Let's just eliminate all the bullshit, shall we?

Saturday, August 8, 2009


They say that business in small towns is really bad these days, but that's just not true. You have to look in the right places. In small towns, the real commodity is OTHER PEOPLE'S business, and it's a valuable commodity indeed. People traffic in this highly prized gold on a very regular basis, and their lives would be poorer without its existence.

Due to boredom and lack of distractions of a cultural or self-improvement nature in a more subdued community, the townsfolk are limited in what they can do for entertainment. One solution is to occupy yourself with telling what everyone else is doing. Or what you suspect they're doing. Or to simply manipulate a tid-bit into something you know it's not. Or outright lie about what they're doing. It's really all the same.

The value of such actions (interfering, gossiping, slandering, persecuting, obsessing, etc.) is that you can watch people's emotions change in a heartbeat. You can WATCH as doubt and mistrust creeps into minds. You can watch fear and paranoia take root. You can see the salaciousness of living vicariously through another's real or imagined 'sinning.' (It's okay to be titillated by the 'exposing' of another's personal tales; it's your own X-rated thoughts you have to hide and regard with more decorum.)

There's a sick sense of glee and accomplishment that comes from tearing down. There's a false sense of power and strength that comes from destroying. And it is easy to tear down. It takes years of planning and saving and budgeting and designing and contracting and building and detailing to create a building. It take very little effort, relatively speaking, to fly a plane into it and bring it to the ground.

There's also a sense of relief that occurs when talking about others. A physical release of chemicals that allows calm to flow through the bloodstream, as you speak ill of others. You are relieved that YOU are not the topic of conversation. You can feel better about your own shortcomings and failures and child-rearing blunders. You forget about your own humanity and failed marriages and mistakes with love. You avoid the matter of your own dark secrets that you would never, ever want revealed or bandied about in such a casual and indiscriminate fashion.

There's always collateral damage when you are spreading other people's business around town. You may tell yourself it's a harmless pass time, knowing that pain and devastation come from 'mere words.' You may excuse it because "Everyone else is doing it." (That worked well for Germans in the 1930s.) You may even be so full of yourself that you think "If people didn't want to be talked about, then they shouldn't be doing such things." That's delusional, at best. Passing the buck, excusing bad actions, denial...whatever you want to call it.

I have never known anyone who was so saintly that they had no secrets or skeletons in their closet. And if they were really saints to begin with, where do they get their insatiable need to speak of other people's actions?

There's also an addictive quality to talking ill of those not present. There's a surge of energy as we imagine ourselves getting away with something. There's the thrill of being 'bad,' but no one knowing about it. There's a surge of shamefulness as we momentarily consider what will happen? Or what sort of dubious power we may be exerting on the world from our cowardly position. Many of you have experienced someone you have been talking about walking in while you were doing so; that sick twisting in your stomach is your conscience telling you what a bad thing you did. It's a pretty simple science.

We may fool ourselves into believing that our words and our meanness won't go any further than the one friend or acquaintance. But we know it's like the old shampoo commercial; "I told two friends, and they told two friends, ans so on...and so on.....and so on...." It's an endless cycle of misery and judgment. It's a wildfire that springs forth and takes on a life of its own. It's a virus that spreads when in contact with others.

And just like the old slumber party game, 'Telephone,' messages take on a life of their own once they leave our lips. I tell Jane I saw Freddie at a McDonald's the other day. Jane tells Sally she heard Freddie was eating at a McDonald's, and questions "Was he supposed to be eating there?" Sally tells a friend that Freddie's off his diet, and speculates he's taking chances with his health. And it goes from there. (Meanwhile, Freddie was just taking a leak at the damned McDonald's, but even THAT wasn't anybody's business.)

MY business is my business. YOUR business is your business. Let's keep it that way.

Besides......if you and the people you associate with are gossips, are you stupid enough to think THEY don't talk about you when your back is turned? Do you imagine them stupid enough to think you're a good and trustworthy friend to keep their confidences? Let's get real. The cost of doing business with other people's business is that you will never have anyone truly close to you. Never have a person you can trust. You'll always be worried about what of your business is being traded around town. Doubt. Suspicion. Worry. Fear.

People don't treat you the way you think you deserve? You wonder why you're sad and lonely all the time? You're mad and bitter, and your kids, husband, church, friends, etc. don't want to have anything to do with you? By all means, keep being a savage bitch to everyone you know and ruining lives. Don't turn the microscope on yourself and do any introspection. Heaven forfend!

Here's a great quote I really love. It's not easy to adhere to it. I don't imagine myself close to perfectly following its sound advice. But it rocks in the heavy duty thinking department.

"Great people talk about great ideas;
average people talk about things;
small people talk about other people."--Anonymous

(The above is based on a smaller quote of Tobias S. Gibson's, and more popularly satirized by the great Fran Lebowitz, but I like this version best.)

More to follow. Sadly, it's that much of a problem.

("Don't talk about me while I'm gone, now!")

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