Showing posts with label I believe this. Show all posts
Showing posts with label I believe this. Show all posts

Friday, August 14, 2015

Relationships that end ≠ relationships that fail

I don't like how we say that any relationship that ends is one that failed. 

Because, seriously, if you helped each other be less alone and lonely for a while, or if you helped each other love more deeply or meaningfully, or if you helped each other become stronger, kinder, more thoughtful people — I mean, it sucks when a relationship ends because you couldn't make a long distance thing work, or you just didn't have a lot in common anymore, or someone was stunningly mediocre in bed1, but it's hard to characterize a relationship like that as, all things considered, a failure.

The relationships that fail are the ones that leave its members more thoughtless, more jaded, more isolated, more cynical, and crueler to themselves and others. Or, in other words, the relationships that fail are the ones that leave its members worse than if the relationship never happened.

We often don't have any control over whether a relationship ends, but we do have a lot of control over whether it fails. We should all try harder. 


Thursday, May 14, 2015

Running a kindness deficit

When people use the phrase “kindness deficit,” they usually mean “a lack of kindness”; e.g., “Our society is experiencing a kindness deficit.”

People are free to use the phrase however they want, of course, but I don’t like that definition. First, it makes the phrase kind of unnecessary (just say “a lack of kindness,” right?), but more importantly, it ignores some of the nuances in using the deficit analogy.

Here’s a better definition: Just like a budget deficit occurs when a government spends more money than it takes in, a kindness deficit occurs when a person gives more kindness than s/he receives.

This is a more serious problem than someone merely not getting enough kindness. When people realize they’re giving much more love than they’re getting, they regret it. They feel stupid. They correct it by slowly closing their heart. They swear to never make the same mistake again.

And then the world becomes that much shittier.

It’s our job—all of us, collectively—to do what we can to prevent each other from regretting being kind. Look, we’re not personally responsible for rescuing every single human being, but we need to catch people when we can—when we see that the universe is kicking someone’s ass who doesn’t deserve it; when we see someone normally prodigal with their love start to be stingier with it; when we see the spirit and warmth start to fade from someone’s eyes.

It’s easy to talk a big game about wishing the world was friendlier and kinder and more wonderful, but this is what we can do to make it so. It’s one of the worst things in the world to make some regret being kind; corollarily, it’s one of the purest, most genuine acts of love to make someone feel good about it.

So yeah. We don’t even have to make them break even or anything. Most people don’t mind running a kindness deficit just as long as the deficit isn’t large enough to make them throw up their arms and say fuck it all. We just need to catch people when we can: large things are nice, but small things—a compliment, a candy bar, a hug, a thoughtful note—can nudge a deficit towards manageable and buy enough time until someone else more qualified can take over.

Human beings are warriors against misery, and we should be on the same team.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

A note on Valentine’s Day

Generally speaking, it’s easier to be kind when people are kind to you. You worry less about your kindness being wasted or unappreciated, and you don’t fret about being taken advantage of when you can see your kindness being returned, even indirectly.

People talk about how one small act of kindness can have a lasting impact or how you get the love you give, and a lot of that does sound like motivational poster horseshit or Western culture bastardizing Eastern theology.

But to be charitable, I think this is all they mean—being kind to people helps them care for others fearlessly. It helps people overcome some of the insecurities and worries that stop them from exercising their selfless, compassionate, empathic impulses and lets them, at least for a moment, tap into a better part of themselves.

And it’s one of the purest acts of love to help someone have as many of those moments as possible.

Have a happy Valentine’s Day. Be kind to people. And go get laid maybe.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Cri de coeur

Every single person falls into one of two categories: people who have had their hearts broken and people who are going to have their hearts broken. And that’s a compelling reason to be kind to each other—or, at least, a reason not to make things worse.

Left to its own devices, the world is a pretty fucked up place. The onus is on all of us to be the corrective force that makes it a less shitty place for each other.

