My Grandmother

Yesterday my grandmother died. I got the news this morning by email from my uncle. I didn’t get to say goodbye to my grandmother because my family didn’t tell me that she was near death and they haven’t informed me where or when the funeral services are. And I’m too shellshocked and grief stricken right now to find out. The one thing I can say is that my tears of rage are greatly diminished by a relentless sobbing that flows with the rhythm of the rain now pattering against my window. There is a fierce peace to these stronger tears, which mourn not only the majestic woman who my grandmother was and who I now celebrate and who I have also memorialized as the character Virignia Gaskell in my audio drama, but for the beauty of the human spirit. Despite coming from monstrous and unloving stock, my grandmother gave me the hope and the guidance I needed to live my life in defiance of meanness, especially in the last four years. She gave generously on all fronts. She checked in on people. She quietly helped others, whether they were people close to her or total strangers. And because of that, people remembered her. She believed in people and possibility. And despite all the hell I have been through, I still do too. I cannot seem to sour on life or the marvelous world around me. And I will always be grateful beyond words to my grandmother for imbuing me with this resilience.

I wish I could say that I was tough. But I’m not. Right now is a very raw place to be, especially when I consider my grandmother’s openness against the vile way the rest of my family left me for dead. My grandmother was the only member of my family who loved me for my totality when everybody else viewed me as evil and irredeemable. My grandmother saw benevolent qualities in me that I was too afraid to acknowledge until only recently. She taught me how to be kind and positive to others. She also taught me to be responsible. I am pretty sure that my ridiculous work ethic comes from her. I do know that my sense of the absurd springs in part from her.

I remember one time in my youth in which I didn’t have enough money to go to school. Despite being inexplicably pegged as a very smart and talented person, my education options were limited because I grew up poor and starved: a fragile kid coping with the residue of accrued abuse and trying to do the best he could. But I still went to school and I made up for any deficiencies by reading every book I could get my hands on and throwing myself into everything with all the natural exuberance I had. That scrappy and casual ability to roll with the punches despite all odds came from my grandmother. She did, after all, make her wedding dress from a parachute during the Depression. She was determined to celebrate life even when there weren’t a lot of options.

My grandmother was always baffled by the ways in which my mother neglected me and she said that I could borrow money from her. And I did, paying back the small sum each month. And when I did this regularly after about nine months, my grandmother said to me, “You don’t have to pay the rest back. I wanted you to learn something.” And I did.

People who come to know me understand that I am one of the most loyal advocates you can have. And this was because I learned from my grandmother that it was vital to be giving and not expect anything in return, even when there’s nobody in your life to give anything to you. Because of my grandmother, I do a secret good deed every day. Because of my grandmother, I have learned to love and take care of myself. Because of my grandmother, I give to others, often more than I have, when I have nothing. My grandmother would take the time to listen to everyone and she would always reframe every serious problem in a way in which it was never all that big of a deal. Had I not had my grandmother, and now I don’t have her and that not having her seems unfathomable but it is now regrettably and painfully true, I would never have landed back on my feet with a sanguine faith after a sustained period of homelessness and a series of baleful setbacks that I would never wish on anyone. My grandmother, in her own inimitable way, showed me that there was a benign way to not give a fuck and to devote yourself to living.

My grandmother always saw the good in people, even when they had severely wronged her. And she was always good for a devilish and very funny quip, which she would often mutter in a sneaky stage whisper in the kitchen, often with a glass of wine. When I lived in San Francisco, she would ask if I wanted to come up to her home in Marin County to celebrate the holidays. She was the only family member who seemed to understand that love didn’t involve a ledger, but amounted to being there for others and letting life work its strange magic.

