As I drove out of my town this morning I saw a sign on the main street, some hometown prophet had chalked, ‘It doesn’t matter what you believe, what matters is how you behave’. We have started telling each other things. Although it’s not talking exactly, more like proclaiming. These proclamations take a variety of forms. Sandwich boards adorn the doorsteps of restaurants, real estate agents, even private homes. Many, it seems, would like to tell us something.
I guess I’m wondering just how to take this thrust of roadside soliloquies, coming at me relentlessly as I attempt to go peacefully from A to B. I buy books, or borrow them, or even steal them from hospital lending libraries. I turn on the radio. I sign into the internet. I answer the phone or not. I engage in conversation. Verbs for choice. Verbs for permission. Verbs for consent. I didn’t agree to have your homily to optimism, your take on the war of the sexes, or your Pollyanna platitudes distract me as I try to do a U turn. Thanks.
Maybe, however, I have mistaken the intention of these proclamations. Perhaps they are a middle class form of literary exhibitionism. ‘We know stuff’ they might be saying. And we are going to let you know that we know we know stuff. Maybe? Or perhaps they are a goodwill gesture, like the Olympics, so everyone will drop their guard and not run as fast as they know they can. Perhaps then it is a speed moderating device, having drivers career to a snail’s pace so that they can catch the last two words of that epic saying about why men are the same as mobile phones. Who knows?
I am confounded for a rational explanation. Or any understanding of why, now, we have chosen not to speak in direct and intimate terms to the people who comprise our world. Hello, how are you? Could be a useful opening gambit. Again maybe it is because those who comprise our worlds are now faceless, far flung, amorphous or maybe they aren’t there. Perhaps we speak volumes to the air that once held the shape of real people we knew or hoped to know.
I have a picture in my head. Me stopping. Pulling over in my car and walking to the sign. Upon reading the content of the daily epistle on life I will pull out my chalk. Underneath I will write, ‘It doesn’t matter what you believe, what matters is how you behave’.