Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Noble Cliché

There's nothing cool in this groove.
There's nothing new to what I'm sayin'.
But sometimes, the truth is what it is.

~ Jon McLaughlin: "Until You Got Love"

The other day, a woman behind the counter at a convenience store asked me, "How are you today?"

"Good -- how are you?" I replied, somewhat unconvincingy, I'm sure. I may have even sounded a little rude.

If I had answered honestly, I would have said, "Well, I feel a little like I might have a heart attack. I nearly burst into tears three times in the car just now and I'm a grown man. In fact, this is one of the worst days of my life. I've been suffering for half a week with a kind of ache I've never known."

A painting by Andrew Wyeth
that I think might just sum up
the human condition.
It was all true. But no one really wants to hear that. When they ask you how you are, they are not interested in the answer unless it comes out cookie-cutter happy. We all know that. But manners are important, so we soldier on with it and recite the lines that society has written for us.

But that got me thinking about the profundity of a cliche: "Don't judge others."

You never know what is going on backstage, do you? -- behind the curtains of a face, I mean. That lazy kid in your class could be getting molested, nightly, by his own uncle. That woman who was snotty to you in the mall may have just lost a baby at fifteen weeks. That self-righteous, bastard of a boss of yours might have spent a childhood being ridiculed by his own parents. Your thoughtless husband might be so stressed, his left arm is tingling. An annoying wife might be considering suicide, just because the chemicals in her brain are slightly "off". That dog that bit you -- the one you want to see put down -- might get repeatedly kicked in the ribs by an owner who wears the same sneakers as you.

I know it, full well: None of this is an excuse for treating others poorly. But an attempt to understand that there is something to understand just might be the spoon of sugar to help us all take certain medicines.


  1. I always loved that Andrew Wyeth painting. Just something about it...

  2. Yikes. Hoping that better days are in the near future.

  3. Thanks -- things are already looking better, but it was a rough week.