Wednesday, May 25, 2011

How Are You?

Can someone think of an alternate question to ask that starts a general conversation and shows I care that doesn't force the person I'm asking to place Life and existence somewhere on a linear Good Vs. Bad chart?

When people ask me how I am, I usually say "Good"--not because I'm being compliant with societal norms, but because, unless something horrible is happening AT THE MOMENT, I am Good. I have a lot of Good at my fingertips all the time, so I feel like it's only respectful to the powers that be if I acknowledge it. I mean, obviously, if I just dropped an ice cream cone on the ground, and a passerby asks how I am, I have permission to say, "Horrid! Simply dreadful!" and, like, wail at the melty dessert.

Graduation cake. June 2010. From my Wisconsin Aunt.

It's a very weird habit we've formed as humans. When we take a moment to evaluate how we are, it's either "good" or "bad"--very rarely just "happening" (which is actually all it ever is: happening). We usually end up coming to a polarizing conclusion (for me, it's semi-mathmatical: work was a plus today, financial concern negative, hanging out with LC positive, super stuffy nose negative...I guess if class is good tonight I will be "good." But if it's bad, I will be "bad.") Why can't we just "be"? Better yet--why can't we be "good" and cast of the "bad" as flakes of insignificance. Because the Good is far more enveloping than we ever realize. A billion Good things happened to me today I don't even consider, and I fill a page in my journal with gratitude every night, and yet, tonight I might have forgotten the fresh green beans I ate at dinner, the fact that I own a sportsbra, that I found a typo in a form I was about to send out just before I sent it. It's poor practice to think of good and bad as equals--swinging the scales day by day. It's simply not so!

Grant us all from earth to rise,
and to strain with eager eyes
towards the promised Heavenly prize!
We beseech thee, hear us!


Benjo said...

I think "How are you?" is a great question, and that it doesn't have to be on a linear good vs. bad scale. Most people tend to default to one of those because their easy and don't require an awkward pause to think. I think the way you ask it is the important determining factor in what kind of response you're going to get. In my mind, there are few questions a person could ask that are more deeply empathetic and touching as the proper asking of the question "How are you?". If you're just casually asking, then maybe ask it with a slightly different phrasing like "How's your life?" or "How does it go for you?" or if you can remember what they're doing "How is [x] going?" If you're really interested in starting a general conversation, then it doesn't begin and end with "How are you?" I like the John Stewart approach of asking one real question followed by like seven baby questions in rapid succession that both gives the guest a chance to think about their response as well as gives you a chance to throw in followup questions that might make it easier for them to recall what they are going to answer you with. Dunno if that makes sense. Boop.

Benjo said...

*they're* easy. Good lord.

AliceOutOfContext said...

This was exactly the kind of insight I was looking for.