The Marks We Leave Are Too Often Scars

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This is something that’s been on my mind for awhile now.

Have you read this article about how the Pont des Arts in Paris is starting to collapse under the weight of the “love locks”? It’s somehow become a tradition (if you can call something that popped up so recently a tradition) for tourists to go here and leave a padlock. To commemorate the fact that they were there.

But why?

“I want to leave a mark. But the marks humans leave are too often scars… We are like a bunch of dogs squirting on fire hydrants. We poison the groundwater with our toxic piss, marking everything MINE in a ridiculous attempt to survive our deaths.”

Exactly, Augustus Waters.

Everyone is SO OBSESSED with leaving their marks on the world. Maybe it is something animal. Maybe we can’t help it.

And I am certainly no exception. I am a writer. I want people to read the stuff I write, both my fiction and here in this little corner of the internet. My words are the marks I make on your minds.

But–but–before I make my marks, I ask myself this question:

Is my mark IMPROVING the world?

If the answer is no, I believe it’s better not to make it.

In the case of the Pont des Arts, the answer is definitely NO. I’ve never felt the need to add a lock to that bridge. Is it really that thrilling all those years later to come back and see it there? Isn’t it enough that you were there?

This is one of the reasons I don’t write negative book reviews. I understand why people do. You take the time to read a book, and when something in it bothers you, you feel the need to complain about it. I just spent hours of my life with this book and it did that? This is especially hard for me as a yet-unpublished-writer: this piece of crap got published and no one’s discovered me yet? Blasphemy!

But really–what kind of mark does that negative review leave?

In the same vein, today I saw a comment on a popular blog saying, “I really hate those shoes!”

What is gained by posting that comment? You’re entitled to your opinion, of course. I’m not saying you can’t post what you want, comment on what you want. Free speech! But just because you can do something does not mean you should.

The best response to someone’s crappy outfit/art? Don’t comment on it. Don’t pay it any attention. You have a limited amount of time in the world–why do you want to spend that time talking about something you hate? Post about things you love. Compliment things you like. Have experiences–but don’t leave the places you touch (like the Pont des Arts) worse for the wear.

Don’t make lots of little negative marks on the world. Make only good ones.

John Green via Augustus Waters obviously says it better than me:

People will say it’s sad that she leaves a lesser scar, that fewer remember her, that she was loved deeply but not widely. But it’s not sad. It’s triumphant. It’s heroic. Isn’t that the real heroism? Like the doctors say: First, do no harm.”

And before John Green, there was Alfred de Vigny. From La Mort du Loup:

“Seul le silence est grand; tout le reste est faiblesse.”

Only silence is great; the rest is weakness.

Which is just another way of saying: If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.

If the mark you’re leaving isn’t improving the world–consider not leaving it at all.

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