MADELEINE BRAND, host:
Back now with DAY TO DAY. And Alex, I have a little complaint.
ALEX CHADWICK, host:
Oh, not you.
BRAND: What are you saying?
CHADWICK: Well, complaints, no. How would you describe yourself, as an Obama style idealist, a glass half full type of person, you?
BRAND: Well, Alex, as you know, I kind of look at the glass the other way around, which is what I'm sure you're getting at. But you know what? It's never too late to turn over a new leaf. So I spent some time trying to do that. I read about this movement started by a reverend in Kansas City, Missouri to get you to stop complaining and gossiping.
CHADWICK: Stop complaining and gossiping?
BRAND: I know. I know. It's an uphill battle. But this is what you do. You wear one of these wristbands a la Lance Armstrong, those Live Strong ones. But this one is purple and every time you catch yourself grousing, you have to take it off and put it on the other wrist. And the goal is to go three weeks without taking the band off. Three weeks without complaining or gossiping.
And to be honest, I had a hard time getting my head around this so I called the Reverend himself, Will Bowen of Christ Church Unity in Kansas City.
How are you?
Reverend WILL BOWEN (Christ Church Unity): Good, how are you?
BRAND: Good, thank you, can't complain. Oh wait, no, yes I can. At first I thought, wow, I could never do that. You know, I just, not complaining for three weeks? I don't think I could not complain for ten minutes. Do you get that a lot?
Rev. BOWEN: I do, actually.
BRAND: And apparently many people are trying to stop. Bowen says since he gave out 250 purple bands at his church one Sunday, it's become a worldwide phenomenon. He's been on Oprah, The Today Show, and he ships out 25,000 of these purple no complaining bracelets every week. Not to complain or anything, but what's the appeal? Why are people so taken with this?
Rev. BOWEN: The most important reason I found is that you actually become a happier person by not complaining.
BRAND: I have to say, though, when I issue a good big ole complaint, I feel a lot better. I feel like I've gotten something off my chest.
Rev. BOWEN: The thing is, though, by expressing those things, you're not gonna make them any better. You're just going to do what most people do when they complain, and that is you're actually looking for a way to connect with people.
BRAND: So why is it hard to stop?
Rev. BOWEN: I think because it is habitual, it is sort of a default setting in our culture. It's sort of a low level vibrational energy, a way of connecting with other people.
CHADWICK: So he is saying what? Stifle all your - stop complaining all the time?
BRAND: No, he's not. He's saying complain, but direct it to the person that can actually do something about it. Just don't complain to hear yourself complain. So let's say you're at dinner and your soup is cold or you didn't get what you wanted, don't complain to your friends at the table; go to the waiter because he can presumably do something about it.
I get that, I do. But it still seems a little out of my reach, and then it dawns on me. You are not Jewish.
Rev. BOWEN: No, I'm not. No, but I hear the word kvetch all the time and also from my friends in England, winge. So yes.
BRAND: I mean it really sort of part of the Jewish culture to complain and kvetch. I mean it's kind of, you can't avoid it.
Rev. BOWEN: People can avoid it, they just don't. You're right. I do get that it is, it may be a cultural thing. Not being Jewish, I don't know.
Mr. MICHAEL WEX (Author): Hi, is that Madeleine?
Mr. WEX: Oh, hi, nice to talk to you.
Mr. WEX: Yes.
BRAND: Nice to talk to you.
Michael Wex is the author of "Born to Kvetch." I caught up with him on his lunch break from jury duty in Toronto.
Mr. WEX: Yeah, it's been difficult.
BRAND: Has it?
Mr. WEX: Yeah.
BRAND: You're complaining already.
Mr. WEX: Yeah, I'm on jury duty. So just actually getting to a telephone has been an adventure.
BRAND: Do I hear, is that a kvetch?
Mr. WEX: Kind of. I mean it's a fact, though. You know, you - I mean the best ones you can't separate. You know, Judaism - and I think a lot of the rest of the world - works very much on this idea of if you don't find fault, nothing will ever change. You know, and Emerson said, you know, if you build a better mousetrap the world will beat a path to your door.
Well, the only way you're going to build a better mousetrap is somebody's kvetching about how bad the mousetrap you've got already is. You know, one of the reasons I think that you find this in Jewish culture was the terrible conditions under which people are living, or were living. You find this mirrored in a lot of minority cultures among people who really are oppressed by their neighbors where that kind of kvetching is really all they've got. You know, that's the only thing that keeps them able not to knuckle under. And I think it's a very important thing.
BRAND: And let's point out that a lot of humor, a lot of Jewish humor, anyway, is based around the kvetch. I mean without the kvetch there'd be nothing funny to talk about.
Mr. WEX: Absolutely. Well, again, you know, what defines funny is the disjunction between the way things are and the way things should be. Nice sunny day today, yeah, you know, if you like to be blinded.
BRAND: Michael Wex, the Reverend Will Bowen, and me - on complaining.
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