3 Things I Learned from Ugly Memes

Tony Sorrentino
3 min readNov 8, 2021

Most Thursday nights for the last two years I have met with a small group of other men, at first in person and then (unavoidably) over Zoom.

There is one man in our group — a retired data and computer scientist in his 70’s — who sends a “good morning” meme to our group every day, always in the 7 o’clock hour.

He has never missed a day. 600+ days, right in a row.

When he went on vacation for a week, he assigned the job to someone else in our group; they took up the mantle faithfully until the day he returned, when, like the grandfather clock that he has become to our group, he greeted us at 7:13

The memes are… hideous, each one more so than the last, in fact. They are the kind of thing you might find on your parents’ Facebook wall — or your 70+-year-old friend’s.

Sometimes they are trite or cliche, but many days they are full of the kind of wisdom and truth that younger people (like me) like to roll my eyes at, thinking I can reinvent my way out of the simple inevitabilities of human existence.

I have learned a lot of things from this man. Here are three:

  1. I have learned the value of consistent presence.
    His exemplified (but never stated) virtue is something like: “Show up. Everyday. With a horribly cheesy meme. That takes 12 seconds to send. It may be more meaningful than intermittent offerings of pithy wisdom or grand appreciation. Because it shows that you are there. And that matters more than most anything else.” I’m learning he may just be right.
  2. I have learned not to dismiss things that are ugly.
    My friend’s daily posts prove irrefutably that not everything worthwhile is stylistically relevant or visually beautiful. I am learning that these would not be better if they were better-designed, that part of their goodness is their garishness, and that honest really does beat perfect. And moreover, I have learned that I can learn a lot from people who don’t know that their memes are cheesy and that this unawareness does not make them less-than. Little by little, I am learning to release my need to be “cool.”
  3. I am learning that caring for me is the only way I can care for you.
    In specific, yesterday I was struck by the one example I’ll include here. “Self-care is how you take your power back.” I see this as a more direct statement of what former Navy SEAL Clint Bruce talks about as “relaxing” and “reloading.” I grew up believing self-care was a justification for laziness, selfishness, and weakness (oh, you too?). I am slowly learning that it is the exact opposite of those things, that it is the only pathway to impactful action, selfless generosity, and power for good.

Anyway, it’s taken me now several hundred words to say what my friend has learned to express in just two.

Good morning.

--

--

Tony Sorrentino

Chief Strategy Officer at OX Creative. Certified Paterson LifePlan Guide and StratOp Facilitator.