Why Self-Centered Action is Divisive
I think we all have the potential of becoming that guy on Life Stinks that goes postal on the road service crew while sitting in traffic. Maybe that’s why, when the nurse on the other side of the counter said to her friend,
“I hate it when there’s a bridge jumper on the Skyway and traffic is stopped. It’s like, I’m late for work, just jump already!”
I just smiled, able to relate to her frustration, even though I had been the guy that was walking along the Skyway’s railing that day.
It’s really kinda weird how life gets cyclical sometimes.
I remember when I finally understood that everything was actually going to be okay in this life.
I was working at a Waffle House and for some reason or other happened to be sitting on one of the booth-tops with my feet on the bench chatting with Nancy and some customers around 5:30 in the morning.
It was Douglasville, GA and the year was 2001, the day before the twin towers would be struck down by rogue airplanes.
Maybe I saw a vision of those towers falling, right outside of the plate-glass windows, the day before it all went down…
Maybe I didn’t.
Perhaps it was the towers falling that makes the memory of those couple of days come back clear as a bell.
Truthfully, it was during that time that I really started writing. Thanks to Nancy.
She would often take the spatulas from me and tell me to go take a break.
I always thought it was nice of her, as I would be extremely busy flipping the knives and spatulas like a hibachi chef.
Maybe she was just worried I’d cut my fingers off.
Anyhow, those small kindnesses gave me little breaks to sit in the back on a greasy bucket by the dish sink, and scribble notes of all sorts onto napkins and to-go bags.
This had been ongoing for about a month. People were getting keen on the Waffle House chef (is chef a stretch?) who would tag your to-go bag with some flash philosophy, or sit there and talk with you on all things relating to Moses, Buddha, Siddhartha, or Plato.
The strangest thing was, everything I use to write, and all the advice I use to give, seemed largely automatic. It was all done with no sense of ownership, because I wouldn’t think about it first. Nor, would I consider it valuable advice, as most things I said or wrote were aimed totally at yours truly.
I am skeptical to say that I was smarter back then, than I am now.
But okay, I’ve said it.
Maybe because I had learned less.
Someone smart once said,
“The more you learn the less you know.”
Anyhow, the day before the towers fell, we all sat there. Nancy, two old guys, and the Waffle House Guru (now I’m an old guy), talking about how much better the world would be if everyone just reminded each other of what we already have.
Of course, my mind was recounting for the umpteenth time how electrons can act as a particle or wave. And then, for some strange reason, I had asked myself what the universe might look like if I could get beyond the boundaries of it and glance back.
At the time I had settled on atoms looking like a black rubber ball, if frozen in time. But, a live atom might look like a glowing orb, at least until you touch it. Kinda like those staticy glass plasma balls that you can put your finger to and watch the electricity focus on it.
Anyhow, relating the microcosm of the atom to the macrocosm of the universe, somehow got me thinking of the pupil in my own eye. Then, in a strange feeling of elation, I transformed into some spiritual Russian doll.
I was still well-aware of my presence in the conversation, and all of my senses were in tact. But, I felt myself growing. Like I was molting in reverse. Dropping full layers of existence on top of me, over and over, until I came to the realization that it would never end.
And if it did, I would do nothing but judge what I saw anyhow. And if I got to a point outside of all creation I may likely just be looking at myself.
But isn’t that what we do every morning? Look in the mirror and scrutinize that blemish, pop that pimple? Yuck. And thank you for continuing to do that, for God’s sake. But, really, yes, we can’t help but judge things.
Us and our judgements?
Should we really feel self conscious about a pimple?
Skydivers say that once you reach terminal velocity it feels like you’re lying on the bedroom floor. The cushion of air is so thick it’s like carpet, and you can just roll around like you’re laying there on it.
A bridge jumper might just imagine he’s lying there on the floor, then next thing you know… back to atoms.
Maybe they just rolled outta bed?
That’s the thing about suicides. I would imagine they just want to wake up from the bad dream they’re having. I mean, any where’s better than here. Why not just reset, but what if you don’t reset? And what if you do? Is either any better? Do you really want to go through all this again?
Have you been through this before? How many times is this? Maybe the best is still yet to come.
