My son-in-law, Daniel Stone, is a tech genius. I often need his help for simple tasks.
It’s like asking a brain surgeon to remove a splinter.
I had no patience for his precise leisurely approach when he asked me to choose a voice for Siri.
To me, each voice was “just fine.” Now, I’m stuck with a white male voice with a southern accent, a reminder, but of what?
My other son-in-law, also a genius, Adonis Pimienta, has a doctorate in Aerospace Engineering. He supplied me with this fact: A 100-year lifespan for a human on planet Earth equals about 40 minutes in cosmic time. By this calculation, I have eight minutes left.
I am one earthling out of 7,967,017,800. This number changes every millisecond. By nighttime, my opinions, irritations, ostensibly my whole life becomes an even smaller part of the whole.
I, and I am not alone in this, am spending my microscopic 40 minutes believing I have influence. Thus this column.
During the time I wrote the previous 180 words, I have needed Siri’s help six times with spelling and synonyms. Every time I hear the voice, even knowing it’s fake, I am reminded people different than me can be pleasant and helpful.
The sound and me, regardless of our political differences, can agree the world has gone haywire. Especially in our little portion of the planet called USA.
I will call the voice Bradley.
Bradley and I have made a pact. We will not spend any time going forward into Autumn arguing about the election, global warming, policing or the economy. I must accept, even with so much evidence supporting that I am right, I have changed no minds, just leaked emotional energy spewing words into the atmosphere and angering some friends and relatives.
Why should Bradley and I alienate each other? He can’t fix the world. Neither can I.
Unless a Charlton Heston lookalike comes down from Mohonk turning his staff into snakes, displaying the miraculous power of the Almighty to right all wrongs, fighting each other just creates ubiquitous dissonance.
What can I or you do with our few moments of cosmic time to bring love, unity, forgiveness, empathy and civility back from the abyss?
Good manners. That’s the answer. Etiquette equals kindness. Put your napkin on your lap to catch food so the host has less to clean. On the River to Ridge trail in New Paltz, scoop up your dog’s poo-poo so you don’t ruin what might be the best part of a stranger’s day. Chewing stir-fry with your mouth closed is a service to humanity. It is, and one easily achieved.
It’s a very big deal to say, “please” and “thank you.” It’s deep. Gratitude has been identified by happiness researchers as a main component in a joyous life. Don’t cut the line! You might as well just tell the person standing behind you they are less human, less important than you. Hold the door open for the next person. If they slip in without saying, “thank you,” control yourself from raising your voice stating, annoyed, “you’re welcome.” Return the book you borrowed. Wait for the waiter to come to your table. Don’t interrupt. Let the other person talk as much as you do. Answer the phone once in awhile. Return emails and messages.
We can’t wave a magic staff and fix roads and bridges. People like you and me can do something about the breakdown of the interpersonal infrastructure caused by the anonymity of the internet, Covid, fear, lack of attention.
Feeling preached at? I got one word to describe myself, “guilty.” But even impatient me can do better.
Above all, don’t ghost anyone.
Before the term meant blowing off someone by just not bothering to respond, it meant “an apparition of a dead person.” The two definitions are related.
If you are a child playing catch, you throw the ball and the other person, on purpose, makes no attempt to catch it, but allows it to land on the ground.
You will feel unseen, ignored, not in the game, as if you are a ghost.
I’ve just used up a portion of my eight minutes of cosmic time writing a letter to my beloved, town, country, planet. Is this an exercise in futility? Who knows?
If it prevents one person from stepping in dog doo-doo, that tiniest of accomplishments is as insignificant as I am in the grand cosmological order of everything. Or is it?