Oh, we’re finally here. But, as all fans of Back to the Future know, the appropriate question is not “where the hell are we?”, it’s “when the hell are we?”
That’s what Marty McFly learns from inventor Emmett “Doc” Brown when Doc demonstrates his time machine for the first time in the 1985 film “Back to the Future”, and sends Einstein the dog one minute into the future in a DeLorean sports car.
By the time the sequel rolled around four years later, McFly had learned his lesson:
McFly: “Where are we? When are we?”
Doc: “We’re descending toward Hill Valley, California at 4:29 pm, on Wednesday, October 21, 2015.”
An old man in Indiana named Glenn was once asked at a church meeting about his religion. He replied, “When I do good I feel good, when I do bad I feel bad, that’s my religion.” Now, Glenn’s words of wisdom probably wouldn’t have spread much farther than Indiana if Abraham Lincoln hadn’t heard him speak and later repeated Glenn’s words to describe his own moral compass.
Altruism as a concept isn’t very old. The word itself didn’t exist until 1851 when the French philosopher Auguste Comte coined it based on the Latin word alteri, “others,” but the act of giving may go back to the beginning of time. “When I do good I feel good” is something most of us can relate to.
A good deed does make us feel better. A smile of thanks after you’ve helped a person lift a stroller off a train, or the gratitude in the eyes of a beggar when a few coins land on the bottom of their paper cup, will make you feel like a good person.
And most of us want to be good people. It’s the definition of “good” that varies.
Twelve years ago, Wife and I shook hands in the little kitchen of our little apartment in downtown Helsinki, on a closed deal. She’d start up a Swedish-language site and a discussion forum for expecting and new parents, and I would start up a Finnish-language site and a discussion forum for … hockey fans.
Wife’s site was up and running a few weeks later, and it turned into a big success.
Meanwhile, I was still working at my day job, while trying to get my writer friends to contribute to my new magazine that was going to come out that fall, still six months away. I wrote several articles myself, translated the ones my buddies – and brother-in-law – had written in English and Swedish, traveled to Sweden to meet with the designer who donated his time for my cause, negotiated with the printers, and the distribution channels, while trying to be a father and a boyfriend.
There’s a circus in town. The trucks and caravans rolled in late the night before, and by morning the big red tent has taken over the parking area of the town’s sports grounds. The entrance is set up, along with the popcorn stands, the candy store, and the ticket booth.
That same night, a bit before 7pm, the band starts to play. As soon as the audience find their seats inside the tent, the ushers close the doors, and with every beat the anticipation rises.
Then a tall man in shoes and pants that are several sizes too big stomps in with a big smile on his face, waving his hands like a conductor. The first laughs echo inside the tent – and the big man hasn’t done anything yet except show up.
What sticks to our minds really is a curious thing. What is a throwaway line to one of us may be something the other person remembers thirty years later, for one reason or another.
This morning I posted a photo of the Finnish language exam we had in our high school finals. Basically, it’s a list of 14 topics we could choose to write an essay about. I don’t remember what I wrote about, although I could make an educated guess, knowing the frame of mind of the teenage me.
The topics ranged from literary analysis to why sports matters to rise and fall of an empire to what makes me me.
I know my Finnish teacher used to like my musings on life so I’m pretty sure I wrote about what makes me me, but it may not have been my best work, and since we wrote two essays, my official submission may have been something completely different and come from the second set of topics.
Today was the day. The D day. Da D Day. The day my plan finally came into fruition. Which one of them, you ask? The one in which I stand in the middle of the street in downtown Stockholm, and stop all traffic.
There once was a man who couldn’t make decisions. He’d get up in the morning and then dive straight back under the covers.
“It was nice to get up, but it’s even nicer here,” he said to himself. “On the other hand, I can’t stay here all day … or can I?”
Ten minutes later, he got up and stumbled downstairs to kitchen. The rest of his family was already sitting at the table.
“Good morning, everybody,” said the man who couldn’t make decisions. “Oh, that looks good,” he said, pointing to his son’s bowl of cereal.
“And that!” he shouted, and pointed at his wife’s bowl of fruit. “And that!” he said, now looking at his daughter’s toast.
The man who couldn’t make decisions had a bowl of fruit, a bowl of cereal, and a sandwich for breakfast. He pulled up the newspaper his wife had left for him on the table and started to read about a football game two teams had played the day before.
Arianna Huffington, of The Huffington Post, has always done things her way. Now she’s challenging the age-old approach to news. That’s good news for good news.
The other day, I sort of decided to write a blog entry every day for the entire … well, for a while, and I just realized it’s time for me to go to bed, and the page is still blank.
“Caps, T-shirts, and sneakers, that’s what we need,” Wife told me the other day. I was a little surprised because that’s basically the contents of my entire wardrobe, but happy, because if you ask me, everybody needs caps, T-shirts, and sneakers.
Turned out that she wasn’t looking to add more caps, T-shirts, and sneakers into my wardrobe, but to take some out of there so she could send them to the refugees on Lesbos, Greece. Her office works with an organization that delivers clothes and other items to Greece to help the people who have nothing.
Like so many others, we wanted to help, simply because we want to help. Also, I’d like to see our kids become better people than I am and I’d like to see them become human beings who feel empathy, and sympathy, and who act. No, I’m not a sociopath, of course I feel empathy, and sympathy. It’s the last part that’s my weakness, which is why Wife is my hero. She’s a doer.
Anyway, we wanted to show Son and Daughter that everybody can do something.