No surprise, here in Toruisma Land, that laying off the varnish earns one the opprobrium usually slathered on those convicted of the most foul or lacking that on Trump. We like our devils incontrovertible. But honestly now, the usual tourist is often quite an amazing clown. I saw a pair yesterday depart in shiny canoe up a placid way. I know the area, and up just round the bend there lives a deer fly. Well, there’s quite a lot of them actually along with the horse version, various gnat types, mosquitoes, and black flies where there’s a little riffle to make them happy and excited. If shiny canoe is essentially empty (not even life jackets) and the paddling duo are dressed in water-type sandals, brief shorts, and Ts’ you and I can assume a brief trip as waves of nature’s flying mouths take advantage of a southern-fed smorgasbord of delectables the savvy know better than lay out for consumption. With varnish I’d paint a happy holiday duo paddling up a bucolic creek. Remove the varnish and the picture is of two ill prepared people who went through a lot of effort to come back a mass of welts. A sunny day on a holiday does not suspend any of nature’s requirements. While it is in a way amusing to see paddlers blunder forward (these two did rather bump the creek sides quite a lot in their form of moving ahead) it is also sad to reckon with a disconnect from nature so steeped into experience that only hard knocks will make an impression.  

On the happily commercial side the paddling duo would likely have turned ‘bout fairly soon to retreat with car-topped canoe to a more familiar environ where Wi-Fi wiffles the air and outdoor seating suffices for nature while enjoying one’s pretentious coffee or local brew made with barley and malt from wherever that’s grown (not here at all) though the hops stand a chance of local origin and the water safe and sound from municipal supply. It’s the varnish that catches the eye, isn’t it? Your outdoor experience might be a flop, but there is the hearty satisfaction from topping off with a Woodsman’s Latte or Voyageur’s Pilsner things that in effect are on a par with offering a Chinese Hamburger or Kosher Ham and Swiss. Appearance is varnish. Contents and foundation are often darker and lack shine.  

At least one person has lately told me I could say nicer things and be more positive. I do think I say things nicely enough. Perhaps if given a formula for nice I’d do better. As for being positive what’s wrong with being positive there’s little we can’t or shouldn’t examine with a critical eye? If people are discomfited by something, especially words, they can rise to the occasion. If I were to hold back or “protect” them from some assumed offense or irritation I’d be belittling them as incompetent and incapable of dealing with an ordinary bump. As much injury can be done by being obsequiously kind as might come of acting unnecessarily blunt. In my outfitter days I regularly had people wave off the life jackets. “We don’t need them. We all swim.” Ah what a wonderful opportunity for ass-kiss agreement that was! But I was not in that business to be loved or fawn over customers. Can you see it? I never could. Exercise of authority is not bossiness or priority. It is giving authoritative instruction. “Life jackets are part of the canoe rental, and you will take them. I also advise you have them in the canoe at all times you’re afloat.” I’d get an unhappy look of “Who are you to tell us what to do?” Who was not me. “It’s State regulation and I abide by it.” They took the life jackets or they could rent from someone else. Whether the life jackets were used as instructed was beyond my control, but I made damn well sure they had them. Agreeing, varnishing, and prettifying are not without concern depending, of course, on what’s being varnished over and gussied up.  

Things come from scraping off or ignoring the varnish applied all round us. I suspect this contributes to one of the habits people say they find most annoying. That is the mental jump from a predictable this to an unexpected that. Each of us has a viewpoint (non-universal) which suits us and some number of others. Attempts assuming viewpoint is general or universal are to be avoided. Take the baloney that all religion is fundamentally the same. Sounds nice, simple, and shiny, rather like varnish isn’t it? Investigation shows otherwise. Calvinism and Buddhism are not the same. Your inquiry would also reveal that some beliefs are highly rule bound while others are much less so. The difference between a regulatory religion and a moral ethical system is apt to be huge. Yet with slathers of varnish to make all look glossy rosy we paint images of what aint as if it was. Here’s your Chinese Burger direct from Iowa beef and Midwest wheat. Content counts more than imaginative labeling.  

If all religious type belief was similar than rule bound and parable driven systems would come out about the same wouldn’t they? But they don’t do they? Followers (even the so-so ones) of strict rule systems don’t have much leeway over, if nothing else, agreeing to the supposed absolute or divine justice of rule that drives or commands followers to act. A parable and metaphor system isn’t near so absolute. If it was (I’ll use Christianity as a handy example) then we’d expect to see followers actively involved in blood and flesh human sacrifice. But cannibal and vampirism as rather rare in those groups shows a different appreciation for the idea of communion expressed as a form of human interaction on a symbolic level as well as within a congregation.   The opposite of varnish being muck and derision, that, too, needs often be scraped away to see what’s there.