This topic is too broad. I’ve been meandering between topics and writing late at night. Not always bad, but now this conversation is too wishy-washy and vague for me to even follow (and I’m referring to my own post!)
So far it’s about favors done with expectations in mind, it’s about political and/or power maneuvering for good or ill results, it’s about places where people of very different views can interact. And in spite of the fear that this post will continue the broadness of the topic, I have one thing to say about each of these ideas.
1.) I understand that we all interact with each other, personally and professionally, expecting that the favors we receive or give are part of a big exchange that will net us better off. I agree with Norma, when it is overly pre-meditated or specific to one favor or act it becomes artless and distasteful. The people who are the best at it either do it instinctively and unconsciously or they are keeping in mind the larger picture. Which means: if they lend this band saw to their fellow church member, they may not get that exact person to give them a favor back – but in the long run, probably, someone will. This is where this idea intersects with religion. (Yes Norma, you got it.) I thought that all my good will would be rewarded by God. I was nice because I thought some big guy in the sky was watching. I didn’t need someone to be nice back, because I guess I thought the payoff was in the afterlife. I think I’m still nice, but now I have to rethink everything. Why am I? Because I want to? Why do I want to? I think in general “being nice” (whatever that really means) pays off. It has for me I think, in tangible ways. In any case, this is something I have been mulling over ever since I lost my faith in God and let go of the idea of ultimate justice or ultimate reward. Recently Michael said to me, “Maybe you aren’t so nice. Maybe you’re just a pushover.” I was so floored. I think he might be right.
2.) On the political front, yes. This tendency of ours to maneuver our resources to gain power has yielded good and bad results. Probably mostly progress. Well, maybe. One thing I’ve been thinking a lot about lately is water in Los Angeles. I only recently began to read about Mulholland and the Los Angeles water wars and the draining of the Owens valley so that L.A. could have water. Why did Mulholland do it? Why did the city officials do it? Was it ultimately the right thing? As I said to Michael recently, “Everything I know about water in Los Angeles comes from seeing ‘Chinatown.’” Jeez. And I’ve lived here for over twenty years. Now I want to know all the grizzly details. While I paddle around in my swimming pool. And the sprinklers water the grass so I can luxuriate in it after my swim.
On political maneuvering - a personal anecdote: I remember once when I was performing at the Groundlings and the executives from Saturday Night Live were scouting the place for new talent. And one of the other Groundling actors said to me with a smirk, “I’m sure you'll do well, Julia. You really know how to work the political system around here.” I was so shocked. I didn’t think of it that way. I just thought I was doing the best job I could, hanging out with the more talented performers because I liked them more. But now I look back and think I was so unaware of my behavior. If I had to do it over, I would have probably been MORE political instead of insisting to myself that I wasn’t and didn’t care and that this was beneath me. I think I am in a state of arrested development in this area. Later on, once I was aware of my ambition (however meek it was comparatively) my actions were awkward and patently obvious. I wasn’t that good at it. I wish I were better, and I want to get better at this.
3.) On the topic of places where people of different views can interact: I loved Sheldon’s post about living in central California in between conservatives and liberals. I think I would probably feel exactly the same way! I have problems with both of those ideologies. I recommend that you read this month’s issue of Wired which talks about organic food (among many other things) and making truly good choices. Often the organic choice is the worst one – it was shipped from far away, for example. When conventionally grown produce that was grown locally has a lower carbon footprint. The only thing I have to say about this is that I probably do live in proximity to a lot of people with very different views from my own. On my own block I think there are several more conservative families, but I just don’t ever talk to them about politics. Or actually, anything. It is true that I avoid conversations about politics with people I disagree with – in general. I wish I were more comfortable with it. Well, I guess I did "Letting Go of God." I guess that's how I can be confrontational, on a stage where I can have my say!