Inspire Vapidness

When it comes to the written word, I cherish brevity. Friday night after dinner I was watching television downstairs while the Good Wife, the good daughters, and Meg, the Eldest’s good partner, were all upstairs in the kitchen cackling about, as it turned out, Meg mindlessly putting the Gal Pal’s last puzzle piece in the crossword The Good Wife had been working on for three months. Among other things.

So I decided to write a story about the evening from my downstairs perspective. I couldn’t really make out their dialogue, so I improvised. Ready?

“And hilarity ensued.”

Pretty damn good, huh?! My story left the Good Wife perplexed. I admitted it lacked character development, but that wasn’t enough of a concession for her. She said a story has to have a beginning, middle, and end. I will not be boxed in, so I will not be rewriting it.

So I suppose I should give the National Football League’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers some credit for their brevity, but their back of helmet two-word slogan, “Inspire Change”, couldn’t be more vapid.

What’s wrong with “Inspire Change”? First and foremost, it’s hella vague. What kind of change exactly are we to inspire? Heaven help us if it’s Florida-DeSantis change. Without specifying, are we to assume it’s change just for the sake of change? If that’s the case, the Bucs need not worry because change is INEVITABLE. Thus making the slogan utterly unnecessary.

Bonus football observation from the second half of Sunday’s Seattle Seahawks-Detroit Lions shootout. Apparently, to play tight end in the NFL it’s not enough to be 6’6″, run like the wind, and have great hands. You also have to have REALLY long hair. Who knew?

Week One’s Highlight

Fall semester is off to an excellent, largely mask-free start. Of course it takes more than one or two class sessions to get a true feel for your students’ personalities, but all signs point towards a great semester. The most notable demographic shift of the last few years seems to be accelerating—a significant increase in Latina students. I have half of the football team in one writing seminar (slight exaggeration) and half of my students in my other one want to become writers which is exciting.

Some context. For those newish around here, earning a chili pepper, signifying hotness, on the website “Rate My Professor” is my primary career objective at this point. The one unchecked box. And with each passing year, the Las Vegas oddsmakers say my receiving one is less and less likely.

The highlight of the week happened Tuesday morning when I descended the stairs of our house. Since I’ve been slumming it for months unshaved in t-shirts that could double as bike rags, the Good Wife was impressed with how much I had cleaned up. As she moved in for a steamy back-to-school smooch, she said the nicest thing ever. “I would give you ten chili peppers.”

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Coming To A Theater Near You

Sometimes A lot of the time I amaze myself.

A movie idea just came to me and no doubt it’s gonna be warmly embraced by Hollywood’s top studios. Let the negotiations begin! Since I’m the ultimate triple threat, they will probably want me to write, produce, and star in it.

The idea came to me Saturday, shortly after Al’s memorial service at The United Churches in our fair city. The service was another amazing remembrance of a remarkable person. Similar to the one for my in-laws last year. At that one, my wife and daughters did a beautiful job capturing what made them so special. If watching a slide show of a person’s life and listening as family and friends reflect on how they left the world better than they found it doesn’t inspire you to consider how to best spend your ever shrinking time, then something’s wrong.

Forget psychedelics, forget chasing fame and money, forget vanity in all its forms, nothing is as inspiring as positive people’s life stories. Just ask anyone involved with hospice care. Al’s three sixty-something daughters told unique, funny, and moving stories about their father. And another friend talked about how Al lit up the retirement community he was a part of and had to be held back when hiking in the mountains even into his 90’s. The quintessential extrovert, Al embraced life to the fullest. He said he would sleep when he was dead. Long live the memory of Al Walter.

Back to my homerun of an idea. Remember Wedding Crashers? Well, how about Memorial Crasher?! Part Ted Lasso, part Ricky Gervais’s After Life, Memorial Crasher is the story of a dude who has lost his zeal for life, meaning it’s the story of most of us. Just can’t find the loving feeling he enjoyed in his youth. He’s surviving sure, but not thriving. He breaks out of his malaise after attending a memorial service for a close friend. As per usual, his resolve to be a better person and live life more fully only lasts a few weeks, then he slowly reverts to his formerly alienated, disconnected, somewhat negative self.

So he concocts an antidote to his default condition. He scours obituaries in local papers and church bulletins, and when he finds particularly inspiring ones, which happens about once a month, he crashes the memorials. No one ever knows he has no connection to the deceased. That way he receives a steady stream of reminders of what’s most important and is continually inspired to be more selfless and daring.

Consequently, his life is transformed. His focus shifts from himself to others. He cultivates gratitude for how little time he may have left. He becomes a much better neighbor, friend, and person.

And picks up several Academy Awards along the way. 

Half And Half

It’s come to my attention that half of humanity would benefit from being much more introspective. From pressing pause, stepping off the treadmill, turning off the screens, and carefully examining their life. Truly getting in touch with their feelings by breathing, journaling, talking to someone who is empathetic.

The other half, the “overthinkers” get more anxious the more they think about past problems and current challenges. Their thinking spirals. One anxious thought begetting another. They might benefit from doing more and thinking less. Such as being an empathetic listener for others, walking a dog, tending a garden, cycling*.

To flourish interpersonally and positively contribute to the common good one must routinely “work on” themself, but there’s a point of diminishing returns. Except for me, No one strikes the perfect balance, so extend grace to people in both buckets.

*extreme exercise can be a serious detriment to being introspective

A Very Good Sentence

Mark Leibovich on Kevin McCarthy and Lindsey Graham in a funny, insightful, and important essay, “The Most Pathetic Men in America”.

“They had long been among the most supplicant super-careerists ever to play in a city known for the breed, and proved themselves to be essential lapdogs in Trump’s kennel.”

You May Have Noticed

That I pressed pause two weeks ago. It wasn’t a planned break. I always try to be observant and to listen before “speaking”. Recently, I just haven’t felt any need to speak. I am fine, just contentedly observing and listening.

And against all odds, the humble blog’s regular readers continue to flourish.