I can’t do a backflip into a pool, but I know someone who can.
Well, I may be able to backflip into a pool, I haven’t yet found myself faced with such circumstances as would require this of me.
And I suppose I don’t technically know this guy who definitely can backflip into a pool. I didn’t get his name, you see. In fact, I couldn’t tell you much about him beyond that he could do a backflip into a pool. This is due to the fact that the declaration of his aptitude for such a feat constituted our entire conversation.
I marvel at this.
Little Man & myself were at the pool the other day. And there were these three boys jumping and splashing around. Little Man inserted himself seamlessly into the antics of the moment, so I took the opportunity to sit there not doing anything. As is the father’s wont.
And before long, the vicissitudes of water tag brought one of the boys into my general vicinity, and he paused for a moment to inform me that he could do a backflip into the pool. I expressed what I felt was appropriate awe at such a capability, and on we went with our separate lives.
There are times in my life that I was too self conscious to tell someone I knew that I didn’t want them to borrow my bike. And if you’d asked me even now to list some good qualities I possess I’d have to hem and haw and prevaricate before I mumbled about my good dental history.
And yet this boy saw a total stranger with a terrible tan and was impelled to make sure that if I died that day, I would ascend to the firmament secure in the knowledge that he could, if he so chose, do a backflip into the pool.
It boggles the mind, the qualities we value in ourselves. The beliefs, skill sets, geographic proximities we use to carve out the virtuous “us” from that dastardly “them.” Social media non-withstanding, even.
This boy in the pool makes me think of a guy we’ll call Fitz. Because that’s his name, kinda.
But so I met Fitz in person. We had a friend in common, we were in town for the same wedding, we were both martial arts nerds and we both tended Irish in heritage and liquor choice. And we clicked. We parted friends if not good friends if not brothers-in-arms, after the 30 or so hours we spent together.
And then we became facebook friends and I realized that we weren’t supposed to get along. He’s a republican, I’m a pinko liberal bleeding heart. We don’t pray the same way – well, more accurately, he prays, I don’t. If it was up to the algorithms of likes and favorites and targeted advertising, we’d be holding signs yelling at each other, given that we’d even met at all. Which is unlikely.
And yet, I have met him. I’ve drunk with him. I’ve experienced the warm kind, person of integrity that he is first hand. And if he hasn’t seen something similar in me then he’s a better actor than most professionals.
I don’t watch TV. I barely listen to NPR any more – ever since the Orlando shooting I’ve been avoiding the news in general. But even without all that I still feel like there are a thousand voices telling me how right I am and how wrong and stupid and brainwashed “they” are. Whoever “they” may be.
I really don’t want to be preachy. Calls there are aplenty to arms and action, and I won’t shout to be heard in that racket. But these are divisive days, and memes are to respectful dialogue what Jerry Springer was to family counseling. For myself, I’m trying to start where we all are, with our shared qualities (such as an ability to backflip into a pool, and the admiration of such prowess), and go from there.