Now seems as good a time as any to let you all know something, something very important. Come closer …
It’s a deep, dark … wait, why are you standing THAT close? Right there is good enough. Back to me. It is a dark and lonely world in my head. I think I might be evil. When you see me walk into a room, that should be the caption you see floating right under my face: “He might be evil.”
The thing is, I might be good, too. I work on the good things, but you never can tell. Inadvertent good, accidental evil … if good outcomes result from my heart being in the wrong place, might I not be good, then?
Labels are tricky. It is easy to find oneself branded by others but it is quite hard to re-brand oneself; I have had several experiences with attempting (and failing) to brand myself, being branded by others, and attempting to re-brand myself.
Having a label usually infers affection from one’s friends towards you. Not always. When I was young, I hated getting labeled, in part because it never seemed affectionate at all and sometimes when I heard it, it meant that the next sound I was going to hear was the whistle of a fist coming at my face. I started wearing glasses at age eight: “Four eyes.” Starting at about that same age, most years, I outgrew my Christmas clothes by spring, leaving me with exposed ankles for the rest of the school year. For some reason, this look, which revealed something but I do not know what about me—poverty? personal clothing cluelessness?—led to the most violent reactions from my school mates: “High waters!” was the exclamation and shoving me was frequently the action. I do not know why, and to this day I check the whereabouts of the cuffs on my pants. If my pants have shrunk and the ends are floating above my shoetops, I keep my hands in my pockets to weigh them down.
(This adds challenges to my already challenged walking.)
Years ago, I urged the young son of a friend to start using a theme song, as he always seemed to be humming something whenever he entered a room. He was 10 at the time and found it funny that something like this would be noticed, but since most 10-year-olds are egocentric, he loved that someone noticed anything not mortifying about him and wanted to hear more about him.
I told him that if he had a theme song, whenever people heard it in his absence they would think of him and wish for him to suddenly appear. He liked that.
I do not know if my friend’s son now has a theme song that reminds his friends of him. I kind of hope not because the idea is rather egotistical and thus insufferable, or it might seem that way for his friends. It seems to work on television shows, though.
One can not, or ought not, nickname oneself, I wrote recently. The moment one advertises one’s virtues as virtues, one yields them. This is not a hard-and-fast social rule, but it is similar to the unspoken rule about not declaring oneself humble. The person who volunteers that he or she is humble often is not. An exception comes when the humble person is speaking self-deprecatingly.
If one is inherently humble or decent or kind, one need not speak of “practicing” kindness or the like. Pretty much no one is inherently so—I should speak for me here—I am not inherently so. This is because we do not practice skills which we completely possess. We would not need to. However, even master pianists schedule rehearsal time for themselves. We say we “practice” kindness because we do not possess it, not to the degree that makes us kind. We practice decency because we are not as loving as love itself; thus we can always be more so, more decent and kind and loving.
The humble acts of decency and kindness may not change the universe, but they may change an individual’s universe. In the often misread line from his amused and amusing 1957 poem, “The More Loving One,” W.H. Auden wrote, “If equal affection cannot be,/Let the more loving one be me.” If one is practicing kindness and mindfulness, the miracle is that one already is more so from that moment on and is the more loving one—and has less time to advertise how kind and mindful and decent they are.
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The WordPress Daily Prompt for March 31 asks, “Often, our blogs have taglines. But what if humans did, too? What would your tagline be?”