It’s easy to love a blank slate.
When someone is fresh, empty, without history, malleable and new, you can imagine them being anyone you want them to be.
That’s why men so often have the hots for vacant appearing young women. They appear to be without baggage and knowledge, so they accept whatever you bring without understanding or expectation. They are who you want them to be, glad for anything you give them.
Mature women, though, have experience. They hold others accountable, can tell good, strong and smart from cheap, weak and sleazy. They come with their own history, their own formed viewpoints, their own smarts. This is challenging.
In politics, those who have a history of service are much less attractive to youth than those who only have a pile of attractive rhetoric and a blank slate. Blank slates haven’t been dragged before committees, pilloried in the press, their mistakes writ so large that they seem to blot out decades of good, solid, important, valuable and distinguished work.
Blank slates hold no demands other than to be drawn on by us, creating our own vision of what a good person, a good partner, a good follower should be. Blank slates seem easy, trainable, compliant, possible.
When you are a blank slate, you can figure out what other people want to hear and then tell them that. You have no annoying record, history or beliefs to get in the way of other people taking you to be who they think that you are. This is why salespeople are almost always shiny blank slates, attractive but flexible, ready to agree with you in the moment.
Puppies are always cuter than old dogs. Character may count, but never if it gets in the way of being lovable, a mirror that reflects our own desires and expectations.
Our world has become defined by television producers who love blank slates, on camera blank slates that they can manipulate and mould to perfect cuteness and audience blank slates who will respond with eager credulity to every emotional manipulation they can pack into cheap, sensational shows. Blank slates are the lowest common denominator they can aim for.
I was never, ever a blank slate. I could never afford to be. I had to own my mind from a very early age in the family I had. I was never, ever that young.
When I feel the veneration of blank slate over established character, I get upset. It could be chirpy hosts saying stupid things on a shopping channel or a poppy video that affirms everyone’s right to say they are whoever they want to be without responsibility or accountability, but they all send me into spasms of rage, played out by me hitting myself theatrically.
This blog takes smart, eternal human wisdom, the kind of lovely lessons of connection & liberation that have been passed down through the ages and tells you how well they road tested for me, how they worked when covered with mud, shit, gore, guts blood and slime.
Not for me simple new age kind of metaphysical theories, nor easy reactionary tropes. That kind of fundamentalism, so easy to write on blank slates, has never survived the fire of my real life, the hell that burns away illusions to reveal foundations.
I can’t even pretend to be a blank slate. My eyes give me away quickly, even when I keep my big mouth shut.
So many new agers say they value “beginners mind,” but is that true when they are choosing a surgeon or a plumber? Don’t they want experience, credibility and a kind of solid foundation when they need something done right the first time?
The world is not all about cute and frothy new beginnings that escape old rules and let us fly free, no matter how appealing that sounds to a young spirit or an husband who just wants to be free of the old ball & chain.
Mastery, professionalism, and maturity have value, even if they always come at a cost, always leave us with scars and wrinkles. Nobody who does the work, makes the hard choices and takes the hits that learning requires comes out unscathed.
Do old people only become charming when they slide far enough to become a blank slate again, easily handled by aides and helpers? Is it their abjection, their erasure that makes them cute?
What about the people who take power with integrity and smarts? How are they seen as valuable over demagogues who know how to tell people what they want to hear and never worry about consistency and long term results?
My fury at the expectations that the world should look sweet and attractive, full of only the things we want to hear, the bits we find easy, seductive and blank is unbounded. I may have learned over the years to be disciplined into aesthetic denial, but the cost of that has been high, and it is a cost that is dismissed by those who value nice pretty blank slates over sweaty, messy, hard work.
Of course, that fury is completely counterproductive. Only nicely meeting the expectations of others, giving them something that they already know they value of, can come close to satisfying them. Questions, surprises and challenges, especially to their cherished beliefs, are not usually seen as desirable.
That’s why they like a nice blank slate, someone who will be and do what they want, affirming and reinforcing the belief structure that they already hold.
That’s not a very queer approach to the world. It’s not the approach of a seeker, someone who hunts for enlightenment and actualization. It’s not the approach of the person who lives in the arena, entering the fire to burn away the dross and reveal the best that they can be.
It’s easy to believe that a blank slate is who you want them to be, there for you to project your own beliefs and assumptions onto. The truth, is, though, that they are their own person, ready to surprise you with their own quirks and steep learning curves when you least expect it.
A blank slate is a pig in a poke, and what you get when you actually need them to deliver can never be known. Only someone with a track record of making choices, including wrong and risky choices that they learned from, can more easily offer expected results.
Every human is, as parents figure out quite quickly, unique and different. None of us start as a totally blank slate and as we polish our skills, achieving mastery, we come with a history and a unique point of view.
Valuing what people bring from a lifetime rather than looking for shiny blank slates you can project your own desire onto is the mark of a human who knows that it is their uniqueness which gives them strength and grace in the world.
It’s easy to love a blank slate because you are just loving what you project onto them.
Loving a full, embodied human, though, is always much more real and rewarding. Being open to the gifts of others helps us own our own gifts in a much more profound way, taking responsibility for our own power in the world.
Valuing complex, nuanced and messy humanity is the heart of valuing ourselves, no matter how much marketers and others want to operate in a simplified, dumbed down world.
As someone who never could pass for blank, that’s vital to me.