LOPEZ: How does one strike the right balance on self-esteem?
HEWITT: Very good friends who will set you straight on abundant failings is the best insurance here.
LOPEZ: Why stay close to the energetic? Could that become exhausting?
HEWITT: True, true. The very energetic can be wearying, but much better to be exhausted from having been involved in purposeful, striving work or play than to be lethargically living out days on a couch.
LOPEZ: Why do you quote Pope Benedict writing that “The body must be trained, so to speak, for the resurrection”?
HEWITT: My editor Joel Miller brought that passage to my attention, and it fit. The Happiest Life is all about the practice of the basic Judeo-Christian values which were omnipresent in my youth and reinforced via every stream of media in the ’60s and ’70s, but which are now hardly ever openly discussed except to be jeered at. There is no reality show in the sort of training Benedict is talking about, even though the reality he anticipates is eternal.
LOPEZ: Why is empathy so hard to describe?
HEWITT: You have that right. Empathy is not sympathy, but a relationship between individuals who have similar experiences of suffering. We can sympathize with almost everyone, but we can truly empathize only with those who are enduring that which we have ourselves experienced.
LOPEZ: Is “good cheer” really “like charitable giving”? Can’t it be annoying?
HEWITT: “Perky” is annoying. Good cheer, I don’t think so. Genuine good cheer can be very quiet and very sly, but always noticed. Mirth is a quality that comes in all sorts of packages.
LOPEZ: In all the interviews you’ve done with people, what has been the most important insight or witness?
HEWITT: Rabbi Harold Kushner told me in 1995 that when people are suffering, “Show up and shut up.” I write at length about what he was getting at in The Happiest Life, but it truly is the best advice I have ever been given.