Alan Ryan:

OWS, as it has come to be known, by contrast gives the impression of being constituted by entirely rational people, mostly young but afforced during daylight hours by writers, academics, curious bystanders and members of the Class of ’68 eager to show solidarity with their grandchildren.

They do seem awfully rational at that, the utopians among them, at least. I often find that to be the case — some people seem so earnestly convinced that deep down, we all want the same things, and with just enough effort and sitting down to to talk things out, we’ll get there. It’s like such a quaint little pocket of Enlightenment rationality, right here in the midst of all the bizarre incoherence that people continually prove themselves capable of. Speaking of which:

I once had a landlord who was an arch Republican with signed pictures of various Republican figures (George W. Bush, Jesse Helms, Ronald Reagan) on his walls. He was also an avid dowser, past-life regresser, and astral projector. He cured the neighbor’s apple tree of a worm infestation, found people’s lost objects over the phone, and attempted to heal my terror of snakes through a visualization technique that involved repetition and tapping on my sternum (the last one didn’t work and can’t speak to the second, but there weren’t worms in the apples when I lived there). He was an aficionado of conspiracy theories, a veritable archivist. I have never had so much fun talking to anyone with whom I disagreed so much. He was a truly marvelous person. But every time I try to describe the man to someone, the story is met with wonderment that a person could be both a conservative and a new age mage. Some sort of inauthenticity is implied in the discomfort. Yet why should it be so? What is our anxiety about dissonance? What is the landlord out of tune with but our own conceptions of harmony?

She goes on to sing the praises of seeming contradictions and the wonderful new possibilities they represent, but in this particular instance, I don’t see much to wonder about. My mom is the same way, and my brother, to a much lesser extent. Rabidly conservative politics and completely loopy new age beliefs manage to spoon each other in a loving embrace in her mind. To me, the common thread between them is an extreme self-centeredness, which may not be one of the qualities immediately associated with the image of Age of Aquarius-types, but believe me, it’s there in abundance. From their preoccupation with extending and customizing both their physical lifespan and the supposed afterlife to follow to their unshakable belief that the entire world exists as the backdrop to their own personal spiritual journey, New Agers have been some of the most narcissistic people I’ve ever met.