Conor Pope: Most people are good and kind and other truths I hold dear
Michael Harding returns to this slot next week but, in the meantime, some life lessons
I have learned that while it is easy to forget kind words and to allow mean ones become corrosive, it’s also pretty easy to let this corrosion go.
My time on this page is all but up and next week the peerless Michael Harding, whose place I have been holding for months, makes his return. As the final curtain started falling on me last week, I realised that the two dozen or so columns I’ve written in recent months have lacked little pearls of great wisdom which readers could bring into their everyday lives.
For that I am truly sorry.
Now I know it would be too-little too-late to simply shoehorn in a few nuggets of contrived folksy insight at this stage but the good news – for me if not you – is that while the column has been woefully lacking in lessons with a broad application, it has helped me crystallise some truths which I plan to hold dear for whatever allotted time I have left.
I’ve learned that people are – generally speaking – good and kind and have the capacity to express views, even views diametrically opposed to mine, in a manner that is intelligent and illuminating and thought provoking.
It has also become clear to me, that there are many other people who are neither good nor kind and who fall over themselves in their rush to judge others. Some of the virtual souls who take the time and effort to comment on columns of this nature on social media platforms come across as mean, hectoring and outlandishly secure in their own self-righteousness. They’d do well to just relax and not allow the views of others enrage them quite so easily.
And, yes, I know that at no point in the history of humanity has anyone ever been eased into a state of relaxation by someone telling them to “just relax”.
Writing this column has also made it clear to me that I’ve lied repeatedly when saying I don’t pay heed to the bad stuff written about me in the online space. Truth be told, I do pay heed to it. I pay a lot of heed to it, in fact, and sometimes – if I’m feeling too good about myself at the end of the day – I’ll read what people have posted about me under these columns.
As a result of this column, I know now that I should be open to more conversations with stranger
I have also learned that while it is easy to forget kind words and to allow mean ones become corrosive, it’s also pretty easy to let this corrosion go. The mute button on Twitter has become a friend to me and allowed me silence the worst of the keyboard warriors without them even being aware of it. Which makes their enraged ranting wonderfully impotent. The button has also gone some way toward answering the question about the sound a tree falling in the forest makes if no one is there to hear it fall.
It makes no sound at all.
As a result of this column, I know now that I should be open to more conversations with strangers. For years I’ve been terrible at this and have long marvelled at my better half’s capacity to strike up engaging and meaningful conversations with virtually anyone. When I see this happening in my presence I have tended to vacillate between naked hostility and awkward shuffling as I wait for the chit-chat to end.
But if the last six months have taught me nothing else, they have taught me that life is almost always better when you open yourself up to such random communication in public spaces. There are a lot of interesting stories out there and many have already passed me by because of my surly face.
I am now painfully aware that if you choose to baptise a child it might be best not to write about it unless you want dog’s abuse from all sides
I’ve also never been more certain that self-deprecation is a good thing. I know we live in dark, dangerous and uncertain times but there are far too many people in our world taking themselves far too seriously. We should never lose the capacity to laugh at ourselves and allow space in our lives – and our newspapers – for foolish whimsy.
I’ve also learned that if I don’t want to become a poor man’s Larry David I should stop raging against what I perceive to be minor injustices and I am now painfully aware that if you choose to baptise a child it might be best not to write about it unless you want dog’s abuse from all sides. Or at least two sides - – the polar opposite ones.
The little things
But most of all I’ve learned that it’s worth dwelling on the little things, those passing conversations with strangers on a plane, the melodramas at the doorstep, the baby steps towards a tottering Christmas tree, the random visit to Penney’s with excited family members or to Harrod’s in the wrong trousers and the rainy walks to school with children under inappropriate umbrellas.
Everyone is busy and preoccupied and focused on getting through the day and getting the dinner on or the bins out or the deadline met or the bills paid and it’s easy to miss the simple things that can bring great joy and leave great memories. By letting such moments pass us by, happy memories can be sacrificed at the altar of the everyday and we won’t even know we miss them. And then, like them, we’re gone for good.
Michael Harding returns next week