I watched a video recently of a Moth reading. If you don’t know what The Moth is, it’s a group that hosts short readings, brief recitations by people who get up in front of an audience and tell their stories. Sort of like a poetry slam.
In this particular video, which is from 2012 and the most-watched of the Moth readings on YouTube, comedian Anthony Griffith talks about his two-year-old daughter dying during the same period that his career as a standup was taking off. One, two, then three appearances on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, during the same timeline of his daughter’s illness and death. It was intense and powerful. The pain was palpable, his anguish raw and true. Nine minutes of despair, expressed so purely I felt shaken.
Then I noticed that 158 viewers had given the video “thumbs down.” I wondered briefly what there could possibly be to dislike about the video. Then I remembered the culture I’m living in – a flotsam-covered sea of snark and ridicule displayed with the ease of social media; fast, easy and unthinking judgment where everyone’s a celebrity judge and the whole world is auditioning for their favor.
It’s a very short distance from ridicule to cruelty. There’s something casually cruel about the way we’re able to dismiss one another now. A man makes himself extremely vulnerable for a few minutes on stage and 158 strangers dismiss it. A woman (or a girl or a boy) pursues a dream, however small, and finds themselves humiliated by people who have no time for their own dreams but always have a few seconds to quash the aspirations of others.
You can do it on Amazon. You can do it on Goodreads. You can to it on YouTube and Twitter and Facebook (although to its credit, Facebook does not allow “dislikes” – something I once thought strange and now appreciate).
If I could be anything at the end of any day, it would be kind. Kindness, like love, is a higher calling, a difficult calling. It challenges me to save the one-stars and the thumbs-down for those things in myself that need work, healing and examination. In a world of thumbs turned easily down, I would prefer to have no thumbs at all.