You don’t want to be like Larry Wilmore

Dave Goldberg tragically passed away this past weekend when he passed out on a treadmill (though I’m pretty sure we could have passed on some of the details). Goldberg, perhaps better known as Mr. Sandberg, turns out to have been quite the impressive figure in his own right: he served as CEO of SurveyMonkey — which landed a nearly $2 billion valuation late in 2014 — for just over six years.

As it happens, SurveyMonkey was also the target of extended ridicule on the part of Larry Wilmore during a segment of the Nightly Show that aired just two weeks before this past weekend’s unfortunate incident. This screenshot marks just the beginning:

Larry Wilmore slams Survey Monkey

I won’t share any more of Larry’s jokes because they were primarily juvenile, concerned with fecal matter, and entirely beside the point.

Speaking of the point. According to the Talmud (Arachin 15b), evil speech kills three people: the person who speaks it, the person who hears it, and the person about whom it is told. I won’t go so far as to accuse Larry Wilmore of killing Dave Goldberg  (and himself, and his hundreds of thousands of viewers) for having made some not-nice jokes at the expense of a sillily-named company.

I will, however, take the opportunity provided by this incident to expand upon something I discussed in the wake of the Aurora, CO, massacre nearly three years ago. Back then, I pointed to the news media’s proclivity to dig up the victims’ most recent social media postings, and cautioned readers, “write every tweet like it’s your last.” More specifically:

That any scrap of digital miscellany could become your self-eugoogly serves as a – healthy? unhealthy? uncomfortable – reminder that you just never know.

Morbid, I know — but again, you never know. Anyway, here’s that expansion I promised: tweet (and treat — this is less about Twitter) others like it’s your last time seeing them.

Earlier today, I took an exam. On my way out of the room, I greeted an acquaintance* I know primarily through having taken that course. We spoke for a few seconds before parting ways. As we did, it occurred to me: Is this the last time I will ever see this person? I know I’m not so very old, but even if we both live to a ripe old age, will our paths ever again cross? I’m graduating, he’s graduating — we hopefully have plenty of time left, but you never know how you’ll use it.

*Don’t worry; if you’re reading this, it isn’t you. I guarantee it.

This, of course, applies the most to people you know intimately and love. See, for example, See Your Folks, a website built to estimate how many more times you will see your parents. And I’m sure there are things for Dave that Sheryl wishes hadn’t gone unsaid.

But even beyond the most important people in your life, and those in imminent danger of passing on, you surely have significant acquaintances, people who have played important roles — solidly still among the living — you will simply never see again. There’s always a final parting, and there’s no guarantee you’ll recognize it when it comes.

This is a difficult message to truly internalize and actualize, and certainly not all that pleasant to dwell upon, which is why I don’t necessarily recommend thinking about it every time you say goodbye to someone with no (or even with) concrete plans to meet again soon. And I definitely don’t suggest taking it to extremes, pouring out your heart to every friend from whom you part like it’s her deathbed.

Hence, my next-best solution: Try not to pick fights in the first place, but if you start one, make amends as soon as you can. Appreciate and treasure every moment you spend with other people. And stepping back from your immediate relationships — at another level of remove, and this is where Twitter comes in — think carefully about what you say online. Don’t let the last thing you have to say about a fellow human — one you may not even know — be an unwarranted poop joke. It isn’t a good look. Then again, poop jokes never are.

I imagine Larry wishes he could take the whole thing back. I’m sorry, Dave, but I’m afraid he can’t do that. Dave, this conversation can serve no purpose anymore. Goodbye.


Update: A helpful comment on Facebook reminded me of the Midrash on the Book of Ruth, which speaks to a similar theme:

Had Reuven known that Scripture would record of him, “And Reuven heard it, and delivered him out of their hand” (Genesis 37:21), he would have borne Joseph on his shoulder to his father; and had Aaron known that Scripture would record of him, “And also, behold, he cometh forth to meet thee” (Exodus 4:14), he would have gone forth to meet him with timbrels and dances. And had Boaz known that Scripture would record of him, “And he reached her parched corn, and she did eat and was satisfied and left thereof” (Ruth 5:6), he would have fed her with fatted calves.

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