Dave Gorman and Men of Goodwill

I am not Dave Gorman. But you know that.

Until earlier this week, I had no idea who Dave Gorman was. I’m sure I knew there were Dave Gormans in the world, of course. Gorman is not an uncommon name (we even had a Bishop Gorman here in the states some years back) and Dave is even less uncommon name. I might even be able to look into my old yearbooks – or my husband’s, or son’s – and find a Gorman, David.

I did not know, however, that there was specifically a brilliant British gent going by the name of Dave Gorman who had invented a form of stand-up comedy that could be called “documentary comedy,” or that in the course of putting together one such show he unexpectedly found himself seeking out other Dave Gormans, worldwide, and meeting up with them in a pub.

He hadn’t set out to meet all of these Dave Gormans, you understand…that event was simply what happened when this very bright fellow allowed the world around him its head, so to speak, when he decided to “go with the flow,” permitting the world and circumstances to lead him, rather than trying to tame the universe to his own whims.

I met Dave Gorman this week, thanks to my Elder Son sitting me down before a copy of the astounding, hilarious and thought-provoking stageshow, Dave Gorman’s Googlewhack Adventure.

I met Dave Gorman this week, and now I do not know if I can live without him. I’ve sought out his site; I’ve looked up his books, I am become a fan; I’m fascinated. Why?

Well…

I thought a lot about Goodwill while I was on vacation. I kept coming back to the story of the nativity of Jesus, and the heralding angels who brought the message, “peace on earth to men of good will…”

That is the translation I learned as a kid, “to men of goodwill.” We don’t hear it anymore. Now what one will normally read is “Peace on earth and goodwill toward men.”

But there are two very different messages, there. One says “peace to people of good will.” One can infer that peace is available to those who harbor Goodwill in their hearts. The other sounds like a salesmen closing a deal with a hale and hearty handshake, sort of a “thanks, and y’all have nice day!”

Which message would the angels – doing God’s bidding – have imparted to the lowly, confused and frightened mortals gazing upon them? I’m no biblical scholar, but I think the first.

“Peace on Earth to men of Goodwill – to people of Goodwill”
People of Good Will are the people who take another person at face-value, who do not immediately label, categorize and quickly shelve those they encounter based on their perceived income, politics, philosophy or appearance. People of Goodwill give the other guy the benefit of a doubt, they choose to receive another person with the expectation that that person is someone worthy of respectful attention and friendly regard – until that person proves otherwise.

Lately, it seems that the moment someone becomes “famous,” no matter how dubious their gifts, they feel the need to start lecturing the rest of the world on a variety of issues and drawing the lines of demarcation between themselves and “their side” (the “good” side) and those others out there who are all “bad.” And this is true for both left and right. For every Julia Roberts who declares that “Republican comes in the dictionary just after reptile and just above repugnant,” (thereby declaring half the United States as unfit company) one can find a corresponding bit of silliness from some Pat Robertson wannabe proclaiming the Good News with a verbal hatchet and a look of smug disdain. (More thoughts on that sort of Christianity examined here).

It happens outside of the popular media and its personalities, of course. But we see it – daily – in the media, in the headlines, in videos, in print, in comedy routines. The Daily Show and The Colbert Report – shows I used to love – lately seem to me to have lost any intent to Goodwill. It’s all “us good, them bad, grunt ugga, ugga, grunt, grunt” and I believe it is killing us as a society and a nation.

I wish I could say that I have been exempt from the fostering of Badwill amongst us, but I sadly and to my everlasting shame, have not. On this blog I have a now and then (even once was too much) been guilty of this sin – the sin of reducing another’s humanity into something less-than-human based on their politics or manner. I recall watching Hillary Clinton marveling with real glee that she could buy “a whole box of clementines for $5.00,” and thinking, “wow…who is that? She’s human!”

Well, shame on me for ever getting to that point. And shame on me for occasionally dipping a willing big toe into the great big Lake O’ Badwill that has powered the internets and is now overpowering us all.

What has this to do with Dave Gorman, and why can I not live without him?

Well…maybe none of us can live without Dave Gorman, or more people like him, because Dave Gorman strikes me as a gifted, articulate, genuine and very brilliant Man of Goodwill, in an age in which the whole concept of goodwill toward others has been suffocated by crude philosophies that boil down to “them vs us”.

Watching Dave Gorman’s Googlewhack Adventure, one marvels at a man who is ready to like everyone he meets – ready to give anyone that benefit of a doubt, until they prove otherwise. You cannot do the things he does unless you are willing to take people in their totality before deciding about them. In all of his adventures, Gorman finds only one fellow he does not like – a Creationist – and his dislike does not come from the man’s ideas (Gorman makes a point of explaining that during his travels he met another Creationist with whom he got on like a house afire) but because the man chooses to promote his ideas through distorted and intellectually dishonest means (in this case by mis-stating the second law of thermodynamics) which Gorman deems to be “unfair.”

Aside from this one fellow – whom Gorman judges by his actions, and not anything else – Gorman finds something lovely and fine in everyone he meets. His comedy has nothing to do with hate and superiority and everything to do with the old classically liberal idea of living and letting live, of respecting oneself by respecting everyone else, as well. It is so unusual – it is almost Atticus Finchian. We’ve been so trained to expect the “us vs them” throughout media that it is a bit jarring (but refreshing as hell) to find someone of manifest Goodwill. And it is inspiring.

“Peace on Earth to Men of Goodwill…” It speaks to me – it tells me that peace will come when we stop the sniping and snarking and start cultivating a mindset that moves beyond “have a nice day” to “I wish good things for you.”

Beneath the “documentary comedy” of Dave Gorman there is a great deal going on that is all about living in the world, interacting with the human race, following an inspiration, and allowing things to play out as they will, all while holding ones arms wide open to the universe and everyone one meets. I suspect Dave Gorman is a secular type of fellow, and yet he excels in the faith-journey, and therefore he has a great deal to teach me, and maybe you, too.

And if we can learn while laughing, well what’s better than that?

For the love of my brethren and friends
I say: “Peace be upon you!”
For the love of the house of the Lord
I will ask for your good.

Psalm 122


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