The Case for Care in the Face of Sympathy

I come from a rough neighborhood; that’s no secret.  Where I grew up, people were gruff, rough, and tough.  In fact, here’s a typical greeting; and seriously, no bullshit, verbatim: “Joe!  How the hell are you, you fat fucking bastard?  Life treating you good or what?”

Realness.  You know this guy cares about Joe; asking him how he is with a not so subtle reminder that he should probably eat less pizza and start walking more.  And, to get on ancestry dot-com to find his father, because all bastards should know who their dad is.

Ah, I miss that.  No fake, pretentious, politically correct, empty, hoping I’m better than you are, kind of shit greeting: “Oh, hey Joe.  Good to see you.”  No it’s not.  Shit, I hope he doesn’t talk to me.  How long does it take to make a latte?  Come on!

Yep.  The atmosphere just got a bit shittier.

Down south, you could be on the side of the road in the rain, changing a flat tire and people will drive by and say, “Oh, bless his heart.”  Useless.  Meanwhile, in Philly, they’ll pull over and help you change that tire, cursing you the whole time, for getting them wet.

How about this from Anthony Jeselnik?  I think this really hits the nail on the head.  He says, “People see some horrible tragedy in the world and they run to the internet.  They run to their social media; facebook, twitter, whatever they got, and they all write down the exact same thing: ‘My thoughts and prayers …’.  Do you know what that’s worth?  Fucking nothing.  Your’e not giving your time, your money, or even your compassion.  All you’re doing is saying, “Don’t forget about me today.”

Funny, but there’s a good bit of truth to that.  I get it though.  When there’s nothing you can actually do, you want to offer some words of sympathy.  However, put some thought into it, instead of some canned bullshit words.

Now, at this point in my life, I’m about 50% removed from inner city Philly, so I’ve come to understand that most people are fragile, easily offended, and will gossip about you to anyone who will listen about how bad of person you are, because you use “Fuck” as a noun, adjective, verb, adverb, and pronoun and anywhere else it’ll fit.  Everyone has some kind of an accent.  Cursing and sarcasm is part of mine.  But, in many places, it scares the shit out of people, so I try to curb the accent a bit.  I fail, a lot.

But!  But, I cannot bring myself to say empty things, like “Prayers”.  Ugh!  No, I’ll say things like this: “I’ll mow your lawn, you can stay at my house, I’ll pick up your groceries, I’m on my way over with bourbon, I’ll walk your dog, take your trash out, change your tire, pick up your kids from practice, give you money, and sit with you at the hospital.”

The weird thing is … I often get silence or a blank stare as if people don’t recognize honest sincerity and care.  Remember Sandra Bullock in Miss Congeniality, when Stan (William Shatner) asks, “What is the one most important thing our society needs?”  And she responds with what is truly important to her, “That would be harsher punishment for parole violators, Stan.”  Crickets.  To break the awkward silence, she finally says, “And … world peace.”  To which, everyone cheers.

We’ve taken the care out of care and replaced it with, “Hugs”, “Prayers”, “world peace”, and “Bless your heart”.  Sympathy with no actual help.

It’s like, if I say “Bless his heart”, I’m excused from all guilt of not doing anything.  It’s like saying four hail Mary’s or something.  Not sure how that works, but I’ve heard things.

Sometimes we can’t help or simply don’t want to and we shouldn’t feel guilty about it.  It is what it is.  We’re not obligated to the universe in any way.  Sometimes we help and sometimes, we don’t feel like getting wet or putting our lives in danger or on hold to help someone.  It’s okay.  We’re human.  No worries.

But please, instead of “hugs”, say something real or nothing at all.  And please don’t hit the “like” button.  My fucking dog just died, dumbass.  He was an ugly, fat fucking bastard, but we loved him.

With all sincerity, Namaste.

Photo by Robert Bye on Unsplash

A Joyful Explosion of Humanity

Right around this time every year, I’m riveted, mesmerized, and lost for about three hours in front of my television.  No … not that show.  Not that one either.

