The Boss and The Bullshitter

>> Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Across the centuries the moral systems from medieval chivalry to Bruce Springsteen love anthems have worked the same basic way. They take immediate selfish interests and enmesh them within transcendent, spiritual meanings. Love becomes a holy cause, an act of self-sacrifice and selfless commitment.
-David Brooks, "Cellphones, Texts and Lovers"
The New York Times, November 2nd

Some girls they want a handsome Dan
Or some good-lookin’ Joe, on their arm
Some girls like a sweet-talkin’ Romeo
Well ’round here baby
I learned you get what you can get
So if you’re rough enough for love
Honey I’m tougher than the rest
-Bruce Springsteen, "Tougher Than The Rest"

At first I thought it was just restlessness
That would fade as time went by and our love grew deep
In the end it was something more I guess
That tore us apart and made us weep
-Bruce Springsteen, "Stolen Car"

Yeah, I don't know if Mr. Brooks ever actually does any research or ever knows what he's writing about, or whether he just pulls it from his ass on the fly; I'd hardly be the one to fault him on doing the latter, actually, but at least I'll admit it when I'm just winging it.

Having gone a horribly, unspeakably long time since I was out on a date (how long, you wonder--I said we're not speaking of it), I'm not really in a position to evaluate whether Mr. Brooks' crusty rant on how cellphones and text messages have made dating more like the free market and less like the guided road from hand-holding to lifelong marriage Mr. Brooks nostalgically alleges was the way of the world for ever and ever before all this technology ruined everything by allowing people to make dating choices outside their churches, schools and workplaces. All I can really say about it is that it sounds really, really crusty, and not in the good, nommy pizza kind of way; more the scabby, stop-picking-at-that-it'll-never-heal kind of crusty. I can't help suspecting that Mr. Brooks' glasses are more than a little rosy--while technology has changed, I doubt people have all that much, and some of the things Brooks seems to suggest are made easy by cell phones are things that were the staple of half-a-century's worth of sitcoms when the lack of cell phones made them difficult, resulting in all kinds of supposedly-funny running around while somebody juggles their double-booked dates. Whatever.

But I am a Boss fan, and feel qualified to comment on that much at least. And I can't help getting the feeling that Mr. Brooks alludes to Springsteen as somebody who's not overly familiar with The Boss' work much beyond having heard that there's this Bruce Springsteen fellow and he's popular and from New Jersey and did that "U.S.A." song a few years back. Oh, and he's been on the cover of Time. It seems to me that somebody who'd actually listened to a bit of Springsteen over the years would know that while The Boss has, at times, regarded love as something with transcendent and spiritual meaning, he's always found that meaning elusive and tricky. And even in songs less-heartbreaking than the ones above, all that transcendence and spirituality has been something to be held onto and brandished as an act of defiance--that is, it's not the romanticism of chivalry but the romanticism of standing at existential odds against the entire universe before being inevitably crushed by said universe.

The highway's jammed with broken heroes on a last chance power drive
Everybody's out on the run tonight but there's no place left to hide
Together, Wendy, we'll live with the sadness
I'll love you with all the madness in my soul
Someday girl, I don't know when, we're gonna get to that place
Where we really want to go and we'll walk in the sun
But 'til then tramps like us, baby we were born to run
-Bruce Springsteen, "Born To Run"

That's one of Springsteen's most passionate cries of love, and it's not a happy, lovey-dovey, social-guardrail, "pattern of being, which educated the emotions, guided the temporary toward the permanent" thing, though it does link "everyday urges to higher things" (I'll grant that much); no, it's the kind of exhilarated desperation that runs through so much of Springsteen's work.

A lot of Springsteen's work chronicles the adventures of two kinds of people: the ones who are in the midst of that exhilarated desperation, engaged in that defiance against inevitable defeat, and the ones who have been inevitably defeated. In recent, happier years, Springsteen's found a third kind of hero, the guy who's looked at both sides of that fence and managed to step away from it altogether and find a kind of relish in the little things life still manages to give you when it's not kicking your ass (this would be the fellow, for instance, singing "Lucky Town," and he's not necessarily one of The Boss' more popular personas, for better or worse, though I'd advise you to listen to some of those cuts live before you dispose of him). I don't think either of the first two are the ones Mr. Brooks is really holding up as an ideal in Ye Olde Crusty Rant, and I don't suppose the third character really is, either, though he may be the most realistic and plausible of the three when everything gets added and subtracted.

But I don't suppose Mr. Brooks knows or cares about those nuances, either; he's thinking maybe he'll download that greatest hits package from iTunes. If it has "Glory Days" on it.


bluejayway76 Wednesday, November 4, 2009 at 3:25:00 PM EST  

You should go on dates!