I don’t know, I can only imagine…
Did you know that Florida is the flattest state in the nation?
I mean, if you really want to see a beautiful sunrise, you have the beaches, yeah. But, it’s so flat. There’s no place to get up-close and personal with the Great Sun Almighty.
Well, there’s one. But you’d have to be crazy to try it.
I will sit on the couch or out on the patio and watch my children play. Sometimes I ask myself if the mere act of watching them makes them feel self-conscious.
My daughter will be balancing a teacup on a stick, and then when she notices me observing, she might pretend that she was playing a game or making a new kind of toy.
Really, she was just balancing a teacup on a stick.
Or was she? I have no idea.
I can only assume that if I were confined to a tiny porch or living room with nothing to do, I might start fiddling with random objects to keep myself occupied.
Then I sometimes feel horrible that this is what my kids are reduced to, busying themselves with rubbish. Me watching.
Wouldn’t I be just as good a father in Ethiopia, watching the kids swat flies?
Maybe I would be a better one.
What if I were a Hollywood movie star and I could afford my kids to have playgrounds with toys that end in eventualities. Where they could learn that hard work pays off? Teacups and sticks that fit together into new more interesting things…
I get down there with them and play, feeling guilty for not being engaged with them. I can’t figure out what a teacup and stick makes either so I balance it on my head and they laugh.
We have a little fun.
Maybe the grass isn’t greener. If you could buy your kids constant engagement they’d never learn that things don’t always add up in the real world. It’s nice to just let them goof off.
Be an animal. Go ahead. You’re probably end up more noble that way anyhow.
As a kid, I remember being super-self-conscious about people around me. What they might see me as. I’d always be disparagingly picking at a freckle or a mole. I hated to hear myself recorded on camera or microphone.
Maybe it was the harsh reality that someone was witnessing a work in progress? I would hear myself played back on the tape and think, “Aw, how embarrassing! I could have made it look or sound better than that!”
Thing is, we’re always practicing. That’s life. One big practice swing.
Sometimes you knock it out of the park, and sometimes you wake up and realize the pitcher has just hit you in the forehead with a curve.
I don’t expect my kids to know what they are doing.
Hell, most of the time I’m just winging it.
I had locked eyes with Nancy for a moment, and in that instant thought I should marry her.
She was about twenty years older than I was and had a few less teeth than I did. Mom and Dad would’ve shit if I’d proposed but, for a moment, I really felt that strong of a connection with her. If I wasn’t such a judgmental asshole I would have, too. Maybe I would still be in Utopia.
Ya live, ya learn.
Perhaps that was my first experience of Bi-polar. Or maybe it was my first panic attack.
But there was definitely an exalted feeling of elation sitting there talking to those people and feeling like the world was going in the right direction. And then there was the definite need to write this book that must be written. The feeling was so strong that I was nearly going to leave my job to write it.
If not for Nancy, I may have. She talked some sense into me.
“If it is really possible that the book you’re writing is going to save the world,” she said, “then isn’t it just as possible that the book could already have been written?”
I stopped writing mid-sentence. The last words scrawled across the receipt book in sharpie were, I AM HERE.
After a deep breath, I crumpled up the little book and threw it in the trash can.
I took my spatulas back from Nancy and went back to work.
That night when I got home, in the dark of the basement where I lived, I had a panic attack and had to remind myself that the book could already have been written.
The intense worry that I had thrown out the world’s only salvation got so bad, that I just remember chanting I AM HERE, until I realized I was still alive, despite my insane fears of the world coming to an end.
The next morning, when it was nearing noon, I walked into the living room of my parents house from the basement, wrapped in a plaid shawl. From beside the refrigerator, with a milk carton in my hand, I watched over the kitchen island as the planes struck the twin towers on Fox news.
Maybe my worries about the world ending weren’t so insane? But, it was just another day when I went to work that night again.
I do remember my father asking me if I had seen it; referring to the attack. But otherwise, the next thing that I remembered, I was back at Waffle House for my shift and Nancy was handing me a book.
“Here,” she said, “My brother gave this to me and it sounded like something you would like.”
I took it before clocking in and sat down.
Conversations with God an Uncommon Dialogue, by Neale Donald Walsh.
