The Q&A Hole: What’s the Most Important Thing in Life?
With JT Habersaat, David Wheeler, Jodi Egerton, Marc English & more.
By Wayne Alan Brenner,
8:00AM, Tue. Sep. 27, 2016
Yeah, to hell with beating around the bush of values, trying to flush out some speckled grouse of lesser meaning – let’s go right for The Big One in this installment of our weekly question-and-answer series.
Please note that, as ever, none of the people here – not even that adorable Catmull and Webster pair at the end – were aware of the others’ responses as they answered …
WHAT’S THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN LIFE?
Nate Southard, author: Being able to stand yourself. Everything else is other people, and that's exhausting.
JT Habersaat, comedian: Welp, this is as case-by-case as it gets. But, for me – freedom. And I don't mean that in any flag-waving nationalist regard. But basically not having a “boss.” That's the most important thing to me now – I don't know if I could go back to that again. Also, bourbon.
Lenny Kleinfeld, author: This is a question only for people on barstools who aren’t getting laid tonight and need an innocuous time-waster so they can keep drinking until the bartender turns the up lights and kicks them out. However, since Brenner is holding a gun to my head – well, actually, it’s a huge spider he keeps trying to jam into my ear while yelling “Austin Brain Dead!!! Welcome to Austin Brain Dead!!!” – so here’s the most important thing in life: Rhythm.
Olivia Pepper, herbalist, witch: Knowing where to focus your attention. That's all it comes down to, really: Attention is all we have, and we can wield it all kinds of ways. Our unique way of paying attention is a beautiful kind of power, and one we should take care to wield ethically, mindfully, and with compassion.
Jodi Egerton, writer, improviser: I’m gonna say “connection.” I’m always seeking happiness and joy and fun, and to me that comes from connecting with people, with friends, with my kiddos. It’s why I love social media – because it’s allowed me to connect with so many more people in my life than I normally do. And the more connected I feel to other people, the more fulfilled I feel.
David Wheeler of Dragon’s Lair: Connections with other people. And I mean healthy connections with other people – let’s specify, be a little more discriminating there. Everything I read has convinced me that the main reason our brains are the size that they are is not so we can solve mathematical equations, but so we can connect better with our fellow humans. And, also, you can see that people who stay mentally healthy into advanced age, they usually have good connections with other people. It’s when someone gets isolated that they tend to go downhill mentally.
Marc English, graphic designer: My daughter once asked me, when she was about eight years old, "Why do we exist?" Of course, she doesn’t recall the question or the answer, but I do. I didn’t go into the idea of evolution as to "why," but I have an answer that hints at your question. I told her, "Well, I dunno. But I figure that since we are here, we might as well try to leave the world a better place for our having been here." To expound on that, I think I’d have to add that we "have purpose." Of course, that purpose is up to the individual. Some may want to cure cancer, fly to Mars, teach art, write stories that hit a common nerve, or help those with any number of disabilities. Purpose may be defined by work; but, then again, it may be defined by what one does outside work – if that very work doesn’t really make one feel as if it's their purpose, their contribution to making the world a better place.
Katherine Catmull, author, actress: I think there’s no way to get around saying love, or loving-kindness, or caritas: “ … and the greatest of these is love.” I don’t know how you actually do that – love other people as much as you love yourself, with the same tenderness and care, feeling their pain and grief the way you feel your own, wishing them joy as much as you wish it for yourself – and do it without clinging, too. I suspect you’d need to have some baseball-bat-to-the-head moment of understanding that the boundaries between us and other people – and cats, and roaches, and giraffes, and lawns, and cottonwood trees, and rivers, and river-rocks – that those boundaries aren’t real at all. You know that Trembling Giant in Utah – 106 acres and six thousand tons of quaking aspen, which seem to be separate trees, but which underneath are all the same root system, all one tree? It is perhaps the largest and oldest living thing in the world. I think if we understood that life is like that – seemingly separate, actually one – then the loving-kindness would be a lot easier. So maybe that understanding has to come before the love? Or can you go from either direction? I don’t know.
Ken Webster of Hyde Park Theatre: The most important thing in life is finding the right person to share your life with. I'm so lucky that I have found Kathy Catmull. To quote Willis Alan Ramsey's song:
"She is understandin’
Patient with my dreams
She is not demandin'
She does not stomp and scream
And you know each night as I love her
I thank the great divine
That she is mine
I say lord she is as sweet as one of her pecan pies
Listenin' to her laughter I get hypnotized
Goodness knows I love my Angel Eyes
I love my Angel Eyes, oh, yes, yes I do."