This show is an eclectic mix of genres, backgrounds, and styles, mixing together like a well-blended cocktail of only the best unrelated ingredients served in a chalice that is the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

It tastes refreshing and makes you feel good.

The atmosphere is one of love, respect, and positivity.  It’s a nullification of boundaries, lines, divisiveness, hate, ethnicity, religious beliefs, politics, and human drama; which is all based on bullshit, as far as I can tell.

Is it the soulful words in acceptance speeches?  Is it the introduction speeches, because they’re written and given by a fellow artist who just happens to be a big fan of whom they’re speaking of?  It’s not just some presenter and a teleprompter, you know.  In Brian May’s speech, when he was inducting Def Leppard, he said, I wouldn’t let anyone else do this. He’s a fan and a friend.

Is it the music?  Yeah, I turn that shit up to eleven.

But, that’s not what captivates me.  Actually it’s all of that, along with an appreciation of the artistry, talent, skill, effort, writing, sacrifice, tragedy, triumph, risk, and the drive to keep going, producing beautiful music in the face of all adversity.

No, that’s not quite it either.

It’s what I see that could be.  I see Janelle Monae genuinely enthralled by the performance of Def Leppard; dancing and smiling.  It’s when I see Stevie Nicks hanging on every word of Janet Jackson’s acceptance speech.  I see an audience full of highly accomplished artists, all in their own right, cheering for one-another with appreciation and respect.

That time when Tom Petty, Jeff Lynn, George Harrison’s son, and Prince all played together, performing “While my Guitar Gently Weeps”.  Or when Bono, Mick Jagger, Fergie, Will-I-AM, and The Edge all performed “Gimme Shelter” together.  Harry Styles performing with Stevie Nicks.  Brian May, Susanna Hoffs, Steve Van Zandt, and Ian Hunter of Mott the Hoople (what?!) performing together, “All the Young Dudes.”

Yes!  It truly is a joyful explosion of humanity.

It’s like Robin Williams once said about music; “… a harmonic connection between all living beings, everywhere, even the stars.”

Photo by Israel Palacio on Unsplash

Conversational Cannonball

Conversational Cannonball

Walt Whitman once said, “If you done it, it ain’t bragging.”

True.  But …

I was at a party recently and someone asked how my kids were doing.  I’ll only say this; their journey, how they’re navigating it, and all their accomplishments are pretty impressive.  I’ll leave it at that.

But, sometimes we get caught up in the moment and splash their achievements all over the other person.  And, that’s what I did.  Ever notice when one person splashes, the other person tends to one-up you with their splashing?  It’s a reflex and both of us end up with our eyes stinging.  When she began to respond with how well her kids were doing, I realized I’ve gotten us both all wet.

In fact, I probably misinterpreted the depth of her question to begin with.  I overestimated her interest.  Maybe, I overlooked it completely.  Maybe pride pushed me in.  Maybe I wasn’t ready to swim quite yet and it all took me by surprise.  Her too, for that matter.  It happens to all of us on occasion.

Ego and pride play their parts, but a little goes a long way.  It’s why we take showers, wear nice clothes, accomplish things, and care how we’re perceived and received by the world.  But, there’s a threshold.  Cross it and we’ve gone from interesting to “Get me the hell out of this pool”.

When someone asks us, “Hey, how’s it going?”  The most widely accepted social reply is, “Pretty good; thanks.  How are you doing?”  They respond and we go about our day.  It’s a greeting, not an interrogation.

I should have said, “Oh, they’re doing great; thanks.  And yours?”  If she responded with, “Really good; thanks”, that would also be the end of the encounter.  Perfectly acceptable and understandable.  Or, the conversation gracefully makes its way to deeper waters.

Shallow, surface level conversation in perpetuity makes me want to get out and towel off.  I swim much better below the surface than on it.  I thrive there, but a cannonball is too much, too soon, and way too splashy.

Anyways, before we splash our achievements, adventures, and awesome exploits on someone who isn’t ready to get all wet, we should probably test the waters first.  Just because they asked, “How’s the water”, doesn’t mean they want to be violently thrown in.

By the way; how are you doing?

Photo by Eleanor Carter on Unsplash