Friday, June 17, 2011

Nobody Loves Everybody

I’m new to big city life and the unbelievable volume of graffiti that is just about everywhere here. On the sides of bridges and high up on buildings (how do they get there), on walls adjacent to railroad tracks (I thought that third rail was enough to keep people out of those areas), on glass and windows and even on stoops and curbs. And on one curb I saw the words Nobody Loves Everybody – and that got me thinking.

I get the fact that some of these taggers (hey, do I know my lingo) are hugely creative – if you don’t believe me just check out the figures they draw, the pseudo-signatures they use and the scope of their work. There was an article about this in the New York Times that suggests graffiti may actually be more mainstream than anybody thought

But I wasn’t aware that some of these works could be so deeply emotive - Nobody Loves Everybody certainly is that. So how does a kid with a can of spray paint get to know something like this? Maybe he or she heard someone else say it, maybe it’s even a common phrase used on the street or it could have been in a movie or sitcom and just stuck with them. In any case, to spray it on a stoop or curb is an interesting way to spread a thought.

Forget about the fact that there are geniuses and agencies who labor hard to get some brand or snippet across to the public – this guerrilla marketing tactic (another street term) is far more direct, and may in fact go viral (I’m on a roll here) more quickly than other more commonly used tactics. So I did a little informal survey – I asked several people who had walked past this Nobody Loves Everybody statement if they saw it and what they thought: 11 out of 17 answered “yes”. Conclusion: this tagger’s work was pretty effective in conveying the message.

I remember in College there was bridge that ran over a deep ravine – and painted on the rocks below: When you’re dead, you’re dead! Pretty effective anti-suicide campaign – and in fact it was talked about widely because the suicide rate at Cornell actually did go down that year. But that’s a straight forward and targeted message aimed at a very specific problem. Getting back to the here and now in Brooklyn, this broad yet thoughtful Nobody Loves Everybody is not so straight forward. Here’s my take on it:

• We all care for some but not for everyone and that’s ok. In the end, however, you should be kind and respectful to all.

• It’s okay not to love everyone – that would be too much to ask. But make sure that the ones you do love know about it.

• Maybe it’s a challenge to really understand your true feelings and to act accordingly. Because if you don’t, then you and others lose.

• Be confident in your true feelings and let them show. All anyone can ask is for your honesty and openness.

So if my half-baked sample was at all indicative, then let me extrapolate a bit more: we’re all on this planet for a reason and how we act towards others is important. And whether we care or don’t care about someone, it should be for the right reasons and we should act accordingly and appropriately. It’s only right and fair, and it’s how we want others to treat us. I guess this is how people really get along, especially in someplace as densely populated as New York City. But whether you’re here or in some other less populated area, as a fellow traveler on life’s journey it’s important to be honest, real and considerate. I’m not saying you have to go get a can of spray paint – how you speak and act should do it.

My quote and message this week are about taking responsibility for and ownership of the things you do:

“Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility.” -Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906 –1945) was a German Lutheran pastor and theologian. He was also a participant in the German resistance movement against Nazism and a founding member of the Confessing Church. He was one of the few church leaders who stood in courageous opposition Adolph Hitler and his policies.

What are you thinking about today? Every day brings lots of thoughts and at the end of the day how much do you have to show for it? You have to be ready when thoughts happen: sometimes you think of things, sometimes others think of them for you and other times you’re just around when things come up. Doesn’t matter – you have to be ready for everything. Being ready means being responsible enough to do what’s needed – preparing for and treating things as if you own them, approaching what you do thoughtfully and creatively and dealing with everything effectively and appropriately. No matter what you do, others will notice and they’ll make judgments about you and you’ll end up with a reputation (good or bad). So be ready today for whatever happens today; do what you have to do today to be the best you can be today; own your actions today.

Stay Well!

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