Practical Questions About Basic Human Desires

Attempts at practical answers.

Posted Oct 30, 2020

Polmerek, CC 3.0, Wikimedia
Source: Polmerek, CC 3.0, Wikimedia

The following composite questions amalgamate queries and thoughts I’ve gleaned from clients, friends, even strangers I've chatted with in the Trader Joe’s line.

Dear Marty,

I’m a confirmed atheist. Even though for some crazy reason, decidedly Christian names like Mary and Cathy pop into my head, there’s no way I’m going back to the church, religion, or even any spirituality that talks of a higher power. Yet I’m feeling the need for comfort. Life is hard and seeming to get harder amid the COVID restrictions, economic shutdown, and political, racial, and gender roilings. Any suggestions?

Dear Atheist,

Might any of the following help?

Walk the earth with kindness first. Even if it’s just a nod to a passerby and even though you’re wearing a mask, it can make a difference to acknowledge the person, perhaps even conveying that you’re aware of the shared challenges we’re all going through.

Of course, there are other ways to show kindness. A few examples: Have conversations in which you seek the deepest level the two of you seem comfortable with. Volunteer to help someone you deem worthy. Even just toss newspapers left on the sidewalk onto their doorstep. Perhaps paradoxically, such kindnesses can provide you with comfort.

Don't just participate in but take a moment to appreciate life’s simple pleasures. My favorites are morning coffee, a shower, playing with my dog, and, soon, enjoying kids' excitement as they come to our door for trick-or-treating.

Are your relationships a net source of comfort? Should you spend more or less time with certain people in your life? Meet new people?

You mentioned that thinking of quintessentially Christian women’s names provides some comfort. Sometimes, that's because they evoke gentleness, peacefulness to you. So might your thinking of them be a perfectly fine self-soothing behavior?

Some people, including my father and I, gain comfort mostly from being ethically productive, for many hours per week, whether for pay or not. Does that hold any appeal?

We all need comfort, perhaps especially these days. I hope that one or more of the aforementioned can be comforting to you.

Dear Marty,

I’m nothing special but have this hunger to give a talk, maybe a number of talks, on all manner of things: policy, politics, love, work, but no one has ever asked me to speak. And because I have no credentials and no track record, I’d feel audacious asking some organization to let me give a talk, even a virtual one. Any advice?

Dear Would-Be Speaker,

The desire to self-express is common. I have that desire too. Here are some possibilities for how someone without a track record might get to speak at least quasi-publicly:

Make one or more YouTube videos, each on a topic you're eager to talk about. Keep them to just a few minutes long and, unless you’re a professional reader, don’t script it—you’ll sound stilted, with chemistry leached. Better to have "ums" and retracements in a talk guided merely by talking points than a perfect but sterile read. Even if no one watches it, you’ll likely feel good about having made it. For most people, the pleasure of self-expression comes more from the act of creation than from the audience’s size.

Perhaps post the link to an appropriate LinkedIn group, professional association forum, or other appropriate group. For example, if you want to urge voting for Biden, you might post the link on your local Democratic Central Committee's Facebook or Instagram page.

Ask a local librarian or religious leader if you might give a live virtual talk?

More basic, do you want to invite a trusted friend for coffee or a drink and trot your talk by him or her. (Yes, socially distanced with very good air circulation.)

No need to apologize for your desire to share your views. It’s a most basic human desire.

I read this aloud on YouTube.