I had an interesting day yesterday. It may seem banal but it wasn’t to me, and I thought it enriched my life. So let me explain.
I was going by my hangout restaurant and the waiter was going home. We stopped to talk. And I asked him about his life; did he want to stay a waiter or not? I never said a word to him before except “can you bring some water, please.” It turns out he was a helicopter pilot who couldn’t find work that paid as much as waiting on tables. And we got to talking about how hard it is in life, how one’’s dreams seem to go by the board; he has children to support, and how they need to save for the kid’s university, etc. I found out about his wife and how she is taking it all, and the possible strife in a marriage that lack of money produces. We only talked for half an hour but I learned so much about him, about life, about the economy and what it does to people. Quite simply I learned.
I went home to mee the man who was fix my dishwasher. I watched him work so I could learn a bit and then because he had an accent I asked him where he was from and why he came to American. He was Russian, from the same town as my parents. He was a saxophone player who could not get work in Russia due to the heavy anti‐ semitism; the same as drove my parents out of Russia early in the last century. I learned about prejudice and why it happened to Russia, and I learned that he had to come to a country where he barely knew the language and where he had to leave music to learn how to repair machines. We talked a bit about the history of his country and why so much hate existed still. But in his account of his life I learned more about my history than my parents ever revealed.
It seems made up but that night my wife had a stereo expert come over. We began to talk about how he got into it and his life. He told me with tears how his previous wife hung herself and why. What her family life was like and what her suicide did to him. He said “I never talk about this but, you asked.” I did and what I found is that nearly everyone needs to talk about themselves. But that day was very interesting and seemed to enrich my life. I learned really about the human condition. I discussed all this with my wife at dinner and it led to a deep discussion of depression and suicide and what causes it. And it lasted an hour with her. My life was so much more interesting, all because I inquired. And it brought me closer to complete strangers who finally could talk about feelings. Hardly anyone in their lives, certainly, not their parents ever inquired about their feelings, and how they got along with other kids, and what they meant to him. What they wanted out of life; it is such a simple but profound question, what do you want out of life? That makes people feel important. Instead of, do you need this wrench? I have rarely met anyone who does not want to talk about her life. It is also a way to deepen friendship, instead of staying on the surface; where we then find things so boring.I get answers because I am interested. Many are not; they are waiting to be asked so that can find a warm head and heart to lean on. Most of those who are neurotics are too full of basic unfulfilled needs to be able to focus on someone else. They first need to have someone interested in them. After they have told about themselves, then they can be interested in others.This is what happens in so many families where parents need interest before they can be interested. And yet those who are interested in life are interesting to others. Above all, we like those who are interested in us. Many parents are content to give orders and not inquire deeply into their child. These parents lead the unexamined life; they treat kids pretty much like they were treated with no intervening reflection on what they are doing. They walk around in their past and never realize it. They are living their history over and over.
You would think after seeing this time and again that there is no free will; we seem to be robots going through life dazed and unconscious. There is no richer life for them.