Monday, September 10, 2007

The Value of Nothing

I saw one of those little please-forward inspirational emails today -- photocopied and taped to a wall. I've been known to read the ingredient labels for shoe polish, so of course I took a look.

"At a fundraising dinner for a school that serves learning disabled children, the father of one of the students delivered a speech...

"'When not interfered with by outside influences, everything nature does is done with perfection.'"

Well, first, that's just not true. Hardly anything nature does is perfect. And what influence is it, that's outside of nature? Something supernatural? Of course, it is us, mankind, to which he must be referring. Nasty old humans, always spoiling perfect nature.

"'Yet my son, Shay, cannot learn things as other children do. He cannot understand things as other children do. Where is the natural order of things in my son?'"

The natural order is that he would be left to die. Old-time parents would have exposed him to the wolves and the elements. On second thought, nature does have a kind of perfection -- in that it culls out mutants and defectives with utterly relentless efficiency. It may not start from a perfect position, but nature struggles with utter inhumanity against further decline. If we're looking for nobility, we'd best turn away from nature.

So here's the story the father told. The two were walking past a park where some boys were playing baseball. "Shay asked, 'Do you think they'll let me play?' ... Shay's father approached one of the boys on the field and asked ... not expecting much. The boy looked around for guidance and said, 'We're losing by six runs and the game is in the eighth inning. I guess he can be on our team and we'll try to put him in to bat in the ninth inning.'

"Shay struggled over to the team's bench [and] put on a team shirt with a broad smile.... In the bottom of the eighth inning, Shay's team scored a few runs but was still behind by three. In the top of the ninth inning, Shay put on a glove and played in the right field. ... In the bottom of the ninth inning, Shay's team scored again. Now, with two outs and the bases loaded, the potential winning run was on base and Shay was scheduled to be next at bat."

You'll have to pardon all my editing. There's a lot of indicating going on, about what you should feel. Not the greatest writing. A tad heavy-handed.

"...Shay was given the bat. Everyone knew that a hit was all but impossible.... However, as Shay stepped up to the plate, the pitcher, recognizing the other team putting winning aside for this moment in Shay's life, moved in a few steps to lob the ball in softly so Shay could at least be able to make contact. The first pitch came and Shay swung clumsily and missed."

Well. You know you're being manipulated. But there's still something that catches your interest. You'd scoff at the bad writing if I hadn't been editing it out. But even so, baseball, and the underdog, and slow crippled kids. We're human, after all.

"The pitcher again took a few steps forward to toss the ball softly towards Shay. As the pitch came in, Shay swung at the ball and hit a slow ground ball right back to the pitcher. The game would now be over, but the pitcher picked up the soft grounder ... [and] threw the ball right over the head of the first baseman.... Everyone from the stands and both teams started yelling, 'Shay, run to first! Run to first!' ... He scampered down the baseline, wide-eyed and startled. ... By the time Shay rounded towards second base, the right fielder ... threw the ball high and far over the third-baseman's head. ... 'Shay, Shay, Shay, all the Way Shay!'

"[The] opposing shortstop ran to help him and turned him in the direction of third base, and shouted, 'Run to third! Shay, run to third.' As Shay rounded third, the boys from both teams and those watching were on their feet ... screaming, 'Shay, run home!' Shay ran to home, stepped on the plate, and was cheered as the hero who hit the 'grand slam' and won the game for his team. ...

"Shay didn't make it to another summer and died that winter, having never forgotten being the hero and making his Father so happy and coming home and seeing his Mother tearfully embrace her little hero of the day!"

Then the email writer adds a homiletic postscript, with which we may dispense, entirely.

So? It's not a true story. Perhaps a kernel of truth, but as notgillcup points out, in the final internet version, "Shaya becomes Shay (much more WASP-y, don't you think?)." Some of the inconsistencies and logical problems are observed by notgillcup's commenters, so we need not rehearse them here. That whole bulletin board is refreshingly cynical. Of course such details as the chanting crowd were added. Little Shay(a)'s "death". Really piling it on. You'd think just the baseball would have been enough. I'm surprised someone didn't throw in an angel or two.

Since the story isn't really -- isn't entirely true, what value could it have? It amounts to nothing. Isn't there enough emotional manipulation in the world? Isn't truth enough, that we have to be spoon-fed such amateurish pap? This is the reason that lips can curl. If it mattered, it would be nauseating. Best is to remove ourselves from such commonness. We're above it. We won't be caught. We won't be tricked. Never again.

A cynic is someone who knows the price of everything


Jack H said...


and the value of nothing.


Anonymous said...

..damn emotional manipulation. Those Pedigree commercials, showing abused and sad, caged animals... "In the Arms of the Angel" playing in the I have two rescue dogs. But I do love them.

And then there was that Chase credit card commercial, using the song "100 Years", showing the milestones passed in a young man's life, that made me not get a new credit card, but at least go out and buy the cd by Five for Fighting.

And then there was...oh never mind. I'm a hopeless sucker.

Jack H said...

You're sounding a little cynical.

Here, let me do you a favor, relieve your stress: