Reflections On A Conversation Overheard In The Bathroom

As is sometimes the case, I was minding my own business this afternoon and came across a scene that inspired me to think poetically, and so I would like to share with you the following, along with an explanation of what I was about in writing it:

You look excited, one said dryly to another
As I went into the stall beside them
To listen as they talked.
Well, she gets to cheer for five minutes,
But then we have to stay for the rest,
Said the second to the first,
And they both then understood
That to cheer for one one had to cheer for them all.

And that is hard to do,
I thought to myself as they carried on with their business
And I carried on with mine.
For we do not care about everyone,
Only the one we came to support,
Just like all of the other people on the stands besides us
Who all have their people they cheer for,
All imprisoned inside of a stadium
To cheer halfheartedly for people they do not know about,
And do not care about in the least.

But would not life be a better place,
If the same was true for us
If we watched a debate on science or politics,
Or if we cheered on combatants in boxing or war?
If we could not cheer one person or one side
Unless we cheered for them all,
Would we not be a lot more careful about what contests we witnessed
Or what places we went to cheer others on
If we cared not for the great mass of humanity alongside us
That was forced to cheer for our side
As unwillingly as we cheered for theirs?


Much of my writing, especially the poetry I occasionally engage in creating [1], is a matter of circumstance.  I do not consider myself a particularly creative person by nature.  I have little flamboyance in the humdrum way I live my life.  I tend to be rather conservative in temperament, rather timid, and not hugely adventurous in comparison with many others around me.  If it were not for my interest in what was going on around me or my intellectual curiosity, I would indeed be a very sad and boring and dull person, and I often wonder if a great many people do not find me dull because they only see the habits and patterns of my life and not the curiosity and musing about them that I keep for my writing.  And so it was here as well.  Had I not been reading a book about William Stafford that contained a lot of is poems as well as a discussion about the poet’s pacifism by his son, I might not have been as struck by hearing the complaining of my coworkers in the restroom about how boring it was to cheer on people one didn’t care about at all.  It was the combination of my mind already being interested in questions of the little ways that we set ourselves up to be wrapped up in bitter conflicts with others and blind partisanship and a quirky situation that showed exactly that which I had on my mind.

I think much of the creativity and the opportunities for reflection one has in life comes from precisely that connection between what is on the mind and what one encounters.  This is a phenomenon I notice a lot in my own life.  The mind and heart to some extent come prepared to the moment.  We are reflecting about a given issue in our lives and we find or are sent the Bible passage that crystallizes those thoughts together.  We read a book and muse on our own lives and we see a situation where our musing relates to the experience of others.  We find ourselves adopting one view of a situation or one side of a dispute and we are put in a place where we see the other side of the story that we had not reflected upon before, all of which makes our thinking richer and more nuanced and more complicated.  Maybe this sort of thing does not happen to you, dear reader.  Perhaps you never encounter situations with the strong whiff of irony, but this sort of thing happens often to me.  Whether or not that speaks well of the life that I live or the sort of thinking I am engaged in, I leave it to others to judge, as I cannot be a fair judge of my own case.

Nevertheless, I do feel it necessary and appropriate for me to share such random reflections as I sometimes have.  I do find much connection between our cheering on teams and the sort of more violent conflicts we have in our world.  Indeed, sports and other competitions have a great deal of the political and military about them.  The teams we support speak to our identity, as who we are will often shape what teams and what sports we are most interested in.  Likewise, sports are often organized in such a fashion that they encourage nationalism and localism and pit people against others, where some teams are hated rivals, some teams are jealously despised when they are good but otherwise not cared about, and where we can be motivated to hatred and violence towards others simply because they cheer for one side and we cheer for another.  I myself have been in cases where my own support of teams has been the occasion for great hostility with other people, and so the aspect of having to cheer for everyone and not merely the people we would prefer to cheer for is certainly something that I reflect on with regards to myself and my own behavior.  And having reflected and mused upon the subject as it relates to me, perhaps it will be of some striking relevance to you as well.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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4 Responses to Reflections On A Conversation Overheard In The Bathroom

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