Teapot People . . . and creating love!
Monday, November 25, 2002
©2002 San Francisco Chronicle
MY FRIEND LINDA says that there are two kinds of people — new-teapot people and broken-teapot people. She likes the broken-teapot people better, and so do I. I don’t trust anyone who hasn’t lost something.
New-teapot people think that they can expect to be new teapots for the rest of their lives and that broken-teapot people are careless or stupid or perhaps just unlucky. Some new-teapot people think broken-teapot people have cooties.
Mass culture pretends to like new-teapot people, but it really likes broken-teapot people. A bad marriage, a bad drug problem, a dying child — that’s the real currency of public adulation. Michael Jackson is a curious example of someone who broke himself, not once but many times. But of course people still care, because his voluntary mutilation was caused by inner demons.
I think that’s true, by the way, but that doesn’t make it less creepy. Jeffrey Dahmer was driven by inner demons too.
Eventually, most of the new-teapot people get broken, and welcomed to the club. They are not, perhaps, sadder but wiser, but they are definitely sadder. Grief is a natural and useful emotion; it is just unfortunate that we live in a culture that has found ways of papering over grief with piety.
“It was for the best,” we say, although sometimes it was not for the best, and no, I don’t want a hug right now, or a consoling quote from Rumi or the Bible. The five stages of grief are a highly artificial construct, and I do not for a moment think they represent some universal law. I do know there is one stage of grief. It’s called, “Well, God damn it all to hell, that sucks big time.” Lather, rinse, repeat.
(Point of personal privilege — some people read these columns for personal revelations. Few can be found. These are not messages from my life; these are amplifications of words scrawled on pieces of paper. I picked “Linda broken teapot” over “Medea cocktail party.” Maybe someday I may write “Medea cocktail party,” but it will not be because I have just murdered the king of Corinth.)
THE ONLY WAY out of the sadness box is love. Not someone loving you, although that sure helps. But really, it’s you discovering the urge to love that still lives within you. Sometimes this is very hard, but it is work that needs doing. There is still music and sunshine and balloons and a mechanical gorilla that plays the “Macarena.” (I have one of the latter.)
I do believe that love is not an emotion. There are all sorts of emotions that resemble love — lust, pity, compassion, trust — but they are not the same thing. Love is a series of actions, actions often taken against self-interest. Love involves walking it like you talk it. Love involves generosity of spirit. Love involves sacrifice. Love is not for sissies.
MANY RELIGIONS TEACH that we should love our enemies. This injunction always gives people a lot of trouble because it sure is a lot harder than loving your friends. Love involves forgiveness. Love involves hope when there is no rational reason to hope.
You may think I am making a political point, but I’m not. I do think it is possible to pray for Saddam Hussein without ignoring the threat he represents to world peace. I do think it is possible to pray for George Bush without ignoring the threat he represents to world peace. All prayers are answered, as they say, just sometimes not the way we would have wanted.
I am only saying that love is a series of actions before it is a feeling. It is acting as if. It is faking it until you make it. A broken-teapot person uses the damage to understand the damage in others — and merrily we roll along.
©2002 San Francisco Chronicle. Page D – 10