The Thing is

“It’s Your Thing—do what you wanna do.”

That’s the title and first line of a 1969 Isley Brother’s song. It has a sort of live and let live vibe to it, doesn’t it? The zeitgeist. More on that in a minute.

The other day I was sitting in a “waiting” room at the AM/PM; waiting. That’s what you do. I overheard this conversation between a lady and her brother-in-law who had driven her to the clinic:

HER: What are you doing on that phone; Facebook?
HIM: Candy Crush.
HER: You really like that, huh?
HIM: It’s sort of my Thing.

Your THING?! What kind of guy makes Candy Crush his Thing? Maybe I’m judging too quickly. I don’t actually know what Candy Crush is. Maybe if I tried it, it would be my Thing too. Probably not.

Then I had this moment where I imagined asking the guy, in a condescending manner, “What do you mean, Candy Crush is your Thing? How can that be? Is it your only Thing? Or is it just your Thing when your sitting in waiting rooms with your sister-in-law?”

Then I imagined him saying, “What’s it to you, wise-ass?” I imagined him to be the kind of guy who would use a word like that, while giving you a look like maybe Candy is the only thing he would like to Crush.

Then I imagined him saying, “So, what’s your Thing?” And I panicked, because I couldn’t think of a Thing right then. I mean I had already scrolled through Instagram for new photos of the Grand-Girls, and now I was pretty much just checking out the people in the waiting room trying to guess their ailments and wondering about my chances of getting out of there without catching whatever it was they were spreading. But that’s not a good, manly Thing really, is it?

So for the rest of the time in the waiting room I occupied my mind in a kind of transcendental survey of noble Things I could adopt as my own. That kind of stuff has always been important to me—well for at least as long as I can remember. I believed I wanted to pursue noble things, worthwhile things, at least as I understood them to be.

I worry sometimes about becoming irrelevant—not having a Thing, one of those old guys who has been bypassed by the pace of technology and popular culture and the vitality of life. I used to know stuff. There was a time when I could have told you for instance, which artists were up for the top Grammy awards. Now I recognize few of them. I don’t stay up late enough to see them on Jimmy Fallon, so I’m out of touch. And frankly, I’m becoming so geezerish that I’m of the sincere opinion that most of them are not truly Grammy worthy musicians anyway.

I used to have a utilitarian understanding of the kids’ slang and could use some of it in sentences in a way that seemed natural and credible. You might say I had my on fleek moments.

Maybe being able to converse with the kids isn’t a worthwhile Thing for me anymore. Maybe I’ll keep trying though, and that will make me one of those corny old, cardigan guys. I’ll say stuff and the Grand-Girls will roll their eyes and say, “Oh, Pops, you’re silly.” And maybe I’ll say, “That’s sort of my Thing.”

There was a time, not so long ago, I would have said my Thing was being a “creative catalyst”. It all started when I attended a meeting in New York City with a group called the International Arts Movement. I became a part of the movement and even served on their board of directors. It gave me a language, a vision, and a plan to encourage young creatives, and to look for ways to bring them together in a catalytic way to collaborate and to work as only artists can. It was my Thing for several years and I loved it. I cherish the friendships and memories of that experience.

I am convinced, more than ever, that our world needs the beauty, goodness and truth that art and the creative processes alone can bring. We need creatives to do their Thing and we need it more desperately every day.

There’s another line in that Isley Brother’s song that says:

"I'm not trying to run your life, I know you wanna do what's right."

That brings me back to the start of this post—the 60s zietgiest; or my version of it. The live-and-let-live kool-aid was sweetened for me as a journalism major at the University of Tulsa. We were taught that news reporting, REAL news reporting was objective. “Don’t make value judgements,” we were taught, a guiding principle I tended to think applied to life beyond the reporting of news as well. This synced with my desire to not have my values judged, and my Judeo-Christian upbringing to “Judge not, lest you be judged.”

Maybe that’s the part of the current zeitgeist (as I perceive it) that is so disconcerting for me. It seems that “lines” are being drawn so hard, so furiously, so emotionally. Maybe a better song for the day is Tina Turner’s mid-80s hit, “What’s love got to do with it?” and her cynical lyric, “what’s love but a second hand emotion?”

Don’t get me wrong I am still hopeful and a bit idealistic. I do believe that there is something within us that will prevail. After all, we are created in the image of a Creator, who created us with a capacity to understand that it all comes down to love, ultimately and eternally.

So, my apologies to waiting-room guy, if you’re listening, “I’m sorry for judging. If Candy Crush is your Thing, crush it my brother, crush it!”