White lettering on a black t-shirt: “Dead Women Are Easy.” The guy wearing it puffed on his cigarette and walked back and forth in front of the cafe where I sat. He walked a dog that would make a gerbil look robust. Yes, of course I was offended, of course I was angered. But I was also bemused. Why would someone want to put that out into the world? Why would he want anyone to think, upon seeing him, “Now there goes a guy who is so driven by sexual impulses he’d rather practice necrophilia than be with a real, live, thinking woman,” or “There goes a guy so repellent the only woman he could hope to have sex with is a dead one?”
I’m not writing this to take pot shots at him. I am writing to pose that question in a larger way: Why do we put messages out into the world that are thoughtless, aggressive and offensive? Or maybe a better question is, Why do we not think more about what we put out into the world? I don’t mean for these questions to be rhetorical.
The flip side of this question is a rant my kids are familiar with: take care what you allow into your mind. If you watch a show where a zombie eats off the face of someone else, that now resides in your brain somewhere. We don’t always have control over what we take in (witness the above t-shirt), so when we do have control, use it wisely. But of course these ideas are connected. If I am not in the habit of protecting my own mind from things that might harm me, I am also unlikely to attend to the idea that what I do might affect another. (I want to add here – because I am channeling my stepson, Chris, at the moment – that I also recognize we are all different. Something that might be deeply troubling to one person could be no big deal to someone else.)
By way of denouement, I offer this quote from Stephen Jenkinson: “Creation longs to be seen, through the singing and response, or the gesture that you make, or your willingness to dress in your finest so that there’s no such thing as work clothes anymore.” Here’s to humanity singing, and gesturing, and clothing itself more intentionally; here’s to humanity figuratively wearing its finest more, so that what we see when we look in the mirror – and what others see when they pass us on the street – is our intention to make the world a finer place.