Real progress very rarely looks like social transformation. It more frequently looks like personal transformation. Each of us alone is weak and corrupt, but through profound moral exertion, and moral formation, we can rise above the dirt and make ourselves a little more noble, more responsible, more decent, more sympathetic, more loving, more free.-Yuwal Levin
It was a cozy, comfortable night and my wife and I were semi settled into our Friday night routine, with the work and whirl of the work week behind us and laying ahead of us a world of unlimited possibilities in the form of trips to Costco, Home Depot, and weekend projects. But on this particular night, there was something unsettling in the air, as if to say “is this it”? We both felt it and we both started to become uneasy in our easy chairs, moving to the left and then to the right and then back to the left again as we sat staring simultaneously at our TV and laptop screens. Suddenly, my wife Eva, made eye contact with me and that is when both knew we couldn’t stick to our routine, not on this night. Without a word, we both scurried upstairs to throwing on layers of extra clothes.
“Eva, how much cash do you have on you”, I endearingly asked my wife.
“I have a twenty”, she replied.
“Good, because I only have ten bucks on me”, I shamefully explained.
And with an inventory of cash in our pockets, we sped off to watch our local high school team’s playoff football game.
We cheered earnestly for our local team and like every other frustrated adult in the stands we put a lot of energy into booing the referees when they made bad calls. Fortunately, there was more to cheer for then to boo, as our local high school football scored 35 behind a ferocious running attack against the league’s best defensive team.
When the clock ran down to zero, we cheered and then I began to survey the stands for the quickest exit. I mentally marked my path and executed it perfectly and made it out of the stands. I assumed my wife, like every good wife, would follow right behind me, but she had not and had found other adults to converse with. So I had to wait a little bit for her and as I was standing there, I heard a familiar male voice call out my name several times. This was totally unexpected. Confused, I looked through the mass of people in the dark, when I focused in on an old acquaintance. I managed to slide out of my stupor to recognize him and barely managed to slip out his name. The whole greeting was awkward and stiff.
And after that moment was over I knew in instant what an idiot I had been. I had gone out that night expecting to be anonymous, unprepared to engage and socialize and that is why I acted so awkward.
A lot people go out expecting to be social, like my wife, but not me. I go out to observe, but not engage. I don’t want to be noticed and I definitely don’t want to be noticed noticing people. While most of the world craves human companionship, I look to shun it. What is wrong with me? Is this how one becomes a curmudgeon and a cur? It surely is.
They say the number one contributor to happiness is the quality of a person’s social circle. The people I socialize with outside the home and work would barely make an arc.
Work exhausts me. I converse all day with people some of whom I like and others not so much and I often use up my quota for words before the end of the day. But having said all that, things must change or else I will wither away and go out with quiet whimper. Not that there has be a large parade and marching bands when I pass, but one likes to fancy that when they pass somebody will have been touched by our time on earth.
So long anonymity, here comes more smiling, here comes more eye contact, and less mumbling. It’s time to say good-bye to the sulking teenage persona I’ve held onto way too long into adulthood. It’s time I went cold turkey and applied some tough love to myself. I am positive my long-suffering wife will welcome the change.