I have two simple resolutions for 2018.
The first is to find a better way to greet other humans.
“How are you?” is obviously flawed. At this point in our shared human reality, “How are you?” is a question that should only be asked by a professional therapist at the beginning of a four hour long counseling session.
So I’m playing with these alternatives:
“Hello, I’m aware of everything going on in your life because you posted it on Instagram. Are there any interesting stories behind that photo of you eating ice cream at sunset?”
And it always has to be that whole thing. Even if the person hasn’t posted a photo of themselves eating ice cream at sunset. In fact, it might be a more interesting conversation if they haven’t.
Another option is greeting people by saying:
“Hello, could you please tell me one good thing that is happening in your life, because while I comprehend there are also bad things, I cannot cope with them at this time. I apologize for my emotional weakness.”
That’s honest but a little bit of a bummer, so the final option I’m playing with is just changing “Hello. How are you?” to the nice, simple:
“Hello. How am I?”
“I mean, you’ve seen my Instagram photos. How am I doing? Am I okay?”
That might put a little too much pressure on the other person, but we would probably learn a lot about ourselves.
So new greetings are resolution number one.
My other resolution is to just find JOY wherever I can.
One of the things that has brought me joy, for almost my entire life, is a very odd thing: Star Wars action figures. Little pieces of plastic molded to look vaguely like some actors in a thrilling space fantasy series about wizards cutting people’s arms off with laser swords.
But every time there’s a new Star Wars movie, some very original person on the internet comes along and makes the bold declaration that “the new Star Wars movie is just a big toy commercial.”
To which, the answer is, sure, yes, and that’s fine. New Star Wars movies and their toys are meant to make money. They are not some vicious capitalist attack on that charitable non-profit George Lucas set up in 1977.
They have always been movies designed to make money and one of the ways they make money is toys. But the only reason people buy the toys is because they are inspired by the story. Or you know the art.
So if you want to make the “it’s just to sell toys argument”, I kindly invite you to go to the Louvre museum in Paris and tell it to the Mona Lisa bobbleheads. Great art inspires commerce.
I plan to yell all of that at anyone who gives me a side-eye when I buy eight Porg pillows at Target tomorrow.
And yes the Porgs are cute, but I don’t need cute to buy Star Wars action figures. I once bought two Bacta Tank Luke Skywalker action figures. This is an action figure of Luke Skywalker from the Empire Strikes Back when he is floating in a big vat of transparent fluid. This action figure is basically Mark Hamill in a diaper and I bought TWO of them.
Star Wars does not NEED cute to sell me action figures, dammit.
Anyway, back to JOY.
Around the same time this fall, two major news stories broke. One was about escalating tensions with North Korea raising the possibility of total nuclear annihilation and the other was that Toys R’ Us was declaring bankruptcy.
My immediate emotional reaction to both of those things was: “I could have done more to stop this.”
So the next day I went to Toys R’ Us. And I picked out a Toys R’ Us exclusive action figure of Poe Dameron, the dashing starpilot played by Oscar Isaac.
Now I enjoy the character of Poe Dameron very much. He has his flaws, but he is always positive and supportive and greets almost everyone by saying, “Hey, buddy! You’re doing great!” which might be how I start greeting people in 2018.
But I don’t have many Poe Dameron action figures for one simple reason: They repeatedly fail to capture the aesthetic glory that is Oscar Isaac’s face.
Almost every Poe Dameron action figure looks like it was sculpted out of butter and left out in the sun.
They look like Poe Dameron’s bitter twin brother who wants revenge after his botched plastic surgery.
But, still, I wanted to help Toys R’ Us so I picked out a pretty good Poe Dameron. This one looked like it was sculpted by the woman in Spain who tried to fix the fresco of Jesus and accidentally painted a monkey face. It was beautiful in its intentions.
So I took my Monkey Face Poe to the cash register. A 17 year old kid dragged my Poe across the scanner. And then something strange happened. The kid looked me in the eyes and said something I’ve never had anyone say to me in decades of buying action figures. The kid said, “Would you like to pay $2.99 extra for a warranty?”
Suddenly, I was not a young-at-heart person buying a fun toy, I was a jaded old consumer and I found myself saying, “Uhh, a warranty for what?”
And the 17 old kid said, “I don’t know. I guess in case it doesn’t work?”
My mind raced. How can an action figure not work?
I’m not even going to take it out of the package.
Was my Poe Dameron not going to give me uplifting speeches? Was it going to disobey Vice Admiral Holdo? How could an action figure of weird Poe Dameron FAIL ME?
The kid brought me out of my pondering by saying, “Look, my checkout screen is just telling me to ask if you want a warranty. I guess we offer them on all Toys R’ Us Exclusives.”
I snapped back to reality and realized the kid was not the weird one in this situation. He was doing his job. I was the fully grown adult grumbling about getting nickeled and dimed on my Poe Dameron action figure.
So I smiled and said no thanks and walked away. I walked away, LIKE AN IDIOT.
As soon as I got out into the parking lot, I realized the truth. I know why I buy action figures. I don’t play with them like I did when I was a kid. I put them up around my apartment and as I walk past them, without even realizing it, I think about the character, I think about the story, I think about all the birthdays and holidays that were made better because someone I love gave me an action figure.
In other words, every time I walk past them I feel a tiny but profound burst of joy.
Toys R’ Us had basically offered me a warranty on JOY.
And I had said NO.
How amazing would that be if I could call up Toy R’ Us and say, “Yeah, today I walked past my action figure of weird Poe Dameron and I did not feel a burst of joy, but I do have a $3 warranty for JOY. Please send me some replacement joy IMMEDIATELY.”
It was a good reminder to me to be open, to be friendly, and to find joy any place you can.
So I’m going to try to spend every day in 2018 by getting up, walking past weird Poe Dameron and imagining him saying to me, “Hey Buddy, you’re doing great!”
Thanks, weird Poe.