Recently, the US Department of Transportation sent me two dollars as a way of thanking me for filling out, or for even considering filling out, a survey about my transportation needs. Actually, though, the survey wasn’t addressed to me; it was addressed to any resident of my city who lives (or stays) where I live or who collects mail from my box and reads it.
While two dollars is not twenty dollars or two hundred dollars or two thousand dollars, two dollars is not nothing. Sure, I have received other incentives to take an action I might not otherwise take: free stamps, free Christmas stickers, free return address labels, and free quarters taped to the mailers they accompanied. But pocketing two unearned bucks places me more squarely on the road to shame than does nabbing address labels, say. If I took the two dollars without responding to the survey, I would have a difficult time seeing this as anything other than a theft, if only on a karmic level. If, however, I took the labels without doing what had been asked of me, I am pretty certain I would escape God’s wrath because God knows I could never find in myself any interest in using such things.
Were I a member of the other political party, I might take the money, crumple up the survey, and rant about big government wasting my hard-earned cash. I might not even recycle the paper it was printed on because I could see myself thinking that God has put a never-ending supply of trees on this green earth for my benefit alone, and I might also think that if I recycle I am just supporting another one of those government scams designed to bilk me out of even more of my money.
But me, I feel gratitude for the money not only because two bucks is not nothing but also because I can well imagine the drama surrounding any decision made to stuff fistfuls of dollars into envelopes addressed to no one in particular and to send these out into the world with the knowledge that much of the cash could end up in the trash bin with the rest of the unopened junk mail. To be sure it was a gamble, but, at a time when data dictates who gets funding, it was a good one. I might not complete the survey today or tomorrow, but each day I lollygag the good angel sitting on my shoulder will be whispering into my ear that I need to get it done if I want to make it through those Pearly Gates.
I am a big fan of British crime shows and will watch just about anything produced by the BBC. The mayhem I get to see allows me to exercise the darker side of my nature so I don’t actually have to go out and commit a homicide. I admit, though, that I have given it thought.
After watching all eight episodes of the British crime series Marcella, which just came out on Netflix, I am persuaded that I need to be more selective about my viewing choices.
Throughout, I kept wondering what an innocent who accidentally landed on this planet would think about the human race if this show were its only exposure to people on Earth. Perhaps it would think that
- Nowhere is one human safe from the inevitable treachery and betrayal of every other human.
- Most humans want to kill or maim other humans.
- Humans, especially men, prefer to harm others with knives and guns, but glass shards will suffice when these are not available.
- Most men are sadistic, and violence is as natural to them as breathing.
- Immigrant men are especially brutal and remorseless, particularly if they are from Eastern Europe.
- Among humans, there is one asexual, shy man who is made the butt of every joke.
- Most men are murderers, but a scattering also are adulterers.
- Most women and gay men are mentally ill, some extremely and violently so.
- Women who are not mentally ill are cold, cruel, and aloof.
- Humans appear to die prematurely and preternaturally.
- A human has psychic powers (or access to CCTV footage) and knows exactly where all other humans have been or are going to be at each moment.
- A man who marries an older woman would actually rather have sex with her beautiful daughter’s dresses.
- One must steer clear of the thin human wearing a hoodie.
- Every human being is inextricably connected to every other human being.
On this last point I would have to agree.