There are a few nasty words I use. But one at the end of the dictionary stands alone.
It’s a cheap way to answer a question.
When a person asks something, it means a person cares about something. Big care or small care. A person cares.
And when I say, ‘Whatever,’ I’m really saying, ‘I don’t care.’ I’m too above-it, too can’t-be-bothered-by-it to give a real answer. All I can spare is indifference.
With one word, I crumple up a person’s care, drop it on the ground, and walk away.
In 1897, George Bernard Shaw wrote his eighth play, The Devil’s Disciple. It was the piece that would establish the Dubliner as a playwright. There are many reasons why. I like to think one is a line that appears a few pages into Act II.
“The sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them: that’s the essence of inhumanity.”
Care is our humanity, our heart on our sleeve. It’s an open offer for connection in this disjointed world. An offer that indifference, that ‘Whatever’ leaves out in the cold.
It’s a lonely way to be.
It’s also not the only way to be.
Every time someone asks us something, we get a chance. A chance to stay alongside them in a moment. A chance to hold their care safely in our hands.
A chance – if only briefly – to bring two people in the world a little closer.
Which is a word that comes much earlier in the dictionary.