As a government employee, succession planning is a common theme at my office; civil service is out of fashion, and we are what in HR circles is termed an “aging workforce.” What this means to me as the staff writer is that I spend a disconcerting amount of time writing death notices for our internal communications. I hate to say it, but we have boilerplate for this sort of thing.
This week, I had to write another announcement detailing the availability of grief counselors in the conference rooms at 10. But this time the lost coworker was not a retired former employee, not particularly old, and not ill. I saw her in the lunchroom on the day she died. I can’t remember if I said hi. I probably didn’t – I was stressed about a deadline that day. Hours later she died.
In government work, as in most places, I’m sure, there is a fair amount of crap to deal with. Most of the stress in my job comes not from any real-world problems that need solutions, but from the stupid ways that people poke each other, whether for fun or just from carelessness. It’s easy to get caught up in politics and deadlines; it’s easy to be cynical and bitter. But it’s stupid.
When someone dies suddenly, everyone says how unimportant all the bullshit suddenly becomes. The sentiment is so common that it sounds trite to express it. So while we’re being trite, I think Bill and Ted said it best, “Be excellent to each other.”
Be excellent to each other, because this could be the last time you get the chance.
Be excellent to each other, because how we treat each other is all that really matters.
Be excellent to each other, because life is too short to waste on bullshit.
Trite but true.
When I was 17, a carload of my friends drove from Seattle to Spokane to see a production of Jesus Christ, Superstar. One of us was from Spokane, and that weekend, he showed us all his favorite haunts. One of them was a sculpture in the park. [It is an unnamed piece by Harold Balasz, usually referred to as “Lantern.”] My friend assured us that if you climbed to the top, you could see where the artist had incorporated the words
Transcend the Bullshit
Assuming that climbing public art was both dangerous and illegal, I took my friend’s word for it and appreciated the concept with experiencing it for myself.
Maybe if I had climbed the sculpture it would have been easier to live the concept instead of merely appreciating it. Maybe I wouldn’t need someone to die to remind me what really matters.
Transcend the bullshit, and just be excellent to each other, people. It’s a better way to live.