cause and effect. intent vs action. will vs outcome.
Just because you have a good heart about something, doesn’t mean you can project that positivity in any way upon what comes next. (In fact, Word doesn’t even recognize the word positivity at all, so there’s that). There are countless examples of this type of cause and effect throughout history. I don’t have to name them specifically, I’ll leave that to you. But think of the pain, loss, betrayal, and chaos imparted in myriad ways, all riding on the tail of a comet made of altruism and benevolence.
How can we know when our well-mannered actions are going to be offensive? By waiting for the effect? Does that teach us anything? Make us more knowledgeable on how misconstrued intent can make us look like an asshole? Rarely, do people realize that you can’t ever know how someone will react to what you have said or done, until it has transpired. And at that point, it doesn’t matter how honestly you can claim ignorance or sympathy. What’s said is said, and what’s done is done, and you get to watch your intentions get filtered through that person’s brain, through their emotions, and then morph into whatever follows. You did that, good or bad. That was you.
I sound like Mary Poppins. I believe she also said, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions,” as she poured medicine down the throats of freckled British kids who just didn’t want to clean their fuckin room. Did she think that old school cough medicine was going to get them cleaning, or get them more obedient? I think about what I know about cough medicine, which is A LOT, and then I think about when Mary Poppins was supposed to have taken place, and I know that cough syrup was loaded with the good shit. Way to go, Mary Poppins, you pusher.
What’s that you say? That’s a bible quote (it’s not a bible quote) and you’re not religious, so it doesn’t relate to you? Well maybe you’re a woman or man of science? Newton’s Third Law states that “every action has an equal and opposite reaction.” I always wondered why it had to be an opposite reaction (ex: why can’t a good intention end in a good reaction, and vice versa?) and, how can you measure the reaction as being equal or unequal? What is the quantifier? I know, I know, forces come in pairs, blah blah blah. I want to see the force.
Show me the forrrrrce!!!
Basically, if you do something, something will happen. What they don’t tell you is, when you do nothing, stuff can still happen. I’ve tried it. I just stayed at home for three days, and then two days later, my boss said, “hey, don’t come in on Monday” like I even was gonna.
Also, I remember I didn’t pay my phone bill once, and the shit got shut off. You want to know a convenient time to have your phone turned off? Pretty much any, as far as I’m concerned, but when this example happened, I wasn’t quite in that mind set. I am now, and now I just wish I could afford the hassle of living without my phone. One day, the internet will go bye-bye, and we’ll be alright again. It’s just a matter of taking the choice away. I’ll be okay with that.
But you know what’s going to happen before the internet goes bye-bye? A whole mess of shit. And actions and reactions, and causes and effects are all going to be broadcast to the world, for all to see, and then you can all have your own reactions to that, and it’ll just keep grinding on that way, and oh yes, it will be televised.
The decline, that is.
The decline that was brought on by the good intentions of convenience. The convenience of the internet makes us think we need it, because it introduces micro-conveniences, one by one, until you have a whole pile of conveniences stacked up, all interwoven together, and it keeps you from leaving. It’s like strapping yourself down with bungee cords, until you can’t move. Sure, with one or two or three bungee cords, you could probably still get away. But once you have ten or fifteen of those fuckers, you’re probably not going anywhere. That’s the internet. Don’t fight it.
Or, do fight it. We’ll all watch it, streaming live on the internet. Hell, there’s a whole demographic of folks out there, who would pay to see that. There’s money to be made in everything, including the horrific effects of good intentions.
Good intentions such as wrestling. I mean, the people need to be entertained, don’t they? It’s the will of the people to be entertained, and the line of willing entertainers is not only neverending, it’s highly competitive. Why not let them fight it out? We like watching a fight, don’t we? It’s entertaining. Those are some good-ass intentions.
One of my favorite ways to recognize cause and effect, comes in the form of expressing appreciation. I was raised to defy the value of people as anything but pieces of shit that didn’t matter. My father did a terrible job of teaching me how to behave around people, and he was way too strict to allow school dances or games, sleepovers, parties, school clubs, or trips to the movies or dinner with friends. He did a wonderful job, on the other hand, of teaching me to hate everybody, and to search for the fault in others; preferably the fatal flaw that could eventually be used to destroy them if I felt so inclined. I was not asocial, but quite literally anti-social, meaning I was against people… period.
As I’ve gotten older the effects of my father’s influence on me have worn off, and as a result, I have discovered what kind of person I am. I reflect on times when I brought people (who cared about me) to tears, because I didn’t fully realize they were a person – just like me. I feel shame and embarrassment when I think of how cruel I was to others, and so, I have worked consistently (though not completely) to be a better person.
People often get lost in their own shortcomings, and their biggest failure is the failure to recognize when they’ve done something good. But the flip side of that coin is, the lack of positive reinforcement. When you feel confident about something, and everyone’s reaction is underwhelming or non-existent, it becomes difficult to feel inspired to persevere.