I opened it halfway.
There in big bold letters were
I AM HERE.
I devoured three volumes by Walsh between then and when I joined the NAVY. That time was kind of strange, reading through all the things that I had been writing about over the last month or so.
It was different being fed your own bullshit than feeding others it by the mouthful.
Maybe it wasn’t bullshit.
I did like one thing I read though. God had told Neale, at one point, that those he judged he would one day become. That was scary, right? As I had been such a judgmental bastard, my life was going to end up being longer than I had thought.
Years later, after the military and a couple more bouts of employment at Waffle House, all those scribbles and philosophy paid off when I wrote As The Waffle Burns, and then Life’s A JOKE!
And then here I am now, in my Ain’t no hood like fatherhood t-shirt that I just received as a gift on my fortieth birthday. Working as a cardiac monitor tech, and still writing books, just trying to provide for my family of six.
And some nurse comes along and says,
“I hate it when there’s a bridge jumper on the Skyway and traffic is stopped. It’s like, I’m late for work, just jump already!”
“I don’t think that,” said her friend uncomfortably, who was well aware that I had been pulled down from the railing of the Skyway bridge not too long ago.
I would say that it’s a curse to be both extremely empathetic at times, and then totally apathetic at others. But, I’ve tried taking medicine to be rid of those qualities, and what I was left with was just plain old pathetic… plus a side order of weight gain. So now, I just think of them as unique qualities and not bi-polar.
Besides, that wasn’t the first time I had been misdiagnosed.
But this article isn’t about jumping off a bridge. It’s about why we always have to judge.
Here I am, having been on both sides of the equation, in a position to defend either side, and I’ve got nothing but crickets.
Because life isn’t about me. Nor my comfort.
It’s about you. It’s about them.
Truthfully, I felt way worse for the nurse who was put in the awkward position of defending me.
I really didn’t need defending as I’ve done a pretty good job of squashing my stupid ego over the decades.
One thing I’ve come to terms with is, that you can’t change people’s minds. They’re gonna think what they think.
I couldn’t convince that cop that I wasn’t up there to jump, just like that nurse wasn’t going to convince her friend to shut up before putting her foot in her mouth again.
People talk, get interrupted, then they talk some more. Not many take the time to truly listen.
Maybe that’s why I like writing so much. The paper just sits there and listens. Or perhaps I’m just like everyone else and simply don’t like being interrupted.
Everything we say is just so damn important isn’t it? But is it really?
Writing is an art.
Mostly because listening is an act of attention, and then determination. If this article was too much work to read, you’d lay it down, move on… unless you’re a family member or friend who’s damn determined to finish it…
Most popular stories these days last one or two hundred pages, and they go off well. It’s because the author gets their point across with great descriptive dialogue and is done with it.
Back in the day, we’d write in as much description as possible, like we were Michelangelo or Van Gogh with a pen or something.
I guess all egos are shrinking with time. Or ink is becoming more expensive. Or people are just impatient.
Nah, we have all the time in the world, right?
As you flip through Tik Tok, Snapchat, and Instagram. Hell, even dating is a quick flip.
Technically, artist’s canvases have shrunk as well. I haven’t seen anyone sculpt a Michael lately, or paint a Sistine chapel.
People aren’t taking as long to explain things as they use to, but things are so much deeper than they have ever been before… shame.
I guess that’s how beauty gets missed.
Since the beginning of time, nature has married through sex. Inspired by beauty.
The very first symbiotes, alga and fungi had sex on furiously hostile terrain in order to survive, really. One gave the other just what it needed to endure all of the pain and suffering until they could produce some fresh soil that plant life could get a foothold into.
The result? Lichens.
The most resilient and basic of biological rock eaters. The starting point on the evolutionary ladder when inanimate material is ingested and transformed into biological excrement.
They outnumber everything.
Which is only natural. They started having sex before everyone else.
Did you know that the first flower didn’t come into existence until an insect had an eye to see it?
Studies have shown that even insects can appreciate beauty. In fact, that the beauty of what they are seeing is what attracts them to where they are going.
Perhaps that explains why they have so many eyes!
