the meaning of... life?
You don't really think I know the meaning of life, do you? I'm working on finding some sort of meaning in my own life.
Let's start with Tony, this Zen Master type guy who works as a cook on the overnight shift at Harry's Corner on Route 46 in Hackensack, New Jersey. Tony doesn't look like a Zen master. He looks like a short order cook on the overnight shift. What can I tell you? I take my meaning anywhere I find it. You go fast on a mountain in Tibet. I like to eat. Especially in latenight greasy spoons.
My wife and I once sat in the corner at the Corner and watched as Tony both took and filled the orders. Usually he just filled them while two people worked the counter. Generally, one person dealt with the customers and the other acted as a kind of barback to Tony,taking the egg sandwiches from Tony, wrapping them up, bagging them and handing them over to the person dealing with the customers.
This night Tony was alone. When we came in business was slow. Suddenly it got busy. Saying almost nothing, Tony took orders from 17 people in a row, never wrote down a word, worked the cash register, packaged the orders and handed them out all while cooking one perfect egg sandwich after another. It goes without saying that he didn't mess up one order because he never messes up an order.
It was some sort of an epiphany -- holding my wife's hand and we watched in awe. Observing someone that good at doing what he does is mindblowing. I'd love to be that good at everything I do. I'd settle for being half as good at one thing, anything.
Then there was the guy who did the Happy Burger Dance while flipping burgers on the overnight shift at Burger and Shake out on Long Island. He was also good at what he did. When it was slow he just cooked the burgers. But when it got busy, he started dancing. The busier it got the better the dance. Watching the joy he took out of his work put something extra in the resulting hamburgers that made them taste even better. Everyone I took to watch him dance agreed the burgers really did taste better after they'd seen him dance.
Can the quality put into a product really be affected by the amount of joy taken out of it by the producer? I don't know. Our perception colors everything we perceive. But I try to find that kind of joy in my work. I don't know if anyone else comes away better for it but the few times I've found it keep me looking for purely selfish reasons, anyway.
And now there's this restaurant here in West Hollywood called AstroBurger. Lots of interesting stuff happens there. Great breakfast burritos happen all the time. I haven't figured exactly what the place has to with finding meaning in life but I will. We eat there a lot.
I think meaning can be found in lots of places. I find it in greasy spoons and comedy clubs, in the grandstand at Belmont Park and while I'm staring at a blank computer screen. I find it in places I care about when hard work commingles with joy, art, and beauty to create moments of pure perfection.
It's an imperfect world, so I take perfection anywhere and anytime I find it. The perfect joke. The perfect bet. The perfect egg sandwich. They may all be meaningless to you. To me they form a mirror inside of which I see glimpses of my perfect self. And seeing my perfect self gives meaning to my life which allows me to see the beauty in an all too ugly world.
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