A Culture of Gratitude

Whew, yesterday. That was weird. But anyway, over at Facebook, if you scroll down in the comments, you can see a couple of photos from the shoot.

I also got to run into Ranger Doug last night at the Marty Stuart thing and he even remembered me (which was funny, considering that my boss didn’t, for a second, recognize me, because I was wearing lipstick). And we had a really lovely reminiscence for a moment about working together on his book. I got to stand very close to Connie Smith, but I chickened out on saying anything to her. Marty was lovely and very grateful.

One thing I see pretty regularly in town is people trying to honor the connections that got them where they are. And I appreciate that tendency because I feel every day grateful to Charles Wolfe for helping my early career and for no reason, since he didn’t know me from Adam. And to Dr. J.’s parents for taking me in when I first moved to town. And to the Butcher for helping me be able to stay her. And even to Chris Wage who is, in his own way, the catalyst for this movie even happening, I think. I’m not sure how else the producer even knew who the fuck I am.

I am so very lucky.

Which reminds me, I was excited to recently learn that “shlemazel” is a real thing, not just some gibberish in the Laverne and Shirley opening, which seems stupid that I didn’t figure that out before, since obviously they’re not going to give valuable real estate in a theme song to nonsense. But I grew up a very sheltered asshole and I strive to be better. So, here we are. The point being that a shlemazel is a person without luck or who has luck, but only bad luck. And I am tickled and fascinated by the idea of there being this word for this phenomenon.

You could have this problem (or a similar problem, respecting the vast cultural differences) in the Viking era. Since luck or fortune was either a component of the great law that rules the universe or closely tied to it, you both could cultivate a certain amount of good fortune for yourself and just have it–either inherited through a lucky family or just because fate smiled upon you. But that also meant people could just be unlucky, too, through no fault of their own. Just that they and the great flow of the orlog (or ur-law or overarching rule of luck, however you want to understand it) were out of sync.

It’s easy to see it with fresh eyes in a word like “shlemazel” when you know to say “mazel tov” when you want to wish someone well, to wish them good luck. There’s “mazel” in both spots.

But this similar concept of luck is still wrapped intimately into our language in “hap” which, does, indeed, mean luck or fortune. When you’re happy, you are literally in a state of good luck. When something happens, it is because fate is playing out. Happenstance is luck or fortune playing out in ways we don’t know or can’t anticipate. A hapless guy is one without luck.

We’re all the time using words that used to hold profound and meaningful theological ideas about how the world works, that still, I’d say, contain those implications, we just don’t realize it.

But especially speaking of lucky, I ran into Nina Cardona and she offered to take me through Downtown Presbyterian when we can find the time. I cannot wait.

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5 thoughts on “A Culture of Gratitude

  1. Happy for your good string of positive payback. You could have just mentioned to Connie Smith that you have mutual friends; it’s all it would have taken.. So, you already knew that schlemiel is a real word too? The old old joke is that the schlemiel drops the hammer–on the schlemazel’s head. (A third guy says “I knew that would happen.”)

  2. I learned they were both real words at the same time! And it felt like I had been missing one of the greatest jokes of Laverne and Shirley all along. Here was this wonderful hint of a comedic tradition they were a part of and I just missed it.

  3. No, the third person says, “the way I heard it it was soup, not a hammer, and he drops it in his lap,” and that means the third person is kibbitzing, which is also really a word.

  4. so, if I’m understanding things right the guy on Hee Haw who laments in the song “if it weren’t for bad luck I’d have no luck at all” — that’s a “schlemazel”? Awesome.

  5. Over the years I’ve heard a few different stories like Barry’s, explaining the difference between a schlemiel and a schlemazel. I’m sure if you googled it youd turn up a lot of good ones. The essential difference seems to be (in my interpretation) that the schlemiel invites trouble but the schlemazel simply can’t avoid it.

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