If you’ve read the book or seen the film “Pay It Forward,” then the concept of engaging in selfless acts to make the world a better place is not new to you. I do this myself in small, practical ways. Given any public situation – driving, grocery shopping, walking down a hallway – I look for opportunities to make things flow better. This could mean offering to take someone’s empty shopping cart when hu is on the way out and I’m on the way in, or making an effort to ensure that no one has to apply hus brakes in reaction to a move that I make on the highway. Typically these actions cost me very little, but they are executed with the mindset of flow – conscious acknowledgment that I am one among many people, each of us trying to get from one place to another, or accomplish tasks simultaneously. New Yorkers, incidentally, have got this down pat. On an average weekday, New York’s public transportation system accommodates 7.5 million trips. That’s about as many breaths as you’ve taken in the last year. If a New Yorker is ever rude to you, there is a decent chance that you did something to impede the overall flow. With their throughput, if too many people were to engage in non-flow-promoting behavior, the whole city would promptly shit itself and gridlock.
This conscious approach to coexistence has become so ingrained that I feel physically uncomfortable (cringey) when I see people thoughtlessly, or otherwise, impede flow (asshole drivers, meanderthals and the like). I am not a confrontational fellow (too much like proseletizing), but I have taken to catching such people’s eye and giving them a small, disappointed shake of my head, trying to convey with gesture, “The world can be a very hard place to live in – all kinds of random shit can wear you down, or take you out of it altogether – so why the fuck are you making it just that little bit harder for the rest of us to get along in it?”
Opening my kimono a bit wider than usual, the idea that deists/atheists are amoral saddens me. I consider myself to have a strong sense of morality, one that I came by honestly and practice in daily life. Playing straw man a bit, I could counter an assertion made by a devout member of one of God’s many franchises that being godless is akin to being a sociopath, merely by pointing out that my values system is not based on some scary, eternal salvation/damnation model but on a highly practical, fulfilling effort to do good works simply because everyone benefits.
Honestly, which sounds more genuine? “Be virtuous, or you’re doomed to an eternity of fire and poking,” or “We’re all on our own, so why not lighten each other’s load a little”?
I’ve felt awkward the entire time I’ve been writing this. I am not smug, and I have no agenda other than putting an idea out there that might make a random passerby pause and reflect. Please, go delight someone for no reason other than that the world could stand to be more delightful, or that someone might appreciate having a little time cut off of hus commute.