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"So you know what Bob did? Well, he was down in that building. You know, the gray one at the end of the street he lives on? Anyway, he was walking along with me and that one friend there, and then all of a sudden it happened again, and Bob said, 'Oh man, it fell!' again! It was hilarious!"

Welcome to the worst leading paragraph of any piece of literature ever written. Were you feeling a little excluded? Didn't know what was happening? Of course you didn't. It was all inside. One big inside joke. You won't find it funny if you don't know where Bob lives, the entire background of Bob and "that one friend," and the importance of the words, "Oh man, it fell!" In fact, if you're totally unacquainted with any one of the people or things referred to in that paragraph, you're totally unable to understand it, much less find some humor in it.

Need examples of inside jokes? Anyone who watches "Late Night with Craig Kilborn" will laugh at the mention of the "Bring Your Stuff guy," while everyone else will just wonder who that is. Followers of Seinfeld (which is almost the entire US population) will immediately know what you're talking about when you say, "Not that there's anything wrong with that!" or "No soup for you!" People who never paid attention to the show will just notice some people chuckled whenyou said that sentence.

Inside jokes are incredibly popular. In fact, in essence, the entire world and how it runs is one big "inside" thing. If you didn't know, or weren't taught, how to act in public, you'll probably be shunned by those people who do. Also, you wouldn't have understood any humor on the late night talk shows during the past year if you just somehow missed hearing about a woman whose first name is Monica.

Yes, "inside" things are everywhere. They are life. You know some things that are informative, funny, and otherwise unknown but to a small group of you and a few other people. Some people are even out of touch with life, on the outside. These people usually are locked up in "hospitals," otherwise known as asylums.

However, I think that all these "inside" things are bad. I would go as far as to say we should get rid of them altogether. How? Well, there really is no way. It's impossible to know how broad a term the word "inside" is. I think we could actually learn a lesson from TV in this case, though.

Yes, TV. The idiot box. The cater-to-the-lowest-common-denominator entertainment of choice. The idea of catering to the lowest common denominator is just what we need more of. Let's stop excluding people from things. Let's also stop worrying about trivial, inside things.

How in the world could we do that? Well, learn from our good friends on television! No, I don't mean looking at how a show like "Friends" concentrates on a group of six people and keeps replaying plot lines of how their loves and hates intertwine. That's much too narrow-minded for the real world, although that is how it functions a lot.

I'd rather look at a show with some heroes in it. Big, larger-than-life heroes. A show like Superman, or even a movie like Star Wars or Star Trek. These shows' characters must be all encompassing. They're aimed at every joe in the world, and want to be able to relate with everyone. So they don't aim there with inside jokes. They aim with real content that people can identify with. Heck, everyone has wanted to be able to stop a car at one point in their life, or have a lightsabre in their hand. At the very least, most everyone has yearned for x-ray vision!

Also, take a note of what shows like Star Trek and Star Wars focus on. None of their characters ever worry about little things. They don't care if "Rico said she was ugly, so I'm gonna go jump him with a bunch of friends tomorrow!" It's not troublesome if their haircut looks just perfectly so, and they don't go out of their way to make life harder for someone else for trivial reasons. They worry about things that matter. Saving the world. Helping people. Fighting against a common evil.

Why can't we bring this mentality to real life? Sure, you're not swinging from platforms and shooting down Imperial Storm Troops (you have to have seen the movie to understand that comment!) , but you sure could be helping the world out. No, not any of that, "Make a different, though we won't tell you how" kind of crap. Do thigns that matter. Need a checklist? Here's a quick one:

1. Make sure you're not making life harder for someone else. If you are, try to stop. It really isn't helping anyone. That guy or gal is having a harder life because of you, and you're wasting your own time on them, which makes even littler sense if you dislike that person.

2. Help out with little things that don't take too much work. That's right, I'm saying don't go out and volunteer to work at a thrift store for eight hours if it seems like a lot of work to you. Do something that isn't work. For instance, do you enjoy driving? Teach someone how to be a better driver!

3. Think rationally. Have common sense. Before you do something, think about it and see if it really makes sense. This can sometimes take so long as to even stop the flow of a conversation or interaction with someone else, which could make you seem like more of a dull person. However, in reality, it's changing you from a person with a personality a mile wide and an inch deep to a person who's a foot across and ten miles deep. Remember, sometimes silence really is golden.

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Karl Becker, the author of all these articles, uses New Tricks for his writings.

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