Monday, October 18, 2010

The Letter and the Spirit

Since Hopkins is lately grown silent (as he is wont to do), I generally write to him once a week and wait to see if anything I've written piques his interest enough for him to reply. Often as not, well, zero response, and it doesn't surprise me. Most of what I write to him is in regard to technological things, sometimes verging over into my physics hobby, although I probably sound like a raging moron then- he's actually a brilliant physicist, despite having not finished slogging through academe. I try not to get too personal- because trust me, we lived in each other's pockets for almost three years- and I also know, instinctively, that personal is a guarantee that the e-mail goes to trash in under a nanosecond. I'm too old and I've known him too long to pull any punches, though. I write what I want to and don't worry too much about whether or not it offends him- I know, and I know he knows, that there's a subtext to all the thousands of things I don't write, or ask. I'm still sitting here, waiting for him to tell me. I'll be waiting a long, long time, folks. That's just how it was, is, and evermore shall be.

Which brought me to thinking about following the letter of what was said versus continuing in the full spirit of intent.

Where he was concerned, I followed the letter, but not the intent. I did as he asked; I didn't wait. I forced myself to behave as if (even as much as I could not accept that) he was gone for good the moment he left for Johns Hopkins. I've owned the consequences of it since 1986. I did as I was asked, but not as I believed, and it was not a wise decision.

Here are a few observations on various sins of omission:


It's always preferable to undercommit than to make plans with someone, when your intention is to cut them as short as possible- i.e., throwing somebody a bone isn't very nice.


Another example: don't get somebody's hopes up and then vanish when you get cold feet. Don't ask someone to do something and then not give them a means of following up to confirm- just don't ask.

Also, don't make promises that you can't or won't keep. If you honestly can't follow through, that's different, but promising something that you had no plans to do at all is cruel.

Oh, and here's the piece de resistance: guys, don't ask a girl for her number if you never plan to use it. It sends the wrong message. See, she thought you might be interested, when you were, see above, throwing her a bone. It's pretty unkind. Just take my word for it. If you ask for my number, then call me...or spare me the embarrassment of realizing you never meant to.

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