Everybody's heart is as alive, real, and pained as that of your own

Saturday, December 6, 2014

I hope you have a nice day

I have a pet theory that says we should all say “I hope you have a nice day” instead of “Have a nice day.”

“Have a nice day,” as many people have pointed out, has become kind of useless—a stock phrase that’s automatically uttered at the end of a phone conversation or a retail transaction that means nothing to the speaker or the listener. “Have a nice day” is just translated as “this is the end of our interaction.”

That kind of sucks—I think the idea of verbalizing a desire for someone’s day to go well is charming. And like asking “How are you?,” I think there’s value in what others might dismiss as conversational lubricant; by asking (for instance) your barista how she’s doing, it’s basically a shorthand for, “I know that it’s easy to forget that the people around me aren’t just characters in my story but rather human beings with their own lives that are as real as my own, and especially in customer service situations, there’s a tendency to reduce people to, say, ‘human who’s making my coffee’ instead of the complete, vibrant people that they are, so even though it’s probably impractical and undesirable to go into the ins and outs of how your life is going, I want to ask you the question just to acknowledge the fact that you do, in fact, have a life beyond our interaction and I respect that.”

“Have a nice day” is supposed to serve the same purpose—an acknowledgement that you understand that they’re going to have a day beyond their interaction with you—but through sheer repetition and the customer-service-ization of the phrase, it’s no longer really effective.

It has a simple fix, and that fix is “I hope you have a nice day.” It’s an atypical phrasing, so it forces the speaker and the listener to actually notice the words being said. It turns a command that can be kind of pushy and presumptuous (because, hey, maybe I don’t want to have a nice day today—you don’t know what’s going on in my life) into a humble little well wishing. And it’s a much more sincere sentiment; it’s a lovely kindness to hope for something good for someone else.

As a part of my ongoing project of leaving little Post-it notes in library books, I’m testing my theory out. (At the very least, it’s probably nicer than the note I left in Paper Towns saying that I hate John Green’s face. Don’t get me wrong; I’m sure he’s a nice guy. But I swear the man has a face of a dude who corrects your grammar at parties, and seriously, screw that guy.)

Attempt #1: "I hope your day goes well today."
I added a heart, just in case the message seemed to cold. But then it kind of looks like I'm being all flirty, so I specified that it was a "platonic heart." Just so no one gets the wrong idea.

Attempt #2: "Hey, I hope you have a good day today."
To make it even friendlier, I drew a cat. But then it doesn't really look like a cat. So then I clarified that it's "supposed to be cat." Which somehow makes it look less like a cat. Eh, whatever.

Attempt #3: "I hope you have an interesting day today! Unless you're in the mood for a boring day. Basically, I hope you have the sort of day that makes you happy."
tl;dr: You do you, buddy.
But no, seriously. I hate John Green's face.

Friday, August 15, 2014

“The crowd will love you for being brave”

Some lyrics from Her Space Holiday's song "The Day In Review":

If life is one big symphony,
Don't play your part too cautiously
Let your fingers make mistakes
The crowd will love you for being brave

I like these lyrics because they're a call to be bold and take chances and make a mess occasionally.

However, I love these lyrics because they're also a call to all of us to recognize when others are being bold and taking chances and to support them even if they make a mess occasionally.

Don't get me wrong: Mistakes that are the product of thoughtlessness or selfishness or dickishness are obviously bullshit. But mistakes that are made while trying to do something creative or interesting, while trying to find meaning and purpose, while trying to make someone feel loved—those are good and honorable and necessary.

If we want a world that's more vibrant, more thoughtful, and more honest, that means making an effort to distinguish honorable mistakes from bullshit ones. And it means making people feel comfortable—or at least, unpunished—for taking meaningful creative, emotional, or professional risks, even if especially if they don't work out.

And if I want the crowd to love me for being brave, I have to remember that I'm a part of the crowd for everybody else, and that their minor acts of bravery deserve just as much encouragement as my own.