We’ve all heard the expression “It takes all kinds.” This is usually used in one of two ways. One way is said with an exasperated tone indicating puzzled tolerance—say, of a person who’d paint large purple circles on the exterior of a white frame house. If the house is next to his own, the speaker can use a flatter voice in a manner indicating by tone “My neighbor is the kind who is an absolute idiot.” The second form is unhappy tolerance; tolerant because the consequences of snuffing out anyone, even an idiot, are severe, and as there are a great, great many of them it would grow to an exhausting task where you’d get very dirty and cause a shortage of coffins, along with a spike in coffin prices. Cleansing the earth of its idiots gets into large numbers and can’t be accomplished without immense (though among them some quite desirable ones) consequences.

If you have ever said “It takes all kinds,” you have likely said as well “Live and let live.” In a civilized context, these two folk attitudes hold hands to help keep the idiots (who think that term applies to others) from killing one another. We all need safety valves, among them humor. To laugh at the quirks of others and the ones we own is the sort of thing that is censored at costly risk of doing more harm than good. Besides, if we can’t laugh at things, there’s a danger of growing too serious and turning into a what I humorously characterize as a “Saudi official”: an unhappy-looking man in his official outfit (I understand, because if I had to wear that dress I’d be unhappy, too) worn to lecture the West on its ills and evils for having perfected refining and internal combustion so that he can sit doing nothing but take credit for what his enlightened state had nothing to do with. OK, so we have that kind, too.

I much prefer the attitude of “Live and let live” to one of confrontation and contention, but being too “Live and let live”-y can get us into trouble if we’re too damn nice to ask why we’re digging all the person-sized holes we’ve been asked to dig for the sake of making others happy with a false peace they intend to violate once we’ve dug the holes. In fact (a digression creeps in), I viewed a form of digging your own grave earlier this spring on a phone camera clip sent to followers of the Syrian form of “freedom” to demonstrate utter conviction. It seemed that a boy of twelve (at the oldest) had been made to dig a hole his own height and then stand near it. One of the names people use for “God” was chanted. A pistol went to the back of the boy’s head and was fired. He toppled into the hole, feet twitching, and was shot again. One wonders what a boy that age could do to deserve summary execution, but in some versions of Syrian freedom, he’d only have to be the wrong faith to deserve death.

Between you and me, I suspect there is a serious flaw in “Live and let live” if it helps to keep alive people whose lives are a danger to others and whose every breath is an insult to our common humanity. Others may respect those insulters; me not much at all. Having great faith in freedom and communication, I think I know enough to not make my faith absolute. Fanatical hatred will abuse freedom. Fanatical hatred is what it is precisely because it does not listen to reason and therefore must be dealt with in other ways. In debate, a fanatic isn’t looking for peaceful compromise. He’s plotting a delay to gain a better time to kill you. That’s not debate. That’s strategy used to con the peace-loving to their own demise.

As often is the case, my theme has run loose. But considering what you spend to get a copy of this, it’s a small price to pay to eventually see the daylight at the end. And here it is: There are two kinds of people. There are those who delight in noise. There are those who don’t.

My father could not work without radio “noise” in the background. (Why is it called “talk” radio when all a listener does is “listen”?) Father also could not fall asleep without the radio on. This seemed a sorry thing for Mother, but for all I know it may have saved their marriage many times over. Anyway, Dad loved the radio. I did too, briefly, when very young before we had TV. Classic radio adventures were decently done in terms of the tastes of a seven-year-old. I was happy. In our TV years on the Iron Range, Dad often scolded me for rotting my brain watching TV. This possibility no longer worried me. At fifteen I had other ways to rot my skull and was content that Dad avoided the TV, which left more room for me to sprawl on the couch. Thanks, Dad! To me, TV was like a book where I didn’t have to turn pages. I simply idled along. TV was a break from action, rather than a continuation.

If I wanted to listen to something, I also wanted to pick it myself, based on my own tastes. Radio shows played their music, not mine. Some of you will also know what I mean in saying I did not find pleasure in being deafened at school dances. Noise levels outside the gym were sufficient to catch every word, and the air cooler and minus sweaty scents. Dance noise was arguably musical but to me was not music. Some like it, others don’t, as with radio. Asked to contribute to a radio fundraiser, I thought “Why would I ever?” and declined. The one soliciting looked shocked and aggrieved, and followed by telling me how growing up they never worked in the barn without the radio going for company. I couldn’t top that.