The Straight Arrow
An underappreciated lifestyle?
Posted Oct 24, 2020
I don’t know if it’s because I live in the San Francisco Bay Area or that I watch too many movies, but it seems we venerate the rebel, especially the quirky artist over the straight arrow. For example, there's folk guitarist Oscar Isaac in Inside Llewyn Davis, Prince in Purple Rain, Elton John in Rocketman, eccentric cult filmmaker Ed Wood in the eponymous movie, and edgy cartoonist Robert Crumb.
In contrast, many movies ridicule the straight-arrow schlump who works for a company. The screenwriter usually gives the protagonist a particularly soulless job: Dustin Hoffman in Kramer vs Kramer was an advertising account manager who pushed fungible products. Jack Nicholson in About Schmidt was an insurance middle manager. John Cusack in Being John Malkovich worked for a company that files unspecified documents. Tom Cruise in The Firm is one of many examples of lawyers portrayed as doing the inconsequential or worse. In The Firm, the lawyers defend rich people who avoid tax by hiding their money in the Cayman Islands.
Yet there is another side, one I far more often see in the real world: that the most contributory and satisfied people generally are straight arrows. Sure, even many super-straight types would rather do something creative and independent than be an inconsequential cog in a corporation but recognize that few people make a sustainable living as a creative and that many of those do less for the world than, for example, that middle manager, who helps ensure that top-rated cars retain their quality and are salable at an affordable price, that farmer who gets produce from farm to market promptly, the factory worker and supervisor who ensures the quality of the our over-the-counter pain reliever, the trucker who ensures that the appliances are in stock, and yes, the janitor who ensures that our supermarkets are clean and COVID-safer.
Because straight arrows don't abuse substances, they’re more reliable at work, at home, and with friends. They save rather than spend and fund their 401k, providing the security much craved in these roiling, perhaps end-of-capitalism times.
Whether or not they’re religious, the straight arrow’s moral compass is strong, not perfectly implemented because we’re all human, but above average.
The straight arrow pulls on ropes of restraint before expressing extreme views, listens when arguing would create more heat than light, and resists the zeitgeist’s tidal wave in favor of time-honored wisdom: productivity over pleasure, kindness where possible, justice where necessary, merit above all, and responsibility over letting ‘er rip. You’ll see few straight arrows at Burning Man.
And straight arrows may be calmer, because they're not always pushing the envelope and are less likely to have to worry whether they can pay the rent.
I must admit that I find some aspects of the off-center life attractive but have long decided that except in small doses, it yields more pain than gain, for me, my family, and my sphere of influence. How about you?
I read this aloud on YouTube.