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An essay donated by Alton C. Thompson

Musings on our strange society

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This morning (Wednesday, March 18, 2015) I took the 2001 Honda that our younger daughter drives to a local Honda dealer for an airbag recall. Being one who enjoys interacting with others, I interacted with several others in the waiting room, including a woman who sat in the chair next to me. We discussed a number of topics, and at some point I mentioned how strange I thought it was that when someone becomes rich, one tends to spend one’s “excess” money on oneself (and family)—e.g., purchasing a larger house, expensive furnishings for the house, a more expensive automobile, etc. What’s strange about this, I said to her, is that:

  • First of all, this is supposedly a “Christian” country, in which the Bible is regarded as a sacred book, yet a passage such as Mark 10:17 – 31 is treated as if it’s not in that book! (That passage has Jesus talking to a “rich young man,” and telling him “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” He went away sad, of course!)

“Given,” I asked of the lady sitting next to me (but rhetorically!), “that to be a follower of Jesus, one must—obviously!—treat the suggestion given to the ‘young rich man’ as a command to oneself, how is it that so few of the ‘Christians’ in this country with financial means fail to recognize it as a command intended for them?” She had no answer to this question, and I had none to convey to her either.

  • Second, I told her (as if she didn’t already know!) that I enjoy interacting with other people, and don’t understand why others don’t as well. “After all,” I said to her, “even if one, as a ‘Christian,’ doesn’t think of the Markan passage as a command intended for oneself, why is it that one can’t realize that real happiness comes from (a) establishing good relationships with others, (b) interacting with others as much as one can, and (c) providing whatever help to others that one can—when one learns about others in need, and doing so in a manner that does not damage the other’s self-esteem? After all, one does want to happy, doesn’t one?”

Again, the lady had no response, and as I did not wish to bother her overly much, I simply let the subject drop.

We continued our discussion on topics of a more trivial nature, but after having had two cups of coffee while waiting, I excused myself to go to the restroom. While walking down the hall to the restroom, I noticed a large sign, in all caps, over a window, but passed it without much thought, and proceeded to the restroom.

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While in the restroom, however, and “enjoying the go” (but of the No. 1 sort), a thought occurred to me relative to that sign that I had just passed. It had said “PARTS,” so when I came to the window on my return trip, I asked the black man standing there, “How is my part?”—pointing to my head. He started laughing, and I thought that strange. After all, is his job not that of being a “Part Inspector,” and was it not sufficient for him to respond by either saying “You have a good part, sir” or “Your part is a little ‘messed up,’ but I can fix it for you, if you’d like—but for a small fee, of course”?

Fortunately, he didn’t charge me for saying that my part was “OK, and not need of fixing.” Still, I thought it strange that he found my question funny. I said to myself: “Why couldn’t he have simply done his job, and be done with it?! Why did he need to offend me by laughing?”

Then, I “got” it: He was laughing at my hair style! Being 75 years old, I still have the same hair style that I adopted when I was a teen, so that it’s likely out of style now. But I’m satisfied with it, so why should he care?, I told myself. Besides, I said to myself, hasn’t his employer told him that he should never say, or do, anything that might be interpreted as offensive by a customer?

I did think to myself, though, that this man had, obviously, never read Good Natured 1 — so that it was at least somewhat understandable why he would not know that (a) we humans are “naturally” sociable, (b) born (“created,” a Christian would say) to want to interact with others, and so “designed” as receive enjoyment from doing so, (c) if, that is, one has not been “bamboozled” by the dominant values of this society into not recognizing this, but, rather (d) is sufficiently “in tune” with one’s nature as a human to realize the truth about the matter.

As I tend to let uncomplimentary things said (or written) to me “roll off my back,” by the time I got back to my seat in the waiting room, I had calmed down, and continued my conversation with the lady sitting next to me. Shortly after that, however, I was told that my automobile was finished, and all I had to do was to pay for the wheel alignment that I had requested be done, and wait for the complimentary washing of my Honda.

As I was driving home, I continued to think about the strangeness of our society; and as my mind, lately, has been occupied with the global warming problem facing us humans, I recalled the facts that (a) Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius had brought up the subject of global warming in the 1890s, that (b) a considerable amount of research has been done about it since, ut, also, (c) that little of significance has been done by our “leaders” to combat the problem. (I thought that strange, given that we USans 2 seem to enjoy killing (reason for my use of the word “combat” in the previous paragraph) others more than even eating ice cream!) The fact that we humans have failed to address that problem in any meaningful way likely reflects, of course, the “time lag” that exists between cause and effect in this case, so that because “climate change effects take decades to build up . . . people have been unwilling to make the needed changes in energy generation systems today.” I guess that means we’re not an “intelligent species” after all! Certainly not the most intelligent, in fact. Oh well, nobody’s perfect!

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References used:

The following information source was used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlink is not necessarily still active today.

  1. book cover Frans B. M. de Waal, "Good Natured: The Origins of Right and Wrong in Humans and Other Animals," Harvard University Press (1997). Available in Kindle format for $14.47, or Paperback at $25.47 plus shipping. Read reviews or order this book safely from online book store. The book is rated by 11 Amazon customer reviews at 4.5 stars out of 5.
  2. "Usan" is a term invented by the author to refer to a resident of the United States. It is unambiguous compared to "Americans" which sometimes is used to refer to Usans and other times to refer to a resident of North America

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Originally published: 2015-MAR-20
Last updated 2015-MAR-20
Author: Anton
C. Thompson
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