avatar of the silly people


You’ve noticed it, right? The triumvirate? The Big Three? Come on, try to name one. Yep, you got it: the impossibly adorable golden retriever. Another one? Right again: the acoustic guitar leaning against the wall. Third . . . easiest of all: a yoga class in the background. What do they add up to? Sales. Today’s mad men (and women) have identified these three cultural markers as bankable touchstones of the contemporary zeitgeist, as images of health and happiness that can be counted on to reverberate pleasantly in the shared subconscious of a key demographic — that is, people with money. Trying to sell financial security? Pain-relieving drugs? A new line of active-wear? Throw this shit at ‘em.

The Big Three, once I had isolated them, fell on me like a ton of clichés. It so happens that I have an acoustic guitar (which I whang on with annoying determination), Dede is a yoga teacher, and together we’re the overly fond parents of Myrtle, our golden retriever.

Has it come to this? Really? After a lifetime spent shunning conventional roles — breadwinner, nine-to-fiver, stressed-out commuter, career-obsessed ladder-climber; after diligently cultivating a rich life of the mind and harking to the deeper truths of the natural world; after years of sneering contemptuously at the false promises of consumer culture, here I stand, avatar of the silly people.

How did it happen?

On the literal, logical level I can explain it all away: Dede was doing yoga long before anybody saw it on television. I have a guitar because you don’t feel as worthless watching zillions of hours of sports on TV if you have a guitar in your lap. Myrtle was an emergency adoption.

But all three, together, identifying my own household as an emblem of vapidity? Irony worthy of Sophocles. And there it is. I’m being punished for the great sin: intellectual pride. I’m being exposed as a fraud, shallow as a tadpole puddle. Nature boy? Ha. Your beautiful woods don’t mean anything to you but ticks. Big protester against the corporate oligarchy? Dude, you were an English major. What else were you gonna do?

Okay okay okay okay. Maybe I deserve it. But still, who or what is the agent of this apparently purposeful retribution? As a skeptic when it comes to religion, I have to say I’m curious about whom I’ve offended.

The old, white-bearded white man who created Adam with a touch? Prob not. More likely it’s this modern bunch, the new pseudo-creators who get to decide which stars to hang above the rapt masses — stars like golden retrievers or acoustic guitars or yoga classes. These gods obviously have zero tolerance for blasphemy, and now they’re coming after me like a plague.

Well you know what? I’m ready to rumble. Soon as I get me some new active-wear.

Image: a composite image created by LikeTheDew.com - yoga background (Shantell Martin) by Roy Rochlin via ARE YOU YOU Yoga via flickr an use under a Creative Commons license; the base image of the rocking retriever from a screen shot of Rocko 'n' Roll’s video, “Hund spielt Gitarre” at YouTube (fair use).
John Yow

John Yow

John Yow has written two books about birds, both published by UNC Press: The Armchair Birder: Discovering the Secret Lives of Familiar Birds (2009) and The Armchair Birder Goes Coastal: The Secret Lives of Birds of the Southeastern Shore (2012). His blog, "From Pumpkinvine Creek" (frompumpkinvinecreek.blogtspot.com) is generally concerned with the fate that awaits birds and all other species if we don't stop trashing the planet. Yow and his wife Dede live in the woods in northeast Paulding County.

  1. Trevor Stone Irvin

    First, add a couple electric guitars, some big ass amps, and a drum kit to the acoustic mix (trust me, I’ve done this.) Teach your dog to occasionally bite the next door neighbor and finally, think of “yoga” … as “very slow stripper moves.” It’s all about perception.
    Do this and you’re going to start feeling a lot better about the fact you wear workout clothes.

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