By Denton Josey, Features Editor
Hell is other people.
That was the opinion of French philosoper Jean-Paul Sartre, but I disagree. After thinking about it some, I believe living without other people would be much worse.
Recently in my Bible class, the professor told us to respond to a situation. He asked us to imagine living in the early 1400s and somehow wound up stranded on an island, alone, with no hope of being rescued. He said the island had shelter and plenty of food, so we would live for a long time. With that scenario, he asked us our thoughts.
No one was super excited about the idea of living the rest of life alone on an island. Some folks even brought up suicide. I never decided what I would do, but the exercise got me thinking about why we live the way we do and what drives our decision-making.
I’ve concluded we make most of our decisions in life because of other people. Like in the upcoming Will Smith movie, “I Am Legend,” where in the previews he’s the last guy on earth, I don’t think life would be fun alone. Being able to do whatever you want doesn’t sound as fun if you’re all alone; there’d be no one to laugh with or impress or share the fun with.
Author Don Miller wrote about watching actor Tom Arnold as he was interviewed about his autobiography.
The interviewer asked Arnold why he wrote the book, and he said something to the effect of, “So other people will like me. That’s pretty much the reasoning behind all the things I do.”
I sympathize with this line of thinking. However, it has its problems. Sometimes other people don’t care what you do or whether you did something for them; sometimes putting other people first can backfire.
Recently I experienced some of the ‘backfire’ that comes with making decisions with other people in mind.
A friend needed to borrow my car, so I let him. He called two hours later and began with this:
“Hey man, I’m real sorry. Something crazy happened with your car. See, there was this 18-wheeler and.” I had stopped breathing at this point, picturing my sad little car split in-two. “Just kidding, man. Your car is fine,” he said. I laughed that nervous laughter that only comes with the relief of a disaster averted. He then asked if he could borrow it for the rest of the night and I said sure.
A little before midnight, my phone rang again.
“OK, this time something actually happened,” he said.
My friend picked up his friend in my car who proceeded to feel motion sickness and vomited in my car. Their solution was to roll down the windows, clean what they could see in the dark and Febreze the stench to death.
The cleaning job they did wasn’t quite complete. For starters, my driver’s window isn’t supposed to roll down because it doesn’t roll up, so I’m stuck with that just in time for cold weather. Second, they missed some spots on the seat, so it smells bad and the orange spots on the upholstery stick out pretty obviously. Third, they didn’t clean the passenger side window, so when I roll it up it looks like the inside of a bachelor’s microwave crossed with a paintball splatter.
So these days I drive in my car with the windows down. I’ll clean it eventually, but this is the time of year where homework takes priority over things like cleanliness. It was bad enough driving around with no heat, as my car has many missing features, but now I experience a refreshing ride to school in the mornings and try to thaw out when I get to class.
I have other stories about helping people and paying for it (I literally paid for it this summer – I offered to carry something for someone and broke it, so I had to buy a new one) as I’m sure we all do. But I contend it is worth it to help people. The
guys who borrowed my car? They are awesome, and I’d let them have it again if they asked. (They’d just have to put up with the smell inside and the windows down.)
Hell is not other people. I really don’t know what hell is like, but I know people are what make life great. So when life splatters orange vomit on your car, Febreze it to death and move on ’cause people are worth it, every time.