Mark’s Stubborness Pays Off

I join Dorothea and Jonathan in celebrating Mark Pilgrim who stubbornly stuck to his principles and quit his job rather than giving in to his boss’ demands that he stop writing on his web site.

It’s harder to imagine a clearer violation of the right to free speech.

(Sorry, for the title, Dorothea, I couldn’t pass up the irony 😉 )

Still as Stubborn as Ever

As I was persistently, nay stubbornly, transferring old files to my new site I took a much-needed break and did some of my usual web-browsing, stopping off as usual at Jonathon’s site to see my name mentioned in his well-written explanation of how he designed my new site so that the content could remain on the right as it was on my old site, a stylistic element that I stubbornly held on to because it just “looked right” to me. Or, maybe, it was just because Jonathon Delacour, Invisible Darkness, and Burningbird, three sites I now visit frequently, use the same format that it seemed the best approach.

Anyway, in my browsing I found myself at Dorothea’s site, and unexpectedly found myself and a previous blog entry prominently mentioned at her site.

All this is not to say that I think Loren arrogant or hubristic. (I probably should have said this earlier. Oh, well. Sorry, Loren.) I hope merely to remind myself and others that stubbornness for the sake of itself is not a virtue, though stubbornness in the service of some other goal may well be.

While I was happy to hear that I was not being accused of being arrogant or hubristic, and it didn’t even bother me that she waited until the last paragraph to mention this, I still question her underlying argument that we can rid ourselves of this “stubborn” streak.

In my original article I suggested that I felt I may have inherited a “stubborn” gene, something I obviously had little control over. An even earlier example of my stubbornness came to mind when Jonathon (somewhere) mentioned he was “anal-retentive.” I read that right after writing the first blog entry on stubbornness, and it immediately reminded me that when we were trying to potty-train our kids my mother told me that when she tried to “potty-train” me, and this was, after all, the “bad-old days,” that I would slap her and try to get down off the potty. Needless to say, I got slapped back, ending up in fairly long “slapping matches,” or so I was told. My point was that this must have been an “inherited trait” not a learned behaviour. If that’s true, I suspect that we can never really get rid of it, though we may still be able to choose our battles more wisely than we did as children.

Although I never mentioned any particular unhappy experiences caused by this trait, I am sure that I, like Dorothea, have suffered because of it. My divorce, the greatest disappointment of my life, was unnecessarily prolonged because of my stubbornness. Looking back I suppose I realize that I made a mistake in choosing to marry someone who wanted me to be someone I could never be, someone I had no desire to become. The error, of course, was compounded by the fact that it was years later before I could really objectively look back and see mistakes that had been made on both sides. My stubbornness in not giving up on the romantic belief that “marriage was forever” simply made the divorce worse for everyone involved than it had to be. I suppose that you could even argue that the same romantic notion of “love” caused me unnecessary grief when I received a “Dear Loren” letter as my unit was about to ship out to Vietnam years before. I suspect, though, if I were to relive the situations I would make exactly the same mistakes again. It is just in my nature to doggedly, if not stubbornly, hang on to those things I want to believe.

I suppose I would doggedly hang on to the belief that, as Dorothea says, “stubbornness in the service of some other goal may well be” a virtue. Stubbornness may have caused Dorothea’s unfortunate problems in grad school, but it’s what got me through college when everything was telling me to quit. The university I attended failed 50% of the incoming-freshmen the first two quarters because it was required by state law to take all students. So, when I received a 2.25 grade average my first quarter, I was “pissed,” to put it mildly. My God, I’d been recruited by universities that put this one to shame. While most of my friends quietly melded away to junior colleges or took jobs, I gave up bowling and billiards and brought my third-quarter average up to 3.5. Having proven my point, after that I went back to my old ways of learning what I wanted to learn and ignoring the rest while earning a modest 3.0. In the end, it was sheer stubbornness that got me a degree while still working up to thirty hours a week to pay for my college expenses.

More importantly, stubbornness got me through Vietnam. Unlike most of my fellow soldiers, I had few illusions about that war, but my stubbornness and unwillingness to give in to my feelings of despair got me through my tour there. I was determined to stay alive, and if that meant never taking a drink, never smoking anything stronger than a cigarette and experiencing the whole hell that it was while stone-cold-sober because that gave me the best chance of coming out alive, that’s what I would do. Stuck in a platoon that was dramatically understaffed with sergeants and experienced soldiers, I felt it necessary to assume responsibilities that aged me long before I should have been. Sheer stubbornness got me through that war without enduring psychological problems and allowed me to deal with the hostility I met in the “liberal” groups I ran with when I returned home.

Of course, Dorothea and I could semantically resolve our differing viewpoints by merely referring to my trait as “perseverance,” because everyone knows that perseverance is a good thing. However, I think I’ll prolong the debate by stubbornly clinging to the term “stubborn” and stating that I’m going to stubbornly hold on to my old-fashioned Liberal values, you know, the ones that say that poor people are important, too, and that taxes are necessary for a humane society, and I’m even going to stubbornly try to explain to Jonathon why it’s inappropriate to apply the word “sentimental” to the discussion of war when words like “romanticize,” “stereotype,” or “glorify” are far more appropriate and effective in winning that argument.