Saturday, November 24, 2012

That's Weird, You Seem Interesting.

And lo, yesterday was the Day to Give Thanks. Today is the day to either A.) get up early, lured in by electronics at drastically! reduced! prices! or B.) the Day to Listen, according to StoryCorps. I love the StoryCorps mission. What's better than personal storytelling or discussing shared history, with the process formalized and preserved for posterity? It makes me so happy that there are such organizations -- and that their work fans out across the country. Check out more of their podcasts here.

All that said, today's listening activities mostly consisted of snorting over Aziz Ansari stand-up, while spending a fruitless afternoon sketching. That and overhearing random snippets from one cafe table over (dubious math category: "On average your friends have more friends than you do"///completely random category: "Every time a 'girl' is in a song, we just change it to squirrel. If a squirrel walks in with an itty bitty waist. I kissed a squirrel and I liked it.")

Speaking of stories, I have recently encountered a spate of people who don't read. Or, even worse, those who actually *hate* reading. In theory, I know they're out there. They must be out there. We all know publishing houses have been taking a bath. The newspaper industry is undergoing a slow evisceration. That as Amazon flourishes, local bookstores have dimmed their lights.* What with all the TV watching, game playing, obsessive internet perusal** and whatever else out there, the prospect of sinking into solid hours of reading an actual BOOK book is almost inevitably less appealing. Which is not to say that the non-readers are a newly developed branch of the population. I remember the horror of once hearing a neighbor who suggested to my parents that they could de-clutter by getting rid of all the books in the living room. I can understand that some people are more into art than others, or into being creative, or have a better handle on math or sciences, so this really shouldn't fall beyond my grasp. And yet...reading is such an intrinsic, essential part of my life, that to encounter the opposite feeling brings me up short.

*Vast simplification. I know, I know, vast simplification.

 **Hello, duh, that's clearly reading as well. But, I would say, it's the super-fast ADD reading. 

To wit: last week, I had a conversation which I later realized was exactly parallel to an exchange I had with a janitor at Borders many, many years ago. The guy was unfailingly sweet, pleasant; though between his Spanish and my English, our conversation remained sparse. One day, he said something to me about God, which I nervously side-stepped. I don't even remember what it was at this point. I remember thinking: Here we go

He touched the gold cross dangling at his collar. "But. You're Christian."

"Um, well, no, I'm not actively religious." I edged away from our shared counter.

He furrowed his brow. "But. You believe in God." He leaned toward me. He willed faith in my direction.

"Oh, um. Well, I think there's something--" I swiveled one foot another step away.

"But you're so nice! You must believe in God!" He was utterly confounded. 

"I, well I *am*--"

"You're so good! You're a nice! good! person!"

He looked utterly crestfallen. I found myself smiling apologetically. He gazed at me with aggrieved sadness. Were the flames of hellfire already flickering about me? Had my good person card been fully revoked? Good assumptions had to be replaced by something. But the idea that someone likeable to him could fall outside of his belief system was so jarring, that he kept trying to reframe it in ways that would guide me to utter something acceptable... Seemingly out of nowhere, this stranger was disappointed and I felt oddly guilty for having messed with his world view. Even though coming to know a person's goodness could be independent of faith is a good piece of knowledge to have.

But the point is this: simply swap out "nice" and "good" for interesting/engaging/worthwhile and faith for reading, and you've pretty much got the updated version, with me as the confounded janitor. It's always disconcerting to round the corner and run into an unfamiliar version of yourself. But it's a good reminder that zealotry/rigid thinking/snobbery can rear their ugly heads anywhere...As well, we are lucky that life gives us those corners to round; and in the best case scenario, we pay proper attention.

And on a related literacy/reading/creative writing note! 826 Michigan executive director Amanda Uhle spoke about surprises, learning and being 8 years old, at TedX Detroit 2012.


  1. Fine piece of writing - glad I'm a reader.

  2. Thank you for taking the time to read my posts, Stone Bridge. Happy you're here!

  3. We love books here at Casa Johnny. It was THE biggest charge when it came to moving out here to New Jersey. The books were the bulk of the weight for the move. Not the furniture, not the electronics, the books. And in our house they will always be proudly displayed.

  4. @JASP Totally worth it and the way it should be! I loathe the idea of whenever I should move next: books and kitchen stuff will be the huge items...