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Friday's 100-word story, on not forgetting the essential, the human
Despite soaring fame for his political poetry of outrage, a malaise overtook James. Fans, drugs, therapy to excavate ghosts, nothing helped. He remembered Ms. Margot, his fifth grade teacher — the reason he became a poet. She’d helped with his youthful conundrums. He decided to write her.
His letter returned with a terse, “Passed away.”
James called the school to reach her next of kin.
Weeks later a package arrived with, “My mother kept this copy of your book.” James opened the book to his first angry poem.
In the margin, in Ms. Margot’s sensible hand was, “Clever! But… kindness, James?”
James became victim to the outrage machine that demands his unquestioning loyalty, chews up his soul, and spits him out. Even in death, his wise old teacher pointed him towards a better way.
I’m often flummoxed by how many artists in our time have bartered sanity for constant, outsized outrage in the mistaken impression that somehow this trade-off makes them better artists, or worse, more virtuous. It makes them neither. It just makes them lost, angry people with zero guideposts to offer others.
Whatever happened to all the beauty, love and humanity that makes the world go round?
I feel it’s even more important in these turbulent times to not forget basic human values, the profound humanity of most people around us and that both good and evil reside quite comfortably in each and every one of us. Also that it’s all too easy to misinterpret, misrepresent, misjudge those we cannot meet and talk with in person.
Most people are good, just trying to do the best they can with what life throws at them. If we start living as though most people are evil, out to hurt us, well, then, we should get ready for self-fulfilling prophecies. Finding better guides is not that hard.