Friday, June 12, 2015
How to Be Good
I saw a tweet Wednesday, while “on the road” for the day, “How you make others feel about themselves is perhaps the best indication of your quality of character”. I retweeted without comment.
I suppose I will run into this idea while reading the book “The Road to Character” by David Brooks, as I contemplate the “Big Me”. Right off the bat, I contemplate a tweet from actor-singer Timo Descamps from a West Hollywood (I think) restaurant on the big Santa Monica Blvd last month, “Happy birthday to me.” It was his 29th. But he didn’t post the expected selfie, but rather an Instagram of a delectable oyster and clam spread. Something to share, something away from the visible self. The “other Timo” (classical composer and pianist Timo Andres) also often tweets pictures of food spreads. It can be hard to tell their Instagram work apart.
I ponder the spectacular success of teen inventor Jack Andraka, now 18, and just finished with a European book tour (“Breakthrough”, about his innovative pancreatic cancer detection test for a science fair). His older brother, Luke, also had a major achievement with a project about acid spillage from coal mines, which in a world of climate change could turn out to be as important in the grand scheme of things. Yet the media simply overlooks him for the most part (maybe it’s easier that way). You look up “images” of him on Google, it’s his younger brother who fills the page.
Then I notice the tweets of Reid Ewing, somewhat afar from his world of comedy movies and "Modern Family" role and even his very innovative short films (about “free-dom”), often quoting "inevitable epigrams" from moral parables out of English novels and especially the Russian playwright Chekhov, almost what a literature professor would expect undergraduate freshman students to write about on an essay exam. I love his narrative about animal consciousness. Again, we’re in the world of David Brooks.
And I’ve written before about the need for personal recognition and accolades (Sept. 30, 2014), and I and getting the expected counter dose from Brooks’s book already – a third the way through.
I think back to the difficult days after my William and Mary expulsion in 1961 (which opens my DADT-1 book), where I was castigated for sharing with the Dean of Men that I had considered myself a “latent” homosexual. Therapists actually claimed that I was trying to “step on people’s toes”. It didn’t occur to the therapists to ask why others were so concerned about whether I would follow their impulses and date girls and marry and have children one day myself, leading toward their taunts. The tweet I mentioned above seems most relevant. Standing apart from them, at some distance, almost like an alien from a nearby solar system, I was in a position to judge “them”, as to how they should feel about their own “desirability” as future fathers. (The word “de-sirable” became quite popular in Army barracks in 1969.) I could indeed make them comfortable with themselves by not going along with them. I could, figuratively, fight with my fingernails. In these days of stopping bullying, that sounds more understandable. But at the time, m behavior was certainly double-edged.
A couple of films currently around, “Geronotophilia” and “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” seem to weigh in on this problem. And so does the Twitter profile of Richard S. Harmon (“The greatest of all time”) who calls himself “just a big ball of sunshine”. There are a couple of films with that word, not only "Little Miss Sunshine" but actually the 2000 historical epic film by Istvan Szabo called "Sunshine".