No, Everybody Does Not Have Something to Offer
Point
Lately, Iíve noticed a large number of people are going around saying you can find something worthwhile in everyone you meet. They are crazy. The truth is most people you meet will range from pretty dumb to awfully dumb. No offense, those of you reading this who are awfully dumb. But thatís why the rest of you should be talking to dead peopleóspecifically, dead authors. Granted, the conversation is fairly one-sided, but itís not as if you would have said anything important. And the fact is, youíll learn a hell of a lot more from a good book than from hearing your future ex-roommate perseverate on the latest self-inflicted catastrophe in his or her life, which it turns out, has been carefully planned by CBS since the age of thirteen. Your roommate and any other would-be writers of television are all so very less insightful than the great authors who have died. White, black, lesbianódoesnít matter, long as theyíre dead. And why should you settle for someone just because theyíreóalive? Now, Iím not saying not to have friends or that polite conversation cannot be a beautiful thing (within reason). But donít feel like you need to be friends with everyone and donít be afraid to fire the bad ones. Tell them itís the new economy.

Counterpoint

Wait a minute, Hoss. Donít think of it as everyone having something to offer. Think of it as you always having something to learn. What you need is some real human reactions to real human situations. And this means youíre going to have to talk to other people. You may be the cream, but the fact is youíre still just one person with one perspective and certain deficiencies, which are going to need outside assistance. Take me, for example. I am deficient in the quality of reality. I drink way too much coffee and tend to get carried away. I start getting this crazy idea that I can do anything if I put my mind to it. So I need other people to remind me this is not true. Then at night, I take these little white pills to help me sleep. Thirty minutes later, I start thinking everything is going to turn out alright. Forty minutes and I still think everything is going to turn out alright, just a lot slower. At fifty, things can turn out however they want. And in the morning, theyíre back again, the fox, the bat, the wise old hen.
But as for reading, while the insights of great writers are as real as the sins theyíve committed (and my god thatís enough), the truth is, even if you did have time to read everything, you couldnít possibly find adequate copy for every conceivable situation. Not only that, but the author must have experienced it himself. Hemingway may have lived life so you donít have to, but most of your "authors" are merely reheating someone elseís experience. And once itís cooked, it ainít raw anymore, and thatís tempura. I learned that in a seven-hundred-page novelette Memoirs of an American Poet in Japanís Wife. Face it, youíre going to have to get some of your knowledge from other people, ordinary, everyday people. That said, we mustnít overdo it. If we overdo it, our inbox just gets cluttered. Fortunately, Hotmail will start deleting messages for us.

[2001]

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