Of All The Gin Joints In All The World

The precise line from the classic film Casablanca by the classic American Humphrey Bogart about the classic Swedish Ingrid Bergman is: “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she has to show up in mine…!”

Might we call this a metaphor for America? Because sudden futurities like Ingrid entering Bogie’s cafe are always intruding into the gin-joints of our collective lives. Bogie at first doesn’t handle it well. Life’s intrusions often arrive as a negative. And yet they don’t always remain quite the same as they first appear. I count at least four who often take a prominent yet perplexing place at our table:

* Greed — That raw evolutionary instinct which at first makes us fierce hunters until later it makes us productive capitalists until eventually many permit productivity to recede back into greed (try corporate CEOs, Wall Street Bankers, Hedge Fund Managers)

* Lust — Another genetic instinct which at first makes us sexual predators until it later may bloom into love until eventually the lustful instinct returns in the form of roaming eyes and nights (try most anyone in Hollywood or in your own neighborhood)

* Malady — Another evolutionary intrusion which strikes us low until a few among us actually sublimate it into genius (try Stephen Hawking, Toulouse Lautrec, Steve Jobs)

* Pride — Rightly called the mother-of-all-sins, this will to power often produces leaders of historic proportions until most become seduced by the power of their own awesome power (try any prime-time examples from Alexander to Caesar to Napoleon to Hitler to Churchill to the president of your local PTA)

Well, you can complete the list with your own examples. However, there’s one example that doesn’t always make the list. Being different…! You remember….? When as a child the gang would find something to laugh at. Maybe your weight. your height. your stutter. As an adult, maybe your views. your values. your status.

Evolution has a way of making some of us different. The very word can be a curse! The herd doesn’t like different. Over the centuries, difference often intrudes upon our table in ways which we don’t always know how to handle. Physical differences. Psychological differences. Sexual differences.

But here’s the funny thing about this curse of being different appearing at your table. There’s not one in a hundred “great people” in our political and aesthetic histories who wasn’t. Ah huh, that’s right, different than the rest of us. So the next time you feel different — or see someone different coming toward your table — be honored, my friend, be honored. Like Bogie…

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