One day, I began calling my friends “honky”. And all of a sudden, I had a new habit. Admittedly I don’t even remember why I started. Something was perhaps attractive about somehow reclaiming such a horribly harsh word. Maybe I was just trying to be stupid - always a favorite pastime of mine. But “why” was, and still is, not the point.
Much later, when I was hanging out with my family, my uncle overheard me call my brother “honky”, and he said “Oooh. You don’t want to be using that word.”
“Well, do you know where it comes from?”
So this is what he told me. I don’t know if it’s really true, and actually I don’t care, because it was and is priceless.
He told me that back in the Old South, when a man was looking for love – the kind you have to pay for, but he was too poor to hire a white prostitute, he would drive down to a poor black neighborhood. He wouldn’t get out of his car, because he knew the brothers on the street would kick his ass. So he would pull up in front of the prostitute’s house, and stay in the driver’s seat, and honk and honk on his horn, until she came out and got in the car with him, and they drove away. That’s where the term “honky” comes from.
“Wow”, I said, “you’re right. That is horrible.”
But then, after a few days, I thought, “Hold on. That’s the Perfect word.”
That’s how so many of us obtain so many of the objects of our desires. We drive down into the poorest of the world’s neighborhoods. We’re afraid to get out of our cars, so we stay in the driver’s seat, and honk and honk on our horns until the object of our desire gets in, and we drive away.
Except that these days, for the most part, we’re not even aware that we’re doing it. It’s like we’re not only Honkies, we’re Clueless Honkies.
I began to realize that the Clueless Honky is like a club, but the strangest club of all time. It’s not a club that you have to get admittance into, but a club you have to get admittance out of.
In the sense that the first step to get out of the club is to admit that one is in the club.
(Hand in the air). Hello, I am Chris Farmer. And I am a Clueless Honky. I eat food that I don’t know where it comes from. I am heavily addicted to the fractional distillation of petroleum. I wear clothes and shoes and use electronic gadgets that are made very, very, very far away.
How did I get myself into this mess where my life is dependent on things to which I just don’t know how to give thanks?
Well, that’s not an easy question to answer. But over time, this is what I’ve come up with:
I noticed how we humans are such creatures of story. And I began wondering if we got in this mess because we lack a coherent enough creation story. And by creation story, I mean one of those Big stories that for eons people told themselves, and that answered the really big questions in life – who are we as human beings, where are we, and why are we here – and that, in essence, explains how we are connected to the source of our lives.
Because it sure seems to me that to have unwittingly become a clueless honky, I must have lacked a clear sense of who I was, where I was, and why I was here. I must have lacked a clear sense of my connection to the source of my life.
To get another perspective on how this plays out – how lacking a coherent creation story – plays out, I want to go back a couple of hundred years and look at an intellectually and morally luminous person we’ve all heard of – Thomas Jefferson.
Now, Jefferson found himself in a similar predicament – that of his life being dependent on things to which he didn’t know how to give thanks.
As is well known, Jefferson was the author of the Declaration of Independence which included these famous words: “We hold these truths to be self evident- that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.“
As is less well known, Jefferson was also the author of Notes on Virginia, actually the only book he ever published. These, too, are his words: “The blacks, whether originally a distinct race, or made distant by time and circumstances, are inferior to the whites in the endowments of both body and mind.”
What allowed, and continues to allow, this kind of confusion, these kinds of ridiculous justifications for the unjustifiable, even from one such as Jefferson?
I wondered, if your creation story doesn’t help you make sense of the tricky stuff in life, well then, you just start filling in the blanks, so to speak, and you wind up creating ridiculous justifications for the unjustifiable, instead of dealing honestly and directly with the tricky stuff. And that’s what we’ve been doing for longer than anyone can remember.
And then, as time went by and as technology allowed, we hid – or exported – the unjustifiable way out beyond the horizon of our lived experience. Or, in other words, we made a slow transition - from slaveholders to Clueless Honkies.
And I also wonder whether or not the creation stories that we do have within our culture – I wonder if they are too infected with “guilt, sin, and blame” – what John Trudell calls the “Trinity of the Chain” – for them to ever do us any good. Because it’s almost unbearable to deal honestly and directly with anything we feel guilty about, or that we’re blaming others for, and so we therefore never truly learn from the big mistakes our species is prone to make.
So I propose that it’s time that we create a new creation story – a story that can help us “admit” ourselves out of the Club of the Clueless Honky.
I’d love to go ahead and recommend three design parameters for just such a creation story. First design parameter – my dream is that it would be a “frame” story that could hold an infinite number of stories within it. Kind of like the “1001 Arabian Nights”. Maybe not quite as explicit as where the main story is of a woman telling one unfinished story night after night. But, nonetheless, where the main story could fit an almost infinite number of individual’s open-sourced stories within its broad central theme.
Second, the main frame story would actually already exist and would already be at the least somewhat familiar to most folks, like it was some kind of sleeper story that just needed to be slightly tweaked and awakened to reveal its full potential. Doing this – revitalizing an old story - would avoid any kind of potential cult of personality surrounding the author of any new creation story.
Third, the frame story would answer not only who we are, where we are, and why we are here, but would also elucidate our connection to the source of our lives in such a way that it would answer, without resorting to any guilt, sin, and blame - how did we become such Clueless Honkies, and how do we get ourselves out of this stupid club?
I have a suggestion for just such a story that would meet all of these design parameters.
Check out the next Clueless Honky Blog post for more.
Thanks for your time and attention