Judging Judgment (Ugh, What A Self-Consciously Cutsey Title. This Isn’t a Great Start)

In The Great Gatsby, its narrator asserts in the opening paragraphs that he makes a point of not judging people. He then goes on, roughly one paragraph later, to start judging and barely a page goes by in which he fails to not only judge people, but do so in a delightfully dry and at times super-catty, mean teenage girl sort of way (I’m also convinced Nick is clearly in denial about some clearly homoerotic feelings. If he’s not at least bi-curious, try to make sense, for example, of the end of the second chapter. Go on. I’ll wait. Did you read it? See?). I’m surprised how little scholarship on the novel has been devoted to this.

But that’s not the point of this post, if it can be said to have a point. As of now, it’s an open question. I hope it turns out to have one. Those are usually the best kind of posts. Fingers crossed!

I’m writing this to confess I’m very judgmental. I try not to be. I try really hard not to be. And a good 95% of my judgments are never voiced. But despite my efforts not to judge, I have fallen well-short of the mark, in my judgment. Of course, like almost anything, judgment of others can be both good or bad. In fact, I want to say judging others can be a positive. Is this the point? Maybe. Let’s find out.

We judge other people when we make friends. We judge other people when we fall in love, or decide this person selling me a time-share isn’t telling me everything. So, my point is that judging is not only necessary in life, but also a source of some of life’s greatest experiences.

Great. I had a point in this post. Shortish for me, but that’s good, too.

However, (crap; maybe that isn’t the point of this post. Could this post have two points? That feels awfully ambitious for the likes of me) when people get all judgy about being judgmental, it’s the other kind they’re talking about. And damned if I don’t do that dozens of times a day. Today’s notable one was when I glimpsed a man going by wearing his hair in a man-bun, I think it’s called. Now, this look is very dignified, assuming you’re a samurai in feudal Japan. But I’m willing to bet almost anything this man was not a feudal-age samurai. He was alive, for one thing, and also, he just didn’t present in an overtly samurian way.

But A) Who am I to judge someone else’s grooming/fashion choices? My daughter reliably informs me I have little insight into fashion. And I’m awfully judgmental for someone who temporarily blinded himself last week by vigorously shaking a bottle of salad dressing with the cap off.

For the record, that actually happened.

Second, why would I have an opinion about something so superficial? The fact I have a pejorative opinion about his hair says a lot more about me than Evan (that’s probably not his real name, but it’s more likely to be “Evan” than “Man Bun Guy”). And what it has to say isn’t pretty.

And you see what happened back there? I not only arbitrarily subjected Jeff (on reflection, he looked more like a “Jeff” than an “Evan”) to my scorn, but myself as well. I find randomly and unfairly passing negative judgment on others tends to boomerang back to me. Judge me if you must, but your judgment of me is nothing compared to the judgment I routinely judge of myself. Moreover, my judgment, in my judgment, would likely be in agreement with your judgment, assuming it’s an unflattering judgment.

Yes, judgment like that never helps anyone, least of all the judge, but it’s also sort of baked into the way the human mind works. It’s a pretty important survival tool, after all. So maybe cut yourself – and me, while you’re at it – a little slack. We’ve all heard the quote, or a variation of the quote: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” Some people attribute this to Plato, but it almost certainly wasn’t him. In fact, no one actually knows who said it (or something like it) first. Which is a shame, because as quotes go, it’s pretty damned pithy.

So, just for the purposes of bookkeeping* and clarity, I’ve chosen to attribute it to the only surviving member of the Monkees, Mickey Dolenz. Because why not? He’s been around the block. No doubt he has some wisdom to share. Also, “Last Train to Clarksville” and “Pleasant Valley Sunday” ** are highly underrated songs.

Anyway, this quote, first uttered by Mickey Dolenz, is always worth remembering, at least for me. And if I can get myself to remember that more often, both as it applies to others and myself, then I’m willing to bet life will go a lot better for both me and those around me. Even for Brandon. Yes, he looked more like a “Jeff” than an “Evan,” but he really, when I think about it, looked like a quintessential Brandon to me. And that is said without any judgment.

*This is only word in the English language with three consecutive pairs of matching letters. And yes, there’s also “bookkeeper,” but you get the point.***

*** God, Jack, please shut off your rambling mind for just five minutes.

** Fun fact, although “fun” is all relative: this song was written by the great hit-making husband and wife duo of Gerry Goffin and Carole King. Also, Neil Diamond wrote the theme song for the show. And I think we’ve reached the point in which I’d argue you’d be justified in judging me, and none too favorably, either.

Published by Jack Canfora

I'm an award winning and losing playwright and screenwriter; I'm a dad of two great kids, an aggressive spoiler of dogs, and hopelessly addicted to baseball and The Beatles. I have no recollection of ever having worn a mullet, yet photos in the 80's say otherwise.

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