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Anthony Bourdain had the answer

If you’ve read my books, attended my webinars or discussion groups, or even one of our musical performances, you know how I view the importance of authentic relationships and building community and what purpose it serves.

Now what does that have to do with Anthony Bourdain? And what answer did he have exactly?

You may not know who Anthony Bourdain is, but he was a standard on The Travel Channel and then he moved on to CNN. He died in 2018 by apparent suicide.

I say apparent suicide because the timing was suspicious – and prevented his negative comments about the Clintons from coming out on 60 Minutes (and maybe you are aware of the ongoing joke about being “suicided” by the Clintons). Not to mention, the explanation for why he ended his own life in the “tell-all” book (it was supposedly due to heartbreak over a lost relationship) seems specious when talking about someone who had not only a lifetime of experience (dying at 61) but was exposed to vastly different cultures worldwide, which one would hope would bring perspective and wisdom into any heartbreak.

I have no idea what happened. I was not there. However, since he was a personality my husband and I followed, I’ve kind of stuck with the notion that he did not take his own life. It just didn’t make any sense to me. So I am coming from the place that, for whatever reason, Anthony Bourdain was taken off the board – even if it was technically a suicide.

This morning, I encountered a Facebook post by a restaurant that shares “the wisdom of Anthony B.”  And it came to mind that perhaps there might be another reason Anthony Bourdain was taken off the board (maybe it wasn’t the negative Clinton comments on 60 Minutes after all).

Here is the quote: “Eat at a local restaurant tonight. Get the cream sauce. Have a cold pint at 4 o’clock in a mostly empty bar. Go somewhere you’ve never been. Listen to someone you think may have nothing in common with you. Order the steak rare. Eat an oyster. Have a negroni. Have two. Be open to a world where you may not understand or agree with the person next to you, but have a drink with them anyways. Eat slowly. Tip your server. Check in on your friends. Check in on yourself. Enjoy the ride.”

There is SO MUCH to unpack here. But first, yes, let’s start with the end.

Anthony B. was on the ride to enjoy the ride. He understood that much. So yes, it is very difficult to see him committing suicide. Especially when coupled with the two sentences immediately preceding it. He understood the need to check in on yourself. He understood the need to reach out to friends.

But wait, there’s more. “Eat at a local restaurant tonight.” Buy local, eat local, support local, support small businesses and the people who make them run (“Tip your server.”). This is GREAT advice to keep entrepreneurship alive, to keep small businesses and their families afloat, to create new economic bonds and new long-lasting relationships with people in your neighborhood, people contributing to making your neighborhood better, safer, and economically independent from the big corporations.

Watching the death of small businesses (especially small restaurants) during the pandemic – and watching the nearest competition of big businesses (medium entrepreneurial startups that not only made it locally but were up and coming, not only with more and more transactions, but with sights set on additional local markets) also dying at the hands of Walmart, Target, and Amazon and national chains – the pandemic mitigation measures seemed orchestrated to do this very thing.

“Get the cream sauce” and “order the steak rare” and “Eat an oyster” and “Have a negroni, have two” all have some things in common as well. The obvious might be the idea that life is too short to NOT ENJOY GOOD FOOD because you are WORRYING ABOUT YOUR HEALTH. And this is obvious because Anthony B. was not a very healthy person. He smoked. He drank. He ate the cream sauce. But he enjoyed food – and enjoyed new experiences. He ENJOYED life!

But he wasn’t overweight like the average American. He wasn’t into restaurant chains or processed foods either. So here is another gem in the making. With the Climate Crisis mouthpieces telling us cattle are the problem but our oceans are over-fished – and we should be turning to human-engineered protein sources and killing the cows to save the planet, his advice goes directly against the narrative designed to take control of every aspect of our lives – including what we should eat and drink. We are being instructed to do the very opposite of Anthony B.’s advice: “STOP ENJOYING YOUR LIFE.”

So maybe he had to be taken off the board because he was an influential voice to a demographic who otherwise would simply buy into the approved messaging if his voice was no longer speaking into their lives.

And yes, there is still more. “Go somewhere you’ve never been.” Travel. Be open to new experiences, different cultures. Be amazed by new landscapes, nature’s beauty, how empty the world truly is outside the few urban centers where it seems like people are stacked on top of each other, trashing the planet, paving forests, polluting rivers, and gorging themselves on consumerism.

That is a dangerous message for the climate crisis people, the overpopulation people, the people who want you to stay within a fifteen-minute radius of your home for all your needs.

But here is the part of the quote that is most dangerous to the machinations of those who would rule over us but to do so will necessitate we see those who disagree with us as the enemy (instead of understanding that those who seek to replace liberty with tyranny are the real enemy):

“Listen to someone you think may have nothing in common with you.” And the worst of it: “Be open to a world where you may not understand or agree with the person next to you, but have a drink with them anyways.”

 They have been trying to divide us. Their motto appears to be “divide and conquer.” And their strategy is something like: “Let the minions do the dirty work and then we’ll be invited in to clean up the mess and pick up the pieces.”

When I talk to anyone about the state of our union (When I discuss the unraveling of our society, the ease with which freedom has been discarded; when I speak about the increased polarization and division that has been stoked and the flames of violence and fear that have been fanned), they want to know what can be done to pick up the pieces, weave the threads back together, and save our way of life.

And it is exactly what Anthony B. suggested. Talk to those whom you THINK are your enemy (they aren’t). Find common ground at the bottom of a shared glass (or plate). Be open to the idea that just because you disagree with someone or you cannot understand why they think the way you do, that you can still have camaraderie, a friendship even.

The answer, dear reader, is authentic relationship. Always.

The answer is not in the fight to win an election. It’s not in the need to be right and thus the compulsion to argue and win a debate.

It is in trying to understand what you may never understand. Seeking answers where there may be none. Being curious instead of being “right.” Truly getting to know not just what someone thinks but truly getting to know someone.

It is in helping your neighbor, serving your enemy. It is in understanding that your enemy is not your enemy but your neighbor.

It doesn’t cost anything to be kind – even to our perceived enemy. It doesn’t cost anything to be curious instead of “right.” It doesn’t cost anything to listen to someone you disagree with and show them love anyway.

But we have been conditioned to defend our “team,” to protect our own feelings with a strong “offense.” We’ve been conditioned to either shy away from difficult conversations in fear or if we are not afraid, to damage a relationship or burn a bridge with our aggressive attacks against the “opposition.”

This conditioning accelerated in 2020. The divisions multiplied along with the intensity of the battle. It was all designed to isolate, divide, antagonize, and create hostility and suspicion to ensure we would always see our neighbor as our enemy – and not those who were conditioning us to see our neighbor as our enemy.

Yes, Anthony Bourdain was dangerous for promoting conversation and curiosity instead of division and polarization.

He was dangerous for promoting travel over convenience.

He was dangerous for promoting new experiences over status quo comforts and convenience.

He was dangerous for telling us to enjoy life.

He was dangerous for telling us to enjoy good-tasting, unhealthy food and drink.

So maybe he was taken off the board – but maybe it wasn’t the Clintons.

So let’s take his advice today. Be open to stepping outside the expected. Be open to difficult conversations. Be open to unexpected friendships. Be open to thinking differently. Be open to mending fences instead of tearing up the yard. And be open to discovering new depths in a person whom from a distance you see as merely two-dimensional.  

We might just be able to pick up the pieces ourselves. And then maybe, just maybe, the inevitable end I sense around the corner can be put off just a bit longer.

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