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Shame and the first time around the block - Michael Davis

I am ashamed. Thoroughly ashamed.

Not the kind of ashamed that Catholics feel - that deep-rooted, institutional shame - but a shame nonetheless.

I live seven blocks (I counted on the way back) from the video store. Yes, it's a national chain video-rental establishment, and to a certain extent I feel ashamed for patronizing it, but it's right there. So close.

Wednesday, I was due to take some movies back. I had just come home, taken off my jacket and dress shirt, my shoes and socks, when I saw them there, on the coffee table, staring at me like two little credit card bills - which is what they become when you don't take them back after a while.

But I had just gotten home. It's been a tough week so far. I'm home relatively early and want to enjoy the peace.

And there they are.

Here's where the shame comes in. Well, maybe later. Anyway, I slipped on some sandals and got back in the car, it still hot from running 40 minutes from McDonough to Atlanta. I took off through the back streets of Virginia-Highland so as not to run into too much traffic. Long about North Highland, I see a jogger running in place.

She's healthy, toned, fit. She's waiting on someone, it appears. I continue on.

A few minutes later, I'm on my way back through the intersection, pausing to stop at the malfunctioning light (how long has that been like that?) when it hits me: I just drove 14 blocks - well maybe 10 by that point - when I could've gotten out and just walked.

There's the shame.

I started thinking about other big cities, that while they're still jammed with cars, they're still very much pedestrian. Isn't that why I wanted to live where I do? So I could get out walk around to places I needed to go?

The other day, I had to buy a new lock for my front door (long story) so I went to the North Highland hardware store - three blocks away - in my car. More shame.

I like to think I was in a hurry on that trip. I had just compromised the only thing keeping them away from me, but I could've walked. Walked fast.

And I didn't.

Shame has been around for a long time. Probably since the time of Adam and Eve. Not to get into some sort of Bible sermon - I'm certainly no expert on the subject - but wasn't it shame that they felt after eating from the tree of knowledge when they saw their unclothed bodies? Wasn't it shame that God supposedly forced into their consciousness as a consequence of being conscious?

Shame, as defined in the American College Dictionary published by Random House in 1962 is: "the painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonorable, improper, ridiculous, etc., done by oneself or another."

There's a song by an English group called Oasis that recommends you "Feel no shame/ cos time's no chain." Now, keep in mind the ridiculous lyric, "The sink is full of fishes/ she's got dirty dishes on the brain" is sung not two minutes later on the same record, but you get the point.

Somewhere along the line, our own consciousness has drawn boundaries, fences, walls, around our impulses. We all know what we should do, but often don't realize it until it's too late.

Shame is something you have in the absence of pride.

Whatever would get me there and back was just fine, but I wasn't proud.

All I had wanted to do was get there and back, so I used the quickest possible conveyance. Sure, I would save time. I would be back in minutes and eat dinner.

But instead, I had to write this column.

Michael Davis covers government for the Daily Herald. His column appears on Fridays. He can be reached at (770) 957-9161 or via e-mail at mdavis@henryherald.com .