I try to have the reverse effect on people, and overwhelm them with positive reaction to their work. Of course, no matter how hard I try to be friendly and eloquent, it’s just gonna come off as creepy sometimes. For example: I am not above writing an email to someone, to let them know they have affected me in some way, whether moving me to tears with a musical piece, or catching my eye with a photograph they’ve taken. A poem, or a piece of philosophy. An act of kindness I witnessed. And most of the time, these people don’t know me. They’re just getting a message from a complete stranger, about something they may not have put much thought into. I think celebrities get this all the time, just for being famous. Why should a regular person feel strange about getting an unsolicited Attaboy from me? I’m pretty great. And safe. Believe me, I don’t want to come kidnap you. I’m way too lazy for that.
But I will gladly freak out 100,000 people (give or take), if I make one person feel like they’ve made a positive ripple in the world. People need to know those moments exist. They need to feel like their presence on this planet is making a difference. There are plenty of opportunities that people will jump at ferociously, to point out the ways you’re fucking up. I say, as long as Participation trophies are a thing, surely we can spare a few words to let someone know they didn’t fuck up. This action rarely results in someone feeling worse about themselves, I promise.
I saw a young man give a speech about diversity at a rally a few months ago, and even before hearing that he was an aspiring journalist (yesssss), I was really feeling the connection to his speech. He spoke about the things that made him stand out, some of which I share, as if they were badges of honor in a world that doesn’t recognize that kind of honor. That kid is going into a field that will eat him alive, and he couldn’t have looked more confident.
On another fairly recent occasion, I watched a young lady perform as Rizzo in Grease, and her rendition of “There Are Worse Things I Could Do” was so emotionally charged, that it brought tears to my eyes. I saw it three times, and I cried each time. She was it. I bet that wasn’t an easy thing, and she was next level. I said, “giiiirrrrlllll…”
There’s an anchor on the morning news, who is consistent as hell with her impressive wardrobe, and every day, I would see her and say, “look at that dress!” This woman had a fashion sense that I found to be more sophisticated and pleasing to the eye, than most people in our area could ever dream of. She most likely put a lot of thought into her attire, and I felt she deserved to hear some positive feedback on her style. So I sent her an email. (Most of my surprise appreciation comes in the form of something they can re-read, and feel good about more than once.) I don’t watch TV anymore, but she still wows ’em, I bet.
None of those people had any idea that I felt such a connection to what they were doing, and very likely (and understandably) were freaked out by my sudden praise. But it didn’t deter me one bit. Being freaked out is just another form of surprise, which I told you I was doing to people.
I wrote an email to my 3rd grade teacher, last year, because I just had to apologize for being such a little fucking shit when I first moved there. He was the first teacher I had in that school system, and even though he had a reputation for being a hard-ass curmudgeon, I still had no problem testing his patience (he failed). I was constantly disruptive: telling jokes, talking back to authority, and aggressively daydreaming to lure him into the idea that I wasn’t paying attention, only to “snap out of it” in time to answer his question correctly. Other students weren’t yet at the level I was, and I knew that, so I was also a show-off.
I was a dick. Like I was saying before.
So, I wrote the teacher an email to apologize, and to let him know that I appreciated that he had dedicated his life to educating children, and that surrounding yourself with 200 kids every day is a ding-dong move, if you value your sanity at all. I think he already knew that part, though. That age (3rd grade) is terrible, especially for boys. They have endless energy, and they want to scream it in your face, so you know about said energy at all times. That’s also the age where kids want to be a dick for no reason, and I’m trying to tell you that I was no different.
I’m different, now. I’m not a little shithead anymore. I’m
way fuckin taller.
I appreciate when things look nice, when they smell nice, when things work out smoothly, when people are polite, when people are genuine, when something sounds pleasant, when someone has gone out of their way, when my time is not wasted, when I know I’ve done the right thing. I think recognizing these things has caused me to not be the person I used to be. I value kindness and simple things, even when it makes me look like an old corny person that I used to think was lame (and now know, isn’t).
I no longer feel the need to make myself look attractive, and rarely look closely at myself in a mirror. There’s no reason not to, but there’s no real reason to. It is not so important what I look like; I’m just happy my body is cooperative from day to day. Even that isn’t guaranteed, but as long as I can impart my will on the working parts to compensate for the broken parts, there’s not really anything wrong, is there?
I no longer strive to get the upper hand on people, or make myself look “good” by making someone else look bad. That competitive nature was hammered home in my childhood, and I used to delight in my victory being a lone one. This has caused me to try to understand where people are coming from, and think about what I could do to help, if anything at all. Sometimes, it’s nothing. Sometimes, it’s nothing to me, but everything to them.
I no longer value getting things handed to me easily. Not that I’ve ever had anything handed to me, but I no longer wish for that. Hard work has been more of a reward than anything else has been. I don’t think about taking away from someone else, to be able to have something they don’t have, because things aren’t important to me.
People are important to me.
Time is important to me.
Those are the two things which change us throughout life, and shape who we are. And once either is gone, you don’t get them back. Appreciate somebody, before it’s too late to tell them. Far too often, people think of what they should have said, after they can’t say anything. Don’t wait for that moment. Make the Aha Moment happen now. Cause some effect. Ripple that shit.
P.S. please don’t go stalking people, and sending weird messages. That’s not the kind of surprises I was talking about. I can’t express enough, that you have to choose how you approach people. Your intentions may be innocent, but there are more factors than just that. Consider how that person is going to receive your praise. I have changed my outlook to catch the things that evoke true emotion, and then present my appreciation in a safe way. Just to be clear.