when you are underground!


  4. We can’t change the world.
    But we can change our consciousness.
    Then all things are changed.


    • At our age, changing consciousness is about as good as it gets. I just wish people — everybody, in the political spectrum — would open the windows and doors to their minds and recognize the only things that don’t change are not alive. There’s a kind of living death to refusing to allow for change. Like entombing yourself. THAT is when you brain stops working.


  5. If you do not change and adapt, then we would still be counting with an abacus and Bill gates might have become a gardener. World War I – a waste of life and time and no-one really knew what it was about. When I read the histroy books and talk to my parents, they only went because they went. Just follow your nose was my idea and it seemed to work most of the time and if not, you adapt. No, people are not ideas, they are people.


    • If I could not adapt, I would be dead. If I had not adapted my ideas, I’d be one of those horrible fossils that people make fun of.

      Survival of people and beliefs requires some connection to reality. I find a refusal to accept change troubling. The terrorists who murder people because they don’t believe correctly are a fine example of where that kind of thinking leads. And of course, WW I is the other. It was a war because the powers that be wanted a war.

      So then, there was WW II to finish off the business of the first world war. All those millions of people dead and for what?


  6. When the “ideas” of compromise and negotiation are thought of as bad ideas, when people are so rigid in their thinking that only their own ideas are good ideas and, therefore, any other ideas by other people are bad ones, then nothing progresses and everything stands still or regresses. Sadly, that seems to be the way Congress is working (or, arguably, not working) these days.


    • That’s also how I see it. Rigid belief systems are the cause of so many problems in our own political system, among religious groups who believe it’s their way or NO way. Everyone is stuck. Immobilized. It’s so stupid. They believe they are absolutely RIGHT.

      No one is completely right or the only right.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Thanks for sharing this wonderful poem….:)


  8. LOVED THE CONCLUSION….Rigidity, wrong evil ideas will not save the world. Another strong statement “I am not an idea….I’m alive.”


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