National Post


‘If life was a party, it wouldn’t be worth taking your coat off ’


As the year draws to a close, I’ve resolution­s on the brain. As always, “be kinder” tops the list.

It was around the age of 11 that my moral world view began to take shape. One night, while lying in bed, a thought popped into my head: by the same token that I was born me, I could have been born anyone else. There was no reason that I was not my sister, asleep in the room beside me. In fact, there was really no reason at all for me to prize my self and my wants over hers or anyone else’s. As simple as that thought was, it was also illuminati­ng. And kind of terrifying.

Before then, I’d pretty much felt that you should be nice to people so that they’d be nice to you; but after that night, I began to feel like you should be nice to people simply because they’re people. This proved to be a harder undertakin­g, one that I continue to blow on a daily, if not hourly, basis. I blow it out of laziness or indifferen­ce. Or out of just trying to get through the day.

But it’s worth shooting for. Because isn’t that the sum total of Jesus’s teachings? To allow one’s compassion for one’s fellow man to sprayeth forth, willy nilly, like an out-of-control garden hose? I mean, if a cynical guy like John Lennon, who told Paul he should stop writing all those silly love songs, came to the conclusion that all you need is love then maybe it isn’t just sentimenta­l and soft-headed, but actually a difficult rule to live by.

In the fable-like short stories of I.B. Singer, the urge to slack off morally becomes personifie­d in the form of shtetl demons that creep into one’s soup bowl to dance a spiteful jig. But in the modern world, the demons live inside us — are us — in our lungs, our kidneys, and they are harder to confront.

I think that if my life were to be characteri­zed as some kind of epic struggle — that is, one that doesn’t centre around whether I should get the special with soup or the salad — it would be the struggle to make the effort, to not succumb to moral laziness, the dark feeling that there’s no sense in trying to be nice to everyone because that’s just impossible. And that dark feeling calls to me.

These are my thoughts as the year nears its end. I don’t have scientific evidence handy to back this up, but as you grow older, the years speed up. As passes a year, so passes 10. For the most part, old people wish to protect the young from this truth; but I’m not afraid to tell you: it all passes so quickly that if life were a party, which some would say it is, it’d almost not even be worth taking your coat off and looking for the dip. Because before you know it, you’re saying your goodbyes.

In light of this, rather than, as James Dean suggested, leaving behind a good-looking corpse, you might be better off leaving behind warm memories in the minds of those who knew you. So say something nice to someone, pick up the bill once in a while, and take the time to listen. I know I’m going to try.

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