Mon, 07 Nov 2011 20:26:05 +0000

I do my deepest thinking in my bed. It's where I contemplate life's biggest questions; it's where I remind myself what it means to be human, although that definition seems quite elusive.

But right outside my bedroom, on the other side of my wall, is a bar.

A bar is a place where minutiae becomes the world; it's where meaning becomes moot. For many people, it's where carnal urges peak.

When people step outside that bar, I hear them. When they smoke, I smell them.

I've heard one meaningful conversation in my four months here. A distraught girl walked out, crying, and was followed by her close friend. Right outside my bedroom window, the distraight girl explained to her friend how much she'd been depressed lately. Her friend hugged her and said, "I love you so much." Then she was convinced to get help.

Otherwise, conversations are mostly pathetic — entertaining, at best.

One time, a group of guys was giving advice to a girl on how to find the right man. One guy told her, "You should avoid guys who seem like they have it all." Another said, "You shouldn't settle for anything less than perfect." The third guy asked her out.

I think about all the wasted words spoken outside my apartment. There are too many 'like's and the 'love's are too shallow. There are too many repeated conversations that serve no purpose but to fill silent space.

I imagine I sound the same way at a bar or a restaurant. And I imagine they think what I think in their bedrooms. Most of us just never get a chance to see those two world juxtapose so sharply. In that sense, I'm lucky. It reminds me every night that the best words are the ones with meaning.

When Mr. Rogers produced his show, he carefully wrote every line of the script. And when he taped the show, he never ad-libbed. It was because he wanted to make sure his words conveyed exactly what they intended. He didn't just want to fill air time. He wanted to use it.

Using words with meaning is a sign of caring about another person. It requires listening. It requires thinking. It requires empathy. But most importantly — and what's really hard for me — it requires you to open up and stop what you're thinking, just for a second, to think about somebody else.