It was a last-minute decision to see Jerry Seinfeld at The Fabulous Fox Theatre. Heading out the door for a run turned into jumping in the shower and a glass-half-full assessment that, yes, my hair can be salvaged without washing. There’d be no time to eat before the show and the ticket price still hovered between special occasion and splurge, but wow, it was money well spent.
The laughs started with the opening act and only grew louder and deeper after Seinfeld took the stage. Our seats were in the balcony…in the very back row. But even from a distance, it felt like hanging out with an old friend. Jerry (old friend = first name, right?) distills the mundane into bust a gut humor better than anyone. He started off by lamenting the inconvenience of a night out on the town, holding up a mirror for the audience to recognize our generally miserable nature. Did you complain about how to get to the theatre? Parking? The cold wind? The logistics of dinner? Umm…guilty. It’s brilliant how he shines a light on the absurdity of human nature, but then makes you laugh about it.
As Jerry seamlessly transitioned into the next set of jokes, we arrived at the storyline that really stuck with me. He poked fun at our nearly universal tendency to hurry. The ‘I gotta go’ mentality. We rush to the airport, then can’t wait to get through security. We count the minutes until it’s time to board, then it’s, “why aren’t we taking off yet?” followed by, “why can’t we get off the plane?” and “where are the bags, why aren’t the bags here yet?” Sound familiar? I’m certainly not capturing how funny this whole thing was, but the way Jerry summed it up put a pause in my laughter. He said, “we are obsessed with being anywhere but where we are.” Light bulb. What a shot of truth. And jokes aside, that is not how I want to live.
The evidence to back up Seinfeld’s statement is everywhere. It’s every single person in the doctor’s office or check out line staring at their phones. It’s the students scrolling Facebook during lecture and families eating dinner in front of the TV. We are obsessed with being anywhere but where we are. We are squeezing out any spare moments for self-reflection or conversation or even recovery from the fire hose of information coming at as all day, every day. It makes total sense, but it’s not a status quo I’m willing to settle for.
The best way I know how to fight our tendency to look ahead and to hurry is to be aware of it. There are not two groups of people—those who magically have the ability to stay present and those who don’t. It’s a learned skill that requires practice. An easy way to do that is to get stuck in traffic. Easy enough, right? The frustration no doubt creeps in, but instead of getting caught up in it, try stepping back and just watching. Same with social media. Notice the urge to open the Facebook app (I’ve had it no less than 15 times while writing this) and let it pass. Fill that mindless scrolling with breath. Channel the super-human observation skills all the best comedians have, and you’ll likely find something to laugh about. Maybe send up a little prayer of gratitude to your freshly minted self-help guru. Who might that be? Jerry Seinfeld, of course! No joke.
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