I wrote a bizarre little column comparing the Holy Bible to the signs posted around my health club. A stranger responded via e-mail:”Barry, you are sooo funny … and clever too!!! I am sure our Creator is rolling around in laughter, as well.”Now, it isn’t exactly “hate” mail, but he obviously is not amused. Generally I avoid responding to people who just need to vent, but for some reason I write back:”I hope so. In fact, I’m counting on it…”He responds, later that day, with:”I love to witness (and read) the always-entertaining examples of unbridled hubris in action, especially from the print media; for your part, keep it up, Barry.”OK, so he wants to get into it with me. I like to think of myself as above this kind of petty exchange. However, I reply:”Cool. I’ve always thought of myself as the go-to guy for hubris, unbridled or otherwise. Glad to see others agree.”His response:”I also am amused when others don’t get the fact that others are clearly laughing at them, not with them. Like I said, Barry, keep it up.”What? Is he serious? He seriously thinks that I thought he was…? What the…? I write back at once:”Really? You mean to say that you’ve been using, gulp … sarcasm? I’ve heard of that, but have never actually tried using it myself.Golly, I’m just so shocked and embarrassed!Now, assuming you are also amused when the people you think you are laughing at without them knowing it have actually known it from the instant they saw that you chose to capitalize the word “Creator,” well…this must be quite an amusing day for you. I know it is for me.And as for my hubris, I’m certain the Creator is already making plans to deal with me.Keeping it up,Barry”He writes back:”The best part is that you are so predictable. When one, such as you, are exposed, the thin veneer of sugarcoating melts into the venom just underneath the surface.”What? Venom? Is he kidding? That was hardly venom. Whatever. I file the email away without responding. I have got things to do during the day, you know.The next day this stranger writes:”Barry, I didn’t mean you have to leave. Just because you felt ashamed of the ‘but wait guys, I knew it all along’ act of desperation, is no reason to pick up your marbles and go home. You can still play with the rest of us.”OK, then, punk. It’s go time:”I really appreciate the offer, but I am clearly out of my league here in the subtlety department. Plus, the shame of it all is just too, you know, shameful.Instead I need to spend my time working on my hubris, and studying up on this “sarcasm” thing that you wield with such Neanderthal-like precision.I guess you’ll just have to play with your own marbles.”I’m aware of how pathetic this is even as I’m writing it, but after pushing “send” it really hits home. I am now officially on the same petty name-calling page as this stranger – there is absolutely no difference between us – and I feel dirty and cheap and satisfied. He responds quickly with a simple:”Poor Boy.”And then, exactly eight minutes later, adds:”Oh, and by the way, Barry, sorry you are feeling soooo vulnerable. But you are right, perhaps it is better for you to stay away. Given your past performance, the laws of probability suggest you will say at least one dumb thing each e-mail and you get so sensitive when someone points it out. :)”I sit in my office reading his e-mail on my computer screen. I’m connected wirelessly to the internet, the entire world at my fingertips in this astounding era of communication, and I’ve chosen to use the best technology that the 21st century has to offer to tell a faraway stranger, “I guess you’ll just have to play with your own marbles.”I’ve yet to respond to his last e-mail, because I’m clearly the bigger person here. VTContact Barry Smith at email@example.com or visit his Web page at http://www.Irrelativity.com.
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