Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Helpers

While I wouldn't necessarily call what I'm feeling these days despair, I would say that I have been despairing. Splitting hairs? Maybe. Either way, these are difficult times. So I sought the advice of Tim Madigan...

    Tim, here's where I turn to you for advice. And it's not on Mister Rogers, or our documentary project (right now, anyway).

    I look at you and I think, "Here's a guy to model myself after: husband, father, journalist, author, good man." And I think I'm on track for most of the above. But here's the thing that worries me...

    I'm 35-year-old, which is far too young to be convinced that nothing is real, everything's for sale, the government is not to be trusted, and the End of Empire is near. A bunch of broad statements, to be sure. Let me try to be clearer.

    When I walk down the sidewalk, or drive down the street, or ride on the subway, I am saddened -- nay, angered -- by other's insensitivity. When I watch the news, I am overwhelmed by this administration's apparent insistence on alienating and angering the world around us. And when the commercials come on (or I see them in the subway, or on my coffee sleeve, or built into the programming itself), I lose hope. Nothing is real. And everything is for sale.

    I'm still probably not making any sense. I guess what I'm saying is that it feels like Mister Rogers left just in time: just before September 11th's goodwill faded, just before the Iraq War, just before Internet 2.0, just before Mass Media fell apart, just before commercials were everywhere all the time.

    And me? I feel like I'm here in Times Square stuck in the middle of all of that is shallow and complex. I've been counting on this documentary to not only save those who watch it, but save me, but the whole thing is moving soooo sloooowly (getting Bill on the phone? Finding time to go to L.A. to shoot? Forget it.).

    So, the advice part: how do you manage all of the cultural imperatives towards shallow and complex? How do you keep you life meaningful when it feels like everything is conspiring against it?

    Or you could just say, "Hang in there," and send me on my way...

    Hope that you're well.

    :}, Benjamin

Tim responded:

    The advice thing: I know how you feel. But I tend to fall back on something a black man, a dean at the Harvard Business School, told me when we were discussing the racism that is still so rampant in this country. How did he keep from giving in to despair, wondered. He said, something to the effect of, "You just have to look around you and see all the good people who are trying to make a difference." I think that's true. They're not hard to find. They are everywhere, the helpers, as Fred would say. You're one of them. So feel good about that, and keep the faith. Thanks for trusting me. Another Fredism, "your trusting confirms my trustworthiness." Indeed.



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