This is the most staggering loss I’ve ever experienced. God, it hurts. My grandmother was really the only family I had. But I’m going to be kind and brave and I think that, in remembering my grandmother, I’m going to have to be more true to myself, true to the promising young man that my grandmother always saw. The rest of my family has wished me dead, but I am here, a feeling and caring and flawed and open and honest and quietly kind person who is quite happily alive, and I am now very much on my own. While my abusive and vituperative family would undoubtedly relish seeing their untrue and cartoonish vision of me confirmed, reveling in gossip and backtallk rather than listening and being present for other people and knowing that nearly every putative sully can be forgiven with enough time, I’m not going to give them that pleasure. Because that is not the way you live and love in this often hard world. And that was not the way of my grandmother.

In her own way, I think my grandmother was trying to tell me that I was her and that she was me. There was a great love and a beauty in that. There was also a great ease in the way my grandmother managed it. And I’ve been crying all morning thinking about it. And if I am her, if my heart is even one half as mighty as hers was, if that’s what she was trying to get me to see all these years, then maybe there’s some hope for me after all.

Notes on the Artistic Egotist

There is a type of person you encounter in every branch of the arts who believes that he is too cool or too good or too big or too important to deal with the peons, with “peons” often broadly defined as anyone else. We are not talking about people who are harmlessly lost inside their own heads, who may be initially misperceived as egotistical but who you come to know, once you get talking, as essentially bighearted neurotic oddballs. We are speaking here of the artistic egotist.

You see this with some midlist writers in publishing. You see this with certain flailing actors. You see this with some people on social media who have a large follower count. You see this with bestselling authors and big time performers who are never satisfied with their success and who don’t seem to comprehend the concepts of humility or plenitude. An artistic egotist may actually believe himself to be an artist even when he isn’t producing any art. A real artist will reach out to other artists and find beauty in their work. An artistic egotist never looks anywhere but inward. An artistic egotist will often prioritize money and audience reach above all other concerns, but the real artist will sometimes be baffled when he is compensated. Because he’s going to be making art no matter where he’s at or what the world says about it.

An artistic egotist almost always sees the worst in other people and often masks this with a sanguine or “nice” disposition, but the ego is pretty easy to suss out. What are some of the artistic egotist’s tools of the trade? Microaggressions, gaslighting, the casual slandering of other struggling artists who would never harm a fly, the wholesale denial and condemnation of entire perspectives and even new ways of making and creating and thinking about art. An interpretation of a difference in opinion as a threat rather than a possibility to have a healthy conversation. A failure to offer the common courtesy of a response or the dignity and grace of a polite consideration. You’ll see that look in an artistic egotist’s eyes as he coldly assesses you within minutes, ranking you on where you stand in the pecking order, performing swift calculations on just how your work and presence can be advantageous to him. Because in the mind of an artistic egotist, his way is the only way.

Don’t be this person.

If you are this person, don’t think we can’t suss out your solipsism. Don’t think we aren’t paying attention to the way you behave. Don’t think we’re not talking about it with our peers — not out of malicious gossip, but because we really do care and are truly baffled by your unfathomable deportment. Wondering why your career is stagnating? Look in the mirror. Wondering why you keep getting passed over? Look at the signature on your rent check and you may find your answer.

The one thing you learn very fast in the arts is that there’s always someone out there who is better than you. The artistic egotist sees such a person as a force to be stubbed out. The smarter type sees that person as an opportunity to learn and know and understand and be more connected. If the smarter type becomes a serious artist, he will usually be perspicacious enough to understand that wisdom comes from every corner and from every level. The smarter artist who endures realizes that every other artist is a person and treats him not with dehumanization or contempt or derision, but with the decency and respect that all human beings should be afforded.

You are not here to be praised. You are here to make art. You are not here to be the best. I can personally guarantee that there is someone out there who is better than you. You are here to hold your work to very high standards and, once those standards have been met, you must find new ones. And then, only after years of hard work and limitless passion and care to craft, you may very well be a serious artist.

Ego has no place in this journey. Connection, however, does. If you’re connecting with other artists because you want to make yourself feel better, you’re doing so for the wrong reasons. If you’re connecting because you think another artist and his work are pretty cool, then there’s a pretty good chance that you’re not an artistic egotist.

