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The Other People Edition
The Short Story - Issue 21 - September.2021
This week I’ve been thinking a lot about other people.
I’ve been thinking about what it means to live in a society — about how people are so necessary to our growth and survival, but as Sartre reminds us can also be the thing that causes us the most suffering.
“Hell,” he said, “is other people.”
A year and half into a global pandemic that relies on people making people-y choices to keep transmitting this dang virus and I’m staaaaarting to think he was on to something…
So, let’s climb into this handbasket, eat a few pomegranate seeds, and warm our feet by the fires in the Other People Edition.
Sartre is Smartre
I’m a pretty big fan of Sartre. I read his play, No Exit, as an angsty teenager and thought, “this French dude gets me. People suck.”
Now, as an angsty adult, I understand what Sartre actually meant. He wasn’t saying that people suck, he was saying that WE suck (or at least feel like we do) when we are forced to view and know ourselves according to the judgments of those around us.
It’s not literally the idea that other people are hellish. It’s the idea that once we die, we’re permanently trapped in other’s interpretations of us. - Ben Thomas
Okay, so Sartre’s interpretation of hell was that it wasn’t a place. It wasn’t the room his characters were trapped in — it was their state of being. “Hey, don’t covet your neighbor’s ass or his wife or you’re gonna go to hell where it’s a nice, neutral temperature, and the room is nicely appointed, but man, the other people in there are totally gonna make you feel like an object for all eternity.” I guess that doesn’t sound as scary as a fiery pit.
You Can Stand Me Up at The Gates of Hell
While Sartre understood hell as a mental torment, others have imagined hell as a literal place. And, if hell is an actual place, well then it must have an entrance that we can sneak into and get a quick peek.
Hey look, it’s the gates of hell in sculpture form by Rodin, another French guy who spent a lot of time thinking about hell. Heeeey, wait, these doors don’t open.
Fortunately, our friends at Atlas Obscura, found us 11 other places we can try!
From crumbling crypts in New Orleans to creepy bubbling red springs in Japan, cultures all around the world have suspected there are entrances to hell dotting the planet.
Good as Hell
Alright, lest this newsletter be all gloom and doom, let’s end with two of my favorite things: Futurama and TED talks!
I love Futurama and one of my favorite episodes is Hell is Other Robots. Season 1, Episode 5. B
The full episode is available on Hulu (or other places with enough Googling). GO WATCH IT.
I’m a communications major, public speaker, and public speaking coach, so TED talks are already one of my favorite things and I am SO DANG EXCITED to see this whole talk. It’s LIZZO!
Well, look at that, Lizzo showed up just in time with her perfectly worded song title to help us tie this whole thing up in a neat little package.
So, there we go. Sometimes, hell isn’t so bad.
And, while Sartre might have been right and hell is other people — I’m pretty sure he wasn’t talking about any of you.
Okay, that’s it for this edition! I’ve had a hellishly good time hanging out with you this week!
Also, you may have already noticed, but I should formally announce that our schedule has changed slightly. Instead of a weekly email, The Short Story is now bi-weekly. Why? Because I have a pretty dang funny podcast I’m also working on and new episodes will be coming out soon!
Make sure to check out Stories Found. You can listen to our latest episodes, sign up for updates, and even submit a funny story of your own.
Until next time,
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