Not spam, for real - I know I don't comment often but I do follow your blog and let me just testify here: I'm a nerd, and fussy, and not suited to the tastes of that many gentlemen. OkCupid offered easily the highest quality first date experience of any of the dating sites. I didn't want to have a relationship with everyone I met on there who I was highly matched with by their system, but they were all interesting men to talk to (none of the hitting your head against a wall in hopes of losing both consciousness and memory that I associate with, say, the date). Lots of geeks and nerds of varying sorts, met a lovely man and eventually married him, happy as a clam :)

Eric Wednesday, November 4, 2009 at 4:29:00 PM EST  

I may eventually try a dating site. Sort of plan on it, kind of. Maybe. There's a certain ambivalence.

But if I do, I won't exactly find it a big deal if she's sending text messages. Matter of fact, I may be interested in looking at her BlackBerry. (Wait--does that sound like some kind of entendre?)

John the Scientist Thursday, November 5, 2009 at 6:53:00 AM EST  

Hah. As soon as I read the Brooks quote I thought of "Born to Run" and "Born in the USA" and asked myself "has this dweeb ever listened to Springsteen?".

As for morality?

Jeebus the book I'm reading to my 6-year old about Ben Franklin discusses his illegitimate child who went on to become royal governor of New Jersey. The book on pirates (written in the 1700s) I plan to read to her next talks about the female pirate who got pregnant out of wedlock and actually notes that it was "an all too common occurrence".

People have not changed.

What may have changed is the acceptance of certain things an the corresponding increase in their frequency outside of the lower classes. THAT horse ain't going back in the barn.

Carol Elaine Thursday, November 5, 2009 at 2:08:00 PM EST  

Not to sound like a commercial, Eric, but bluejayway76 is totally right. Especially about OKCupid - that's where I met CuteFilmNerd, as well as my previous boyfriend. I also had several dates with other gentlemen prior to either boyfriend through OKCupid and each date was rather nice.

It's weird, because it is a free site, so you'd think that the people there would be scummier than a pay site like (which I used prior to their affiliation with Dr. Phil), but I vastly preferred my OKCupid dates - all with intelligent, engaging men.

So, yeah, if you're of a mind to start dating again, Eric, you should totally date. Don't worry about dating sites - I'm testament to the fact that good can come of them.

Leanright,  Sunday, November 8, 2009 at 6:49:00 PM EST  

Eric, I totally think you should date a conservative woman. I think the ambiance in the home would be electrifying.

Imagine make-up sex seven nights a week!

Eric Sunday, November 8, 2009 at 7:01:00 PM EST  

Oh-ho-ho: been there, Dave, done that, and no, don't plan on repeating that experiment.

Of course, she was kind of an awful person, politics notwithstanding, so I'm not sure our fights ever had a chance to rise to the political.

Leanright,  Monday, November 9, 2009 at 12:07:00 PM EST  

Even Ann Coulter dated NY Liberal Andrew Stein until 2008.

Apparently they broke it off over irreconcilable differences.

Ya think?

Eric Monday, November 9, 2009 at 1:53:00 PM EST  

On the other hand, Democratic strategist/pundit Jim Carville remains (apparently happily) married to Republican strategist/pundit Mary Matalin. O'course, one might suspect that both members of that couple are less interested in ideology than they are in getting their guy (or gal) elected, which may be the binding force in that relationship. Or maybe she's really into Yoda and he's just happy to have a woman in his life. Who knows?

But personally, not a situation I'd be keen on repeating.

Leanright,  Monday, November 9, 2009 at 4:29:00 PM EST  

Neither of them are overly scathing...I just don't believe they are really as interested in the whole process as they portray themselves to be.

Plus, it makes for good pillow-talk and an amazing payday!

Random Michelle K Monday, November 9, 2009 at 8:03:00 PM EST  

Pardon me while I go find some brain scour after that last comment.

Leanright,  Monday, November 9, 2009 at 9:09:00 PM EST  

Oh Michelle, get you're mind out of the gutter!

Or not...your choice!

Anne C. Wednesday, November 11, 2009 at 3:37:00 PM EST  

I have not really enjoyed my experiences with dating sites. Not the individuals I met, they were fine, but just not interesting to me and their expectations seemed overpowering. My last time around the merry-go-round, I met a lot of nice guys and wanted to date none of them. That really made me feel like a heel.
That, however, is me talking from my current pessimistic stance that is summed up by the statement: "I'm tired of being disappointed and of being disappointing."

You should at least try it though (with an open mind). You never know what will work for your personality. Imagine meeting fellow geeky girls and talking late into the night about things you have in common. Imagine finding someone you trust and honor and who trusts and honors you in return. Yes, it can happen through a website.

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