There’s something unsettling about being followed by a hearse. I don’t generally get antsy when I’m driving behind a hearse, even when the coffin in the back is visible, but I do get a little flummoxed when I realize that I’m being followed by a hearse. Perhaps it’s the thought that lingers in the back of my mind about how exactly I’m going to die. We’re all a little intrigued by our own demise, even if it often scares us. Death shouldn’t scare us though. Death scares us because it is unknown and the unknown always scares us. Few people look out into the abyss and say: I can’t wait to see what happens to me. There are too many variables, too many possible outcomes and scenarios that could lead to negative results. We oftentimes find ourselves letting fear stop us from achieving our goals and that’s alright actually, at least in many cases. If fear stops your from wandering out into the middle of a busy intersection that’s good. Fear has served it’s purpose.
“Cowards die many times before their deaths; the valiant never taste of death but once. Of all the wonders that I have yet heard. It seems the most strange that men should fear; seeing that death, a necessary end, will come when it will come” – Julius Caesar Act II sc. II. I’m not a huge Shakespeare fan and by that I mean that I don’t quote his plays in the course of normal human interaction, but I often find myself wanting to quote that scene from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar because it is the truest thing I’ve ever read about man and his fascination and fear of death. Fear gets in our way many times. We must make mistakes in life. We must make mistakes so that we can understand a problem and what not to do so that should a similar situation come forth, we should have a better understanding of what to do about it. When you think about the people who have caused a lot of problems for the world it is often due to a lack of experience in dealing with things when they don’t go your way. Think about George W. Bush. Before 9/11, that man had never faced an obstacle in his life and as it turned out that was a good thing for everyone who had the misfortune of being affected by his judgment. I don’t dislike the rich because they are rich, I dislike the rich only because most have never been poor. When you’re poor you learn what charity looks like and you understand that you either don’t want to be on the receiving end ever again because it makes you feel terrible inside or you resign yourself to accept charity whenever it is given because you are a slave to something more powerful than pride.
We must make mistakes, but we must understand these mistakes of today so that we don’t continue to view them as opportunities tomorrow. The single greatest mistake we can make is to deny not only our capacity to make them, but to fail to realize the frequency with which we make mistakes and the complete and total reluctance with which we call something a mistake. It is one thing to make a mistake or to lose at something, it is quite another to not understand or not admit that you have lost a battle. When we deny to others what we accept ourselves we do a disservice to the integrity of honesty and forthrightness that define who we are. What is the point of honesty if we are not honest with ourselves? One idea that I try to keep in mind when I go into the world and interact with other people is what I call the relateable experience hypothesis. The idea behind the relatable experience hypothesis is that you seek to understand the experience and condition of others as if it were happening to you. We have a serious empathy problem in America. It is not among my generation that this problem is most prevalent among, we are fortunate for that. It seems that the older generations have either given up trying to empathize with other people or feel themselves entitled to not have to empathize anymore.
Another mantra I have is an acronym, which I call AAA. AAA stands for Always Avoid Assumptions. If you must assume then use another idea that I have called the smart doctrine. The smart doctrine says that everyone is of equal intelligence, at least in my mind. If we assume that we are equally intelligent we usually wind up doing due diligence and respecting that other person more than we would by attaching a label to that person. So much of our society is based on judgments that other people make and I find that to be patently unfair in so many respects.
My grandfather, whom I had such respect, admiration, and empathy for used to read all the time. It was when he lost his ability to read with the fervor that had defined him that we realized something serious was wrong. The one thing that my grandfather got from reading and that he shared with me was his ability to keep an open mind and to remain non-judgmental about the rest of mankind. It is true that he felt a certain amount of resentment towards the Japanese, but everyone has their faults. When people read my book they oftentimes will come up to me and talk about how wonderful of a person Grandpa made me. To make that interpretation is to miss the point of my book entirely. I am not a great person, there are times when I don’t even think I’m a good person, but I try to be a good person and that’s what counts in my mind and that’s what counted in Grandpa’s mind. The one thing that is truly great about being a writer is that it allows you to explore your gifts and your flaws and you are oftentimes a better person because of it. I found writing because of Grandpa and I realized my talent for writing by writing about him. What I hope people take away from my writing, whatever it is, is that we should always seek to understand. It is only on the rarest of occasions that we make mistakes by seeking to understand and it is that which I hope my readers take away from my writing be it this or anything else.