Friday, October 08, 2004

Jeff, be careful what you ask for

I sent the blog address to a friend, and asked him to pass it around. He said fine, but only as long as he gets to be in a post. Here you go, buddy:

My friend Jeff S. is one of a kind, or at least I haven't met another yet. He seems to get very faint readings on his moral compass, or maybe he doesn't bother checking it often, and this makes him a remarkably free person. Things just work out for him. I imagine he views life as a series of entertainments put on for his benefit, and that when the chips fall, many of them will end up in his pocket. As a gambler, he's unbelievably lucky, and I'm convinced it's because he just assumes he'll win, that he deserves to win. The calculus of what's fair and right and equitable doesn't concern him, with money or anything else. He is the perfect salesman.

At first I found this deeply frustrating, as one of my conceits is that I am in charge of making sure the people around me adhere to at least a minimum standard of uprightness and decency. I'm entirely sure that makes me insufferable, but hey, I gotta be me. And I've had some success in reminding even the most amoral goons that the sound they're not there to hear in the forest is still a real sound the rest of us hear, and that it matters. If you make it funny, you can tell people all kinds of things they don't want to hear. And like the others, Jeff would get that wry, regretful little smile of acknowledgment when you busted him for taking advantage of the system, or the poor beleaguered citizens people like Jeff often can't resist preying on.

I can remember a time we both had our eye on the same girl one day. I spent a fair portion of the day pondering which of us deserved a shot at this girl more, and who she liked better, and how we could come to an agreement about who should back away and who should forge ahead, while Jeff just got his groove on and got the girl. They were a better match, and I didn't have any animosity, but it illustrates my point.

I can almost always shame amoral people into acknowledging what's fair by making a point of discussing the rights and wrongs of life with them whenever possible, like you'd show a bushman of the Kalahari the logic behind using the toilet in a hotel room instead of the carpet. He may not really understand, but he'll go along with the principle if you can get him to see that it's important to the rest of us. And frankly, Jeff's a sweet, decent guy, and I find my objections to his behavior are more rooted in my own regret (why didn't I think of that?) than any major feeling that he is malicious or even careless with other people's lives and emotions.

Whenever I'm wrestling with a moral quandary, I often wonder what Jeff S. would do. Sure, it's not exactly What Would Jesus Do, but as someone who was raised Catholic I've got the guilt thing down just fine, maybe a little too well. And I can look to my father, a retired Army officer of exalted rank, for an example of how to do the right thing every time, or at least not do the wrong thing. What I have trouble with is getting past all that to what I want.

So thank you, Jeff, for showing me that it's OK to be good to yourself, and that when you really honestly feel you deserve good things, they're a lot easier to come by. Now where's my goddamn irreplaceable Ayrton Senna T-shirt, you son of a bitch?

No comments: