I have a new favorite book. It is David Sedaris’ book When You Are Engulfed in Flames. Two things really struck me about the book. First I love the way he peals away at his own hypocrisy. It really is damning. Christians tend to think they have a monopoly on hypocrisy, but it really is the human condition.
The book is a series of short stories. Many on them start out describing some outrageous or appalling behavior that he observes in public. But by the end of the story, the focus always moves back to him and how he does the very same thing, just in a more “socially acceptable” way.
This really resonates with me because my job is to be critical. I am supposed to expose every weakness in one of my company’s products before it is distributed to the public. But all too often I use that skill set to criticize other people. But the truth is I am the king of all sinners. Just as an example, I criticize others for screwing around at work and yet I am typing this while on the job.
The second thing that really struck me was a toss away line in one of the stories. He is talking about how he had a big circle of friends when he lived in Chicago, but lost the ability to make friends when he moved to New York. He was friendly and met a lot of people, but he forgot how to “close the deal.” Wow! He could have been writing my biography. I have had several occasions in life where I had a ton of friends. Then for whatever reason (moving, kids…moving kids), those friends rotate out of the lineup. This is always followed by an intense period of loneliness. Not because I am a cad, but because I am utterly unable to make new friends. Once I get one, I am very loyal. But making friends is a random mystery to me.
When I was in school, there was a teacher; we will call him Bob Cook…mostly because that was his actual name. He knew the mysterious formula. He was always surrounded by a group of people…I assume they were friends. He was the master of small talk and could engage anyone in conversation. To use one of my overused tag lines, “I am not sure we are the same species.” Oh well, at least I can appreciate his talent.
Me? I will just continue writing into the void.