A bee for instance flies to a flower and literally gets swallowed up in a fractal of beautiful pattern that reproduces itself over and over. When the bee is inside of the flower it see tiny replicas of the flower all around it while the pollen gathers on its furs. It’s essentially inside of an art exhibit.
Not unlike a child putting on a VR-Headset nowadays to get engulfed in a video game.
Even from the beginning, biology has queued responses from beneficial symbiotes through the use of beauty.
In music, some of the most stunning and beautiful tunes, though created from the same octaves, sharps, and notes, just in a variety of different ways, have drawn together people and animals to one another.
It really is quite amazing.
It’s obvious in something like a male peacock with its display of colors and beauty to get the girl, but less obvious in a Bowerbird, when the males are not necessarily beautiful and colorful, but they will create a beautiful nest to attract their companions for mating.
It wasn’t until mammals and reptiles began fighting over the right to choose the females that beauty shifted from a very male-oriented attraction to a female-oriented one.
Now that the males were more concerned with growing horns and gaining weight to overcome more powerful candidates of their own species, the females began focusing on beauty in order to be selected by the victors.
Thus, this shift happened and males became the ones with more of an eye for beauty instead of an aim for it. Meanwhile the females were tending their nests, so to speak. With breast implants, plastic surgery, and the like.
This, in time, has led humans into all kinds of psychological and sexual hangups. From older men leaving their wives for a younger, more beautiful mate, to Jerry Springer late night TV Shows.
The thing about being human and having a consciousness that envelops right-doing and empathy, is that eventually you will have males grow up conscious of the fact that their shunning of less attractive females is, at its core, wrong and deeply hurtful.
When Martin Luther King stood up for the dream of his children being judged not by their looks but by their potential, I think that it was deeper that just the color of the skin.
The problem is that this love for beauty is ingrained so deeply that most males can’t block it out. Even the military imposes salt-peter to stifle male sexual desire during training, because hormonal suggestion skirts obedience.
On one hand men love their wives, and the beautiful nests they have created. Homes, couches, children, dinners, loving embraces, all beautiful. But still there is the lure of the internet with its three-click access to girls gone wild, and more, younger beauty, competing for attention.
And all this can just go away with the right potion.
Men have been using chemicals of all sorts to negate this search for beauty for eons.
There is an old joke that goes,
A man ordered a drink at a bar. Drank it down.
The bartender asked if he’d like another.
The man looked into his jacket pocket. Grimaced. Then asked for one more.
He drank it down.
The bartender asked if he’d like another.
Again, the man looked into his jacket pocket. Grimaced. Asked for another. Drank it down.
The bartender came back and asked if he’d like a refill.
But when the man went to look in his pocket the bartender asked him, “Just what are you looking at there?”
“It’s a picture of my wife,” said the man. When I smile instead of grimace, it’s safe to go home.
I think we are living lichens.
This symbiotic drive to reproduce and survive is in all of us. Men and women.
Men just still have this drive to seek out beauty, and women have this drive to attract men for means of reproducing.
But, after the seed is planted and the male has satisfied his mate, what more is he good for to the female? Perhaps black widows are the only women brave enough to honestly answer this question. Or maybe the male black widow just doesn’t want to work for the rest of his life and says, “Just go ahead and devour my resourcefulness now.”
Do females still seek beauty? That is my question. Do they still seek a symbiotic relationship with their mates after reproduction. Males will endure self-toxicity to hold on to the beauty of their nest as long as possible… and females will endure abuse, so it seems true.
While some great philosophers suggest that attachment is the enemy, how hard is it for men to let go of beauty, and women to let go of their own offspring?
Racism, sexism, and all kinds of prejudice and discrimination may one day stop fluctuating between the living. Then perhaps everyone can be unashamed of their God given sex!
Truthfully, there’s good men and women out there.
If you’re lucky you’ll find each other and rise above those lower incarnations of symbiosis and into the more lofty regions of love.
Just once, everyone should love another unrelated person. Unconditionally. Truly, madly, deeply.
Plant seeds of kindness in everyone just as you would your own offspring while knowing full-well that you may never enjoy the shade of those trees when they finally grow.
Then you’ll have begun to understand true humanity.
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Jay Horne is an author and publisher out of Bradenton, Florida. He is a husband and father of four.
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