Sunday, February 5, 2012

Tolerance

You are launched into the fourteenth month of residence at 409 E. Sola Street, a place that offers you numerous satisfactions against a balance sheet of insignificant complaints.  You wish the clothes closet were a tad larger, you’d prefer an off-street parking space for the Yaris and one of the electric outlets on the west wall does not carry a current, the only thing the landlord has washed his hands of, thus necessitating a clever on your part use of an extension cord.  In the simplest and best terms, you’re a happy tenant.  The building is going on a hundred twenty-five years of age, yet shows signs everywhere of being refurbished, with one glaring exception.  If you use the microwave and the Cuisinart electric grill at the same time, the circuit breaker in the outside fuse box goes on strike, sending the kitchen circuitry into non-operative status.  The fuse box is not too far away, leaving the worst of the experience being the need to reset the digital clock on the gas range and the Cuisinart electric toaster/grill.

When you think of some of the quirks, shutdown modes, and other idiosyncratic behavior among friends, acquaintances, students, and clients, you are again reminded of your good fortune in having found 409 E. Sola Street.

When you think of your own quirks, idiosyncratic behavior, and the glorious chemistry of acquired traits in ratio to inherited traits, 409 E. Sola Street seems yet more remarkable.

Loving anyone causes a different set of tolerance, assumptions, and vocabulary to emerge in your mutual dealings, a set of vast difference from those applied to casual acquaintances, clients, and students, with yet another set of standards waiting to be used on complete strangers.  Only this evening you encountered an individual you recognized as familiar but had no memory of the source of the familiarity, thus you were polite, cheerful, even engaging in conversation until you were asked what seemed to you the unusual question, “Are you finding it any easier to be tolerant?”

Your immediate reply trumped your being perplexed by the question.  You heartily went on about the relative difficulty of tolerance these days with so much political anger and divisiveness in the social atmosphere.  The observation was delivered with what you considered firm good humor, which is to say you were not feeling anger as you spoke, rather bewilderment.  Ten minutes later, you placed the individual as a former student whom you given one of the lower grades of your career, a C minus, causing you to reflect, as you should for reasons of intimacy related to your striving for understanding of the human condition as a participant in the human condition, as a writer, as a teacher, a lover, a friend.  This former student, through her question, clearly had visions of you with the quirk of intolerance.  She was gone, foreclosing your chasing after her to ask, “Tolerant of what?”  You have an index of tolerance in mind, relative to a number of things.  You are only of mild intolerance to eyeliner as compared to highly intolerant of strong perfume, in particular perfume that smells like salad dressing.

There are historical reasons why you are less likely to be tolerant of an individual speaking German or Arabic, any number of reasons why your tendency toward speakers of any of the Romance languages would be in the top percentile of acceptance.

Regardless of common wisdom to the contrary, you do indeed judge a book by its cover, vastly prefer Italian fountain pens to German ones (beyond the threshold of taste and into tolerance), and are more likely to find satisfaction from meals taken in Italian, Mexican, and Viet Nam restaurants than those offering French cuisine, although you could easily have had a hair cutter of Italian origin but vastly prefer Maryelle, a native of France, who has been cutting such hairs as you have lo these last twenty-five years.

There is often no rational thought much less behavior to the things determining tolerance and intolerance, nothing like romantic love to cause your index of tolerance to undergo sea changes as you work with some deliberation to see that individual as she is rather than as a representative of some type or configuration.  The same is true of friends whom you love, their preferences and proclivities and behavior dropping well under the radar of your growing sense of being an outsider yourself.

At the moment, a good deal of your communal social activities take place Friday mornings, amid an eclectic gathering for Friday coffee or Tuesday evenings for, shall we call them, pre-dinner drinks.  From time to time, at either or both gatherings, you look about you to marvel at the diversity, at which point you are thinking well beyond mere tolerance and into the unknown pathways of chemistry.

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