But if you rebuff connection because you think you’re above it, then I urge you to reconsider your priorities. I beseech you with every fiber of my being to seek and court possibility. Every career trajectory, no matter how successful, is marked by ups and downs. You may very well be crushing it right now, but if you cleave to this temperament, then there will come a day, maybe tomorrow or maybe years from now, in which you will very much need other people, big and small. And they won’t respond. Because they remembered how you treated them.

Hold yourself to high standards, but never be an artistic egotist.

An Open Letter to Carey Purcell

Carey:

I was in love with a Jewish woman for nine years. I am also a goy. On behalf of my many Jewish friends, who have claimed me “an honorary Jew,” I am thoroughly repulsed by your detestable anti-Semitic Washington Post essay, which says far more about you than it does about Jewish men.  It memorializes you indelibly as one of the most unattractive women in New York City. As Frank Zappa once said, the mind is the ugliest part of the body.  And yours is a very ugly mind indeed. I don’t give a fuck how strong your martini is. (Oh, did I offend your quaint Miss Manners temperament disguised within a intuitively hateful core by using the word “fuck”? I am so fucking sorry!) You’ve revealed so much ugliness about yourself that I would never want to date you. If the attitude you carry is truly reflected in your essay, then I’d venture to say that most men, whether Jewish or not, would not want to date you. “Interfaith relationships,” as you so deem them, are the most normal, indeed perhaps the most commonplace, relationships for many who date in this region of the nation. By your logic, the two women I dated in my twenties who married men after dating me (and who I am still friendly with) are part of a vast conspiracy of dark-haired women who have it in for me. It is, in short, a diseased fallacy.

At any time during your essay, you could have pointed to your flaws. You could have revealed yourself as vulnerable. This is what the best essays do.  Essay writing is all about striving to be the most human. But you opted to make yourself “look good” and, in so doing, you made yourself look very bad and very disingenuous indeed. The fact that you are so prissy and intolerant of anyone who does not conform to your loose religious views suggests that you not the “liberal” you think you are and that you are never going to find anyone. That you cannot willfully accept differences or find happy compromises pretty much says to me that you will live out a life of endless and superficial affairs. And your attitude is contemptible. Do you truly not understand that “a lackadaisical Jew” falls into the stereotype of the lazy Jew? The claim that you know more about Jewish faith when you have not grown up in it is the height of condescending hubris. Yes, the friends of your Jewish boyfriends liked you because Jewish folks in general are an incredibly welcoming bunch. For all your talk of raising a family with “an educated and respectful view of the world,” you fail to parse precisely how you have fallen short on that front.

If you truly know more about being Jewish than your partners, how then could you not possibly know that Jewish mothers can suss out the most pedantic intelligence known to humankind?  How could you not possibly anticipate that you would be contacted, interrogated, asked numerous questions, and badgered into arguments? This is the deal when you date someone Jewish. If you’re a good person, you roll with the punches and learn to appreciate the mother. If you’re an asshole, you write in the Washington Post that you “didn’t want this kind of involvement to be part of our relationship.”  Listen, Carey, you have to like the parents. That’s the way a relationship works. Is it any wonder why that man left you? Is it any wonder why you weren’t invited to seders? You essentially spit in the face of your boyfriend’s family. And if you want someone to stick around, you don’t do that. Relatively minor? Girl, you truly have no fucking clue.

It’s extraordinarily rich (and frankly it made me laugh) of you to claim that “not being Jewish was not the official reason either of these relationships ended,” while you remain completely incognizant about your own lack of self-awareness. I can only imagine how these conversations went. Jewish identity, whether one is Orthodox or not, is a big deal. That you wished to secularize (and thus vitiate) it during your conversations with these men says more about your inability to listen
and empathize than anything else.

