Do You Have a Personal Relationship with Joe Janes?

By Don Hall

"Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?"

Ordinarily, I just avoid the spiraling pit of nonsense discussion that entering into this question/trap opens up. I know that the fact that I do not have a personal relationship with a long dead carpenter who, in legend, resembles Paul Bunyan crossed with Smokey the Bear is going to start a pseudo-psychological debate about my life and the void that I have in it.

Not this time. Just not in the mood.

"No, I don't. Do you support Off Loop non-commercial theatre?"

"Can I tell you something about the Word of God?"

"Sure, if I can tell you about the Word of Joe Janes."

"Who?"

"Joe Janes.  He's a prolific playwright and writing teacher. He's spreading His Word to lesser developed countries. I found that my life was spent in sorrow, in pain. I found myself empty and in need of a second set of footprints in the sand and a reason to live. And I found the Word of Joe Janes. Also the Word of Brett Neveu. And the Word of Coya Paz. And Kristiana Colón. If you aren't supporting the Off Loop theatre scene, I can take you there and you will have the scales fall from your eyes."

He walked away to find another person to pester.

What a lot of fucking busy bodies we are. Like an entire nation of Mrs. Kravitz's, always snooping around, trying to find fault because each of us has The Solution.

I get it—when I worked my ass off (literally) and dropped 80 lbs., I became that fucking annoying busy body shitstain that went out of my way to tell my overweight friends how they could be like me. I proselytized the use of the gym and eating less food and even went so far as to buy a gym membership for a friend who was struggling with her weight for her birthday. What a dickhead! "Happy Birthday, Fatty! Celebrate your existence today by allowing me to tell you how to live your life!"

Admonitions from sects and tribes of like-minded, self righteous Mrs. Kravitz's telling others to do as I say and your life will be better for it. Nosing our way into each other's day to make sure we communicate how deficient or sexist or racist or Zionist or Capitalist or what-the-fuck-ever is up our craw on that particular day.

So, I'm perfectly fine if you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Or have discovered the meaning of life by having children. Or feel a thousand times better since you quit smoking. Or went on a cleanse. Or feel you have found the best way to be a white ally to black people. Or just read, for the first time, some bell hooks and have decided that you are woke and somehow understand. Or that the Cubs are just better than the Sox. Or that PBR really is refreshing rather than just cheapass swill.

I hope you're fine with my disdain for the GOP, for highly commercial theatre, for a fast food and grocery industry that creates kids who love sports but are so obese they couldn't bend over to pick up a football, let alone throw it. I hope you're OK with my defiantly pro-choice stance that is not limited to abortion rights but extends to letting people choose how they want to live without reservation save the caveat that they harm no one but themselves in the process. I hope you are fine with my belief that we live in a fundamentally racist society that also intentionally marginalizes women and homosexuals and encourages bullies by blaming bullying on the victims.

But I won't stand on a street corner and try to convince you that the way you choose to live your life is wrong. I won't wait for you to light up a fucking Chicago hot dog or double cheeseburger and take the moment to shame you for it. I won't punch your screaming, crying baby in the mouth. I'll avoid screaming at you on the street for wearing your "Make America Great Again" hat unironically or your "Black Lives Matter" shirt that your cousin bought for you.

I'm too busy trying to deal with my own hypocrisies and dualities and complexities to entertain your One Size Fits All solution.

Fix yourself. Teach me by your example. And let me walk down the street without being told how crap I am and how you can solve all my problems with some bit of magical thinking and a list of do's and don't's. 

Otherwise, I'll break out my gigantic copy of Joe Janes's 365 Sketches and read them out loud to you in your yard for several hours. Seriously, though, it will change your life.