Holden Caulfield Thinks You’re A Phony: On Tee-Shirt Philosophies

In which Carrie discusses movements heroic or otherwise…
A man gave me a book at the hostel last weekend.   After some discussion about it, I was going to write the title and author down in the book I had been presently reading, when he said, “well, here.  Tell you what.  In ten minutes I’ll be finished with it, and will just give you my copy.”  I’m sure my face showed pleased surprise, something it would show much of the weekend; his gesture was significant for two reasons:
1. He told me to pass it on to someone after I read it, and, 2. The book is about what is claimed to be the largest social movement in the history of the world: Saving The Environment.  

(The book is Blessed Unrest by Paul Hawken, in case you don’t get my copy when I’m finished.)

This was just the kind of weekend I had, inexplicably: people giving me books, people buying books, Angler fishes signed on copies of books, Powell’s books on Hawthorne getting its due patronage more than once by me, and thanked by the Green brothers  during their Hosted-by-Powellsbooks show.
(Would Holden consider novels phonies?)

I expertly explained to my fellow hostellers with whom I bunked over the weekend, “the Tour De Nerdfighting is put on by the vlogbrothers, John and Hank Green.  They  make videos on numerous topics and edu-tain better than anyone I’ve met in either the education or the entertainment industries.  What’s more is that their purpose for nerdfighting is to “decrease world suck and increase awesome.”

That’s a philosophy I can live with.

Sunday afternoon found me, or I found it (I hate to be so passive), in a line of fellow nerdfighters, most of them much younger than me, wrapping around the block which is the Bagdad Theatre.  The Fault In Our Stars van was parked there as a living icon, or ideology, of something great.  And it is difficult to say whether it is that John and Hank are the great leaders of the nerdfighting movement or not.  They claim we are a community; they act as though they defer to us.  Our questions and punishments and twitter comments and vlogs inform them about that which they must speak.  The topics range, and given thier five year influence,  are starting to have larger impact in the form of charities (water.org, this-star-won’t- go-out foundation, etc.).

John had is moment in the sun, while we all put on our spf 30.  His book is about people dying of cancer.  But not just any people, young people, and, I’ll argue, heroic people.  And even had I not gone to the show, or heard the reading, I still might have come away from reading the novel believing I, too, could be heroic.
John told his audience, “Most of us will live heroic lives on a small scale…” and frankly I think many of us must have felt relieved.  So much of the time I want to do the grandiose, heroic acts, like I want to be the remembered hero(ine), but John reminded me, “…the universe can be cold to us,” and eventually, we will no longer be here.  The sun, or some horrible choice on our part as a species will eventually end human life, so, “be kind to each other, honor those who came before you and respect those who will come after you.”  

A powerful message for the frustrated humanitarian, at odds with the “worldsuckincreasers” around every phony promise or sneaky trade.  But, I can be a hero too, according to John, and Hank, and the communities I choose to engage with; us, one at a time.

There’s no grade for this kind of thing, no act too small.  Talk about taking the pressure off…

And so I left the Bagdad feeling how it felt, had a slice of pizza, and walked back to the small community at the Hostel.  To the man who ate a bagel with a fork.  To the woman who practiced hulahooping in the early morning hours.  To someone who would indulge my poetic fancy that salmon are the secret to saving the biosphere.  And to a new natural high I hadn’t felt since summer camp, back in ‘93.

The sweetest dreams are made of:



2 responses to “Holden Caulfield Thinks You’re A Phony: On Tee-Shirt Philosophies

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