A pattern you should pay attention to? You really don’t know the half of it. You invent the “last act of defiance” thesis because the truth of the matter is that you don’t have the guts to be honest about what you’re incapable of confessing: that you can’t accept other people who don’t fit within your narrowly rigid definitions, that you won’t find an enduring love unless you become more tolerant and embracing of other people (whether Jewish or not). And if you’re complaining about heartbreak, you’ll get no sympathy from me, kid. One of heartbreak’s great jokes is that it feels so crippling even as it is incredibly common. You can either roll with the punches and become stronger and allow your heart to regenerate and allow your soul to become more flexible and accepting. Or you can blame everyone else but yourself and have the effrontery to write a disgusting WaPo essay predicated on bigotry (complete with your insensitively anti-Semitic cocktail), cash a check, and never learn a goddamned thing.

You need serious help. And you need to stop writing such callow and superficial and subconsciously hateful bullshit. And you really need to take several steps back and accept that the problem here may very well be you and that the beauty in accepting other people into your life usually comes about because one is honest about one’s failings.

Yours,

Ed

[4/4/2018 UPDATE: Carey Purcell has apologized. I think this is a good start. I believe that she can change, but I think she has a lot of significant and honest soul-searching to do about the hate and bigotry she expressed in her vile essay (much as I have been contemplating why I was so driven by a white heat fury in my response, which a few friends have smartly called me on). This is not easy, but it is possible. Let us try to be kind and give Miss Purcell the space to take a very deep look at the anti-Semitism she has perpetuated and that she will hopefully address with thought and genuine compassion.]

The Jonas Brothers Lip-Syncing Video Challenge

Seven years ago, I began The Modern Library Reading Challenge, a series of essays responding to the top one hundred works of fiction, as decided by a few serious-minded literary people on July 20, 1998. Two years into that, when I got stuck on Finnegans Wake, I began The Modern Library Nonfiction Challenge. While I have certainly enjoyed this unique reading journey and I have learned much, I have still felt the nagging sense that something has been severely missing from my life.

A few months ago, I began listening to the fourth Jonas Brothers album, Lines, Vines and Trying Times at around 3:30 AM. I had stumbled upon the record because I had one of those desperate cravings for Red Vines after smoking too much weed. I had tried Googling for a bodega that was open at that hour and within walking distance and that had Red Vines in stock. Nothing came up. But Lies, Vines and Trying Times did. (In hindsight, I may have typed “no bodega open lies red vines trying times,” hoping that the online oracle, which as we all know is never wrong, would give me the necessary guidance to cope with my existential snacking crisis. Using Google was a far better idea than screaming at the top of my lungs and waking up my neighbors over my angst-ridden failure to buy enough mass-produced licorice to accommodate my late night whims.)

Kevin Jonas’s smiling face appeared near the top of my search results. There was something comforting about seeing a grown man with a toothpick in his mouth. It helped that he had an inoffensive leather jacket and a vague squint. Kevin was obviously much younger than me. For one thing, he had hair at the top of his head that I couldn’t grow back due to male pattern baldness. Some men of my age have found spiked hair to be a threat, but I took comfort in the fact that my beard was thicker than his. Kevin could grow his hair and let it poof upward in sexy straight strands, but he couldn’t go the distance when it came to growing a beard. So Kevin and I were more or less on equal hirsute footing. And the way in which Kevin clenched the toothpick between his pearlescent teeth, holding it in place with a casual matrimonial hand, resembled precisely how I wanted to chomp on a Red Vine at that hour.

I learned that the fourth Jonas Brothers album had a very particular philosophy behind it. Nick Jonas, another Jonas brother — and there were four of them all told, three in the band and another named Frankie who wasn’t in the band but who claimed allegiance to Mephisto on his Instagram account — had told Rolling Stone, “Lines are something that someone feeds you, whether it’s good or bad. Vines are the things that get in the way of the path that you’re on, and trying times — well, obviously we’re younger guys, but we’re aware of what’s going on in the world and we’re trying to bring some light to it.”

