How Are You?

There are just a few minutes before Shabbat.

I don’t have much spare time these days. Alexander Technique, acupuncture, yoga, therapy and commuting between these places take up about 40 hours a week. It doesn’t leave me much time to earn a living and satisfy the voracious appetites of my readers who are constantly hungry for new scoops.

Khunrum emails: “Isn’t this a great country?. Most people in the world spend their time toiling to earn enough for a bowl of rice. But here in the US of A one can do all these things on a pauper’s budget.”

But I am a conscientious fellow. I was just checking all my email and all my phone messages and replying best I could. One friend wanted to know about the deal I got on my Blackberry, so I fired off a few phrases with the essential details.

And what do I get for my kindness? This reply: "thanks,its ok,I already got a new phone… btw..a ‘hi how r u?’ would be nice(or just normal..) everything ok?"

I didn’t ask "How are you?" because I was rushed and I did not care at that time. I’m just trying to meet my moral obligations and be a good friend. In the frantic run-up to Shabbos, I don’t have time to inquire about my friends’ well-being. I’m too busy being a good Jew.

I don’t like to ask, "How are you?" unless I am genuinely interested, and frankly, I am mainly interested in myself and my spiritual growth. So don’t bother me when I’m blissing out or when I’m busy or when I’m not in the mood or when I’m reading a book or blogging or watching a movie or taking a night-time drive on the PCH or on Mulholland Drive.

Being a moral leader is an exhausting profession. I don’t have time to care about other people’s feelings, just my own.

Evan Gahr emails:

At my high school, Columbia Prep, from which John Podhoretz also graduated, we had this history teacher Mr. Doerfler who was quintessential Old Left. He was not all dippy and sentimental the way the post 60s leftists are. He was a hardass. Tough grader. Lots of sarcasm.

Anyway, one time I saw him going up the stairs and I said, "Hi. How are you?" He replied, "Miserable and wretched."

That’s probably the last time I asked anybody how are you? Sometimes when asked I say "miserable and wretched." Some of them give fake looks of concern. Others just keep walking.

Some people renounce religion. I have renounced all forms of fatuous pleasantries. Not saying thank you is arguably consistent with Jewish teaching that the highest form of charity is anonymous.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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