### Sue & Brian Are So Cool
Silence hung in the air for a moment after Todd spoke. Almost haphazardly, softly, mainly to myself, I reiterated his last words: “Sue and Brian brought over their own vegetables.” The phrase fell out of my mouth as I moved a few dishes into the sink. Reflectively, in the next moment, I added the all-too-common question, “right?”
“I mean, they did,” Todd volleyed back. He brought life back into what otherwise might have been a finished conversation.
“They fucking brought their own vegetables,” I said, again.
“Sue and Brian brought over their own fucking vegetables.”
“It’s just that they knew we would be comfortable with that. Like, that’s how cool they are…like, ‘I needed to cut veggies, and I wanted to visit. I’m sure they wouldn’t mind, I’ll just cut my veggies there.’”
Allow me to share with you some backstory behind this moment: I was visiting Todd near Denver. Sue and Brian, mutual friends–more mine than theirs–drove over, after work and after dinner. While sitting at the table chit-chatting, and before a few rounds of a card game, Sue and I peeled and cut veggies for her next day’s Crock-Pot. After they left, Todd and I were talking about how cool Sue and Brian were. I believe the formal proof of how cool Sue and Brian are goes like this.
Formal Proof of How Cool Sue and Brian Are
- Sue and Brian are worthy of our mutual adoration
- Sue and Brian brought their own vegetables over to prep
- Q.E.D. (Quod Erat Demonstrandum):
- Sue and Brian are worthy of our mutual adoration
Because, really, who besides the coolest of people, brings over their own vegetables to prep?
### H is for Hintergedanke
I have this *Hintergedanke* about the above proof of coolness. Hintergedanke is a fabulous German word. Hintergedanke means a thought held in the very-far-back reaches of our thinking. This compound noun, made of two German-Yiddish cognates, means “a hidden agenda” or “an ulterior motive.” The etymology looks like this:
HINTER – *far from here* As in “way away, in the hinterlands.” Usually said while gesticulating yonder with two sweeping movements of the downside turned wrist.
GEDANKE – *thought* As in “Vos habn ir gedank?” (What have you been thinking?) Said with optional portions of interest and love
I do not have a Hintergedanke that any of my grandfathers did or did not use this word. About that, I lack certainty, and I am a little curious. A Hintergedanke is something more covert–like knowing that you really do know why you consistently show up late to a job you claim you like. My Hintergedanke about Sue and Brian and the vegetables is that their bringing the veggies to prep doesn’t make them cool. It’s that I think they are cool, and therefore their action is charming.
### Thoughts determine reality (more than would be convenient)
If you dislike someone, the way they hold their spoon will offend you. If you like someone, they could drop a plate of food in your lap, and you wouldn’t care. – Oscar Wilde (attributed)
Maybe the fact that they brought their own vegetables isn’t proof that they are cool? If they were people who annoyed me, I am certain that, after they left, snark might have been made:
“Can you believe those assholes? They thought it was ok to bring their vegetables to cut at someone else’s house! Do they go to other people’s homes to fold their laundry too?”
“The idiots didn’t even bring a cutting board!”
“‘Honey, don’t forget for our visit night, we need to pack six-gallon ziplocs and four, quarts. Peelers, knives, bags of veggies. Am I possibly forgetting anything?”
Maybe they are just cool (or annoying) based on what I think of them?
In my father’s words, “It’s good if you like it.”
The Hintergedanke is this: what I like or am annoyed by is not rooted in the external world (what they do) alone. My internal biases color my present experience. Let’s conveniently overlook again that we have agency over our experience of reality.
### My mind controls how obnoxious people are?!
I have another example of this. The other day, I posted to FaceBook a message about me having a hard time. I asked people NOT TO CONTACT ME, UNLESS they were members of my immediate inner circle, those with whom I share my private life. Approximately six people ignored the limiting range of my request. I had two opposite thoughts about these boundary violators:
- Person type-A: How dare they?
- Person type-B: Isn’t that so lovely that they would contact me anyway?
The same exact action sparked two different reactions within me.
- Person A texted, and I thought “That’s so *annoying!*”, “How dare they!”, and “Of course someone like *them* would think it’s all right to violate my request!”
- Person B texted, and I thought “That’s so *delightful!*” “How sweet they are,” and “Of course someone like them knows it’s all right to text.”
How could this be? The only explanation is that the distinction is in my head.
Perhaps the people who annoy us do because we have decided they are annoying!
Let’s spend more time with cool people like Sue & Brian — the people who brought their own vegetables over. And, let’s put this Hintergedanke back to the parts of our mind we ignore.
HELLO, JEWS My four-year incarnation as a rabbi in the form most people would recognize began in 1997. I stood in front of 750-plus people to lead High Holy Day services at Temple Judea in Tarzana, California. This wealthy suburb of 40,000 named for the estate of...