Perhaps Nick and Kevin knew something I didn’t. As an audio dramatist, I had written many lines. But since I wasn’t working on a script, maybe the fact that I wasn’t feeding myself lines was also something which accounted for my overwhelming desire to eat Red Vines. Red Vines had certainly interfered with my life, in that I couldn’t seem to shake the idea that I really needed a soft red stick to clench between my teeth (much like Kevin!) and felt that I could not get some decent sleep until I did. As for trying times, well, if the Jonas Brothers were as aware of what’s going on in the world as they claimed to be, then it behooved me to become familiar with their songs.

I discovered that the brothers had thoughts on warfare (“No you can’t have World War III / If there’s only one side fighting / And you know / Whoa oh”), that they seemed to be just as tortured as I was (“If you hear my cry, running through the streets / I’m about to freak / Come and rescue me”), that they could be gloomy (“With every stroke of lightning / Comes a memory that lasts”), an unusually specific sense of direction when it came to intimacy (“So turn right / Into my arms”), and were very fond of comparing toxic lovers to poison ivy, feeling so strongly about the metaphor that they had even imbued “ivy” with an extra syllable.

It was clear to me that the Jonas Brothers were the great tortured philosophers who I had been seeking for many years. Why then had the band broken up? You can probably imagine my shock when I learned that Nick had expressed regrets about being a member. This from the same man who had confidently announced his pot-enhanced erection to Jimmy Fallon? And then there was Joe, the other Jonas Brother, who distinguished himself from Kevin by describing himself as a “former flat hair model.” Joe hadn’t been on speaking terms with his brothers during the fractious period before the band split up.

Since the Jonas Brothers have meant a great deal to me, I have decided to take up the challenge of making a YouTube lip syncing video for every one of their songs over the next year. I recorded my first lip syncing video this morning of “Burnin’ Up” and I hope that my performance does the Jonas Brothers full justice:

UPDATE: I have now lip synced to another Jonas Brothers song. “Lovebug” is Video 2 of 111. #jonasbrothersforever!

Video 3: “Paranoid” for Lost in Williamsburg‘s Phillip Merritt

The full 111 songs performed by Jonas Brothers (and thus soon by me) are listed below:

“6 Minutes” (2006)
“7:05” (2006)
“A Little Bit Longer” (2008)
“American Dragon” (2008)
“Baby Bottle Pop Theme Song” (2008)
“BB Good” (2008)
“Beautiful World”
“Before the Storm” (2009)
“Black Keys” (2009)
“Bounce” (20089)
“Burnin’ Up” (2008) (Lip synced April 1, 2018)
“Can’t Have You” (2008)
“Chillin’ in the Summertime” (2010)
“Critical” (2010)
“Dance Until Tomorrow” (2011)
“Don’t Charge Me for the Crime” (2009)
“Don’t Say” (2013)
“Don’t Speak” (2009)
“Don’t Tell Anyone” (2005)
“Drive” (2010)
“Drive My Car” (2010)
“Eu Não Mudaria Nada em Você” (2010)
“Eternity” (2010)
“Fall” (2010)
“Feelin’ Alive” (2010)
“First Time” (2013)
“Fly With Me” (2009)
“Found” (2013)
“Games” (2007)
“Girl of My Dreams” (2007)
“Give Love a Try” (2008)
“Goodnight and Goodbye” (2007)
“Got Me Going Crazy” (2007)
“Gotta Find You” (2008)
“Heart and Soul” (2010)
“Hello Beautiful” (2007)
“Hello, Goodbye” (2008)
“Hey Baby” (2009)
“Hey You” (2010)
“Hold On” (2007)
“Hollywood” (2007)
“I Am What I Am” (2006)
“I Wanna Be Like You” (2007)
“I’m Gonna Getcha Good” (2009)
“Infatuation” (2008)
“Inseparable” (2007)
“Introducing Me” (2010)
“Invisible” (2010)
“Joyful Kings” (2008)
“Just Friends” (2007)
“Kids of the Future” (2007)
“L.A. Baby (Where Dreams Are Made Of)” (2010)
“Let’s Go” (2013)
“Live to Party” (2008)
“Love is On Its Way” (2009)
“Lovebug” (2008) (Lip synced April 1, 2018)
“Make a Wave” (2010)
“Make It Right” (2010)
“Mandy” (2006)
“Meet You in Paris” (2013)
“Much Better” (2009)
“Nada Vou Mudar” (2010)
“Neon”
“On the Line” (2008)
“One Day at a Time” (2006)
“One Man Show” (2008)
“Out of This World” (2007)
“Paranoid” (2009)
“Play My Music” (2008)
“Please Be Mine” (2006)
“Poison Ivy” (2009)
“Pom Poms” (2013)
“Poor Unfortunate Souls” (2006)
“Pushin’ Me Away” (2008)
“Sandbox” (2013)
“Send It On” (2009)
“Set This Party Off” (2010)
“Shelf” (2008)
“Should’ve Said No” (2009)
“Sorry” (2008)
“SOS” (2007)
“Still in Love With You” (2007)
“Summer Rain” (2010)
“Summertime Anthem” (2009)
“Take a Breath” (2007)
“That’s Just the Way We Roll” (2007)
“The World” (2013)
“Things Will Never Be the Same” (2010)
“This is Me” (2008)
“This is Our Song” (2010)
“Time for Me to Fly” (2006)
“Tonight” (2008)
“Turn Right” (2009)
“Underdog” (2006)
“Video Girl” (2008)
“We Are the World” (2010)
“Wedding Bells” (2013)
“We Got the Party” (2007)
“We Rock” (2008)
“What Did I Do to Your Heart” (2009)
“What Do I Mean to You” (2013)
“What I Got to School For” (2006)
“What We Came Here For” (2010)
“When You Look Me in the Eyes” (2006)
“World War III” (2009)
“Wouldn’t Change a Thing” (2010)
“Year 3000” (2006)
“Yo Ho (A Pirate’s Life for Me)” (2006)
“You Just Don’t Know It” (2006)
“Your Biggest Fan” (2010)
“You’re My Favourite Song” (2010)

The Social Media Fast

On March 9th, I decided to say “¡No más!” to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for a while. In recent weeks, I had received a sustained series of obsessive messages, both public and private, from crazed strangers whom I had never met or barely knew. One such fervid crusader was a feverish cartoonist who had spent hours of her life tweeting about me because I had written a paragraph in 2003 that essentially amounted to “I don’t like your McSweeney’s article.” None of this squared up with the joy and positivism that I was receiving from people in my real life. It was incredibly weird to go from a volunteering stint in which I had made people in need very happy, only to log onto one of the social networks to discover people pining for my demise or engaging in microaggresions or simply dehumanizing me because I fit their bill of a sinister Snidely Whiplash.

It finally dawned on me that I experienced nothing even remotely close to such casual malevolence in my day-to-day adventures, where friends and acquaintances and workmates laughed over bons mots that the digital pitchfork crowd perceived as baleful tells. Beyond all this, perhaps the most substantial reason for this virtual fast was my need to focus on some quite tricky scripts that I’m now writing for The Gray Area‘s second season, along with a few other pastimes. Abandoning the “essential” platforms was also a way of putting the kibosh on a pervasive nastiness that I felt and responded to with considerable and excessive emotion. It’s quite possible that I have a personality perfectly warm and gushing and endearingly oddball for reality, yet apparently incompatible with the cartoonish assumptions engendered through social media.

Whatever the case, I decided to cut the cord. I deleted the appurtenant apps on my phone and resolved not to check anything. I would never know if something I posted had been liked or favorited. For all I know, there are direct messages awaiting me right now on these poisonous online poppy fields. The funny thing about all this was that I was such a prolific presence on these channels that three friends texted me to ask if I was okay. I had managed to connect more by disconnecting.

I can safely report that I am considerably calmer and much happier. I suffer neither fools nor FOMO. I have still been able to follow the news, digging up newly appointed CIA director Gina Haspel’s sordid past as a black site torturer and developments pertaining to a potential Stormy Daniels interview on 60 Minutes — all this without using Twitter. I find myself less stressed, more smartly informed, and more willing to be true to who I am. The early days did admittedly involve some modest dopamine shakes, but I responded by reading books, cooking nice and elaborate meals for myself, engaging in self-care, and keeping in touch with friends on a more regular basis. Not by text, but with phone calls. We often forget that human emotion stretches itself across a far more promising tapestry if you take the time to know a voice or a face or a soul. Phone calls and real world hangout sessions are vastly richer experiences than the half-hearted texts that digital jockeys bang into their phones while sprinting off somewhere and asking themselves later why they are so frequently disappointed.

The problem with wearing your emotional candor on your sleeve or being big and vulnerable enough to tell others how you feel is that anything you say in a small text box is immediately dismembered and distorted from its original intent. If anything I had written on social media had been uttered in person, the other person and I would have likely laughed it off over a few pints. But because my messages had been delivered through a Pringles-like canister honed for circular reasoning, my words became deliberately misinterpreted and used by a few otherwise smart people to harbor fierce enmity. Undoubtedly, the fault is mine in some way. I am not the type to avoid expressing his mind and his heart. Moreover, I have certainly judged people unfairly based on what I think I know about their worst qualities on social media. And I have often been wrong, especially after I met them. Even so, it seems to me especially banal to hurl one’s line into a lake that rewards only those who catch fish through the same tried and true methods. These days, the latitude for “offense” has thinned quite considerably. Due process has been replaced by character references from dodgy strangers clenching their fists in a basement and somehow landing book deals for their superficial insights even as they take no real chances in how they express themselves or know other people.

People who are easily offended are quite funny. The bar for expressive delinquency has dropped so low that some folks are willing to engage in sustained jihads over disputes that are actually pregnant with communicative possibility. I’ve seen the thoughts that cause people to get hopped up and I am often quite baffled. On any given day, I have heard far worse statements uttered by people in my neighborhood in a jocular context. I’d never think of ostracizing a regular mischief maker who I run into at least twice a week and who cried out to me only a week and a half ago, “Hey, you bald motherfucker, how the fuck are you doing?” The sheer enthusiasm he applies to this sentiment is not only hilarious and admirably magical, but has allowed for some witty repartee that has amused passing bystanders. (Incidentally, he followed up his “profane” statement with a big hug.)

The upshot is that judging another person by who they appear to be online does not do justice to his beauty, his magnanimity, and his possibility. And even though we must allow other people to judge, even when they are wrong, the whole point of listening to other perspectives is to have one’s worldview expanded rather than flattened. Why then do we erect walls? Fear perhaps. A sense that someone who jolts our established notions may be telling a grim truth we don’t want to hear. But the barrier is no different from the border wall Trump hopes to build. Walls are built to memorialize xenophobia. The wall builders clearly aren’t motivated to understand another perspective, much less trying to change it. They are predictably afraid and predictably shallow. At a certain point, a grudge that one holds against someone isn’t so much about the other person’s allegedly ill repute, but about the personality flaws inherent in the grudge holder. The way I see it, you have about seven years to hold a grudge. And, even then, the grudge should be reserved for something significant — like, say, someone who stole your lover or murdered a family member or who ruined a good friend’s painstakingly assembled fortune.

I’ll probably be back on social media eventually. For now, I’m enjoying this extended period of slowing down, sitting with people, chatting with friends and strangers, focusing on my thoughts, and realizing how the digital world, despite all the relentless backslapping by techbros, is one of the most preposterous reputational metrics ever devised by humanity.