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Wisdom begins with watching a sunrise
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Infinite wisdom . . . or too many cheeseburgers?
More migrant thoughts from Ron Marr
Conventional wisdom is obsessed with promoting the message that we mere mortals should strive for a constant state of good-natured enthusiasm, of deep passion, of a love and appreciation for each second of our fleeting lives. The expectation is that we should arise each morning excited about the day to come, love what we do, be proud of our accomplishments and station in life no matter if we are kings, queens, septic-tank specialists or assistant hog-whackers at the local hog-whacking plant.
And therein lies the problem with conventional wisdom. It’s only a tiny bit wise, a smidgen accurate. The baseline concept might be acceptable, but the memo is distorted and perverted by the omnipresent editing of at least four or five of the seven deadly sins. The original message– probably something in the vein of “Try and enjoy yourself lest you end up depressed as hell” ends of being a 45-page diatribe on the need to accumulate, to win, to best the competition, to fashion yourself as the prettiest, most handsome, charming, ambitious, extroverted and financially successful doofus in the cul-de-sac.
Cul-de-sac, by the way, roughly means “butt of the bag” in French. It’s the bottom. It’s a dead-end street. It’s a semi-circle tour down Groundhog Day Drive that always heads back to the place you were before.
I view conventional wisdom’s approach to living with much the same definition. Enthusiasm, passion, and a love of every second of life cannot be manufactured. You either have this mindset or you don’t. I think such a path is determined by our internal makeup and our individual dealings in life, by heredity, environment, time and experience. The status quo would have you pretend that all is constantly rosy and bright, that even the clouds puffing from a high-sulphur coal plant have a silver lining. It tells you to think and act as if life is a hit sitcom replete with glorious endings and the type of wild, intrinsic celebration of existence that occurs every time you purchase a new car, mimic the hairstyle of a celebrity, slam down a Budweiser or douse your epidermis with Axe body spray.
This is a crock of crap, the large, economy bottle, now available in your grocer’s freezer for the low, low price of self-delusion.
Do not misunderstand. I am not saying that pragmatic pessimism is better than hopeful optimism. Some people really do enjoy life for it’s own sake (but even they are not without times of grief and sadness). It’s obviously better to be delighted than despondent. There’s no doubt that looking for the good results in a much more pleasant existence than digging through the muck, holding the bad high above your head, and proclaiming for all the world to hear “See, I told you it sucked.”
What I am saying is that conventional wisdom’s daily bulletin is largely tainted by media messages, by an infinite barrage of salesmen and shysters who would convince you that happiness can be purchased. It is reinforced by peer pressure arising from that segment of society at large (and it’s one hell of a big segment) that has swallowed such a deceptive hunk of glittery bait. Misery does love company, and some of the most miserable people I’ve ever known are those who never stop trying to convince both you and themselves that their lives are perfect.
I’m trying to recall if I’ve really ever experienced passion, ambition or enthusiasm. I’m sure I have – and I most certainly have felt and do feel love – but I don’t think I know the three former categories in the way that such qualities are usually defined. I’ve at times felt a strong desire to try something new, maybe an excitement over something creative or unexpected, but I don’t know that I could pinpoint any lifelong passion. There were moments . . . brief and passing moments . . . and then life returned to its normal pace.
For instance, most people think that, because I can semi-coherently string words together I must love writing. Nope. Sometimes I really like it, and sometimes the unplanned appearance of a novel phrase or a well-turned thought brings me joy and a massive endorphin rush. But . . . Love it? Naaaahh . . . it’s usually just something I can do (and as any writer knows, we spend most of our time writing nonsense and trash in an attempt to pay the bills). Not a soul on earth would buy what I’m writing here . . . unless of course you want to send me money via the handy little “donation button,” which I will gladly accept since the mortgage is due and the dogs are hungry and I hate selling my plasma.
Passion is far too big a word for most of us. Oddly, the one area where I can claim anything akin to passion lies in a field that requires its absence. I am passionate about simplicity, about living my life with as much peace as is possible. The only ambition to which I truly aspire is sort of a calm and slow-walking bliss. This, of course, might be one of the most elusive states of being ever contemplated. It’s very likely within us all, there for the taking only so long as you try not to forcibly take it.
At least for me, the only way to move closer to such a goal lies in solitude and thought, trying to shape my life (the day-to-day life) into something that requires little. Luckily I’ve never been cursed by the desire for material doo-dads or a high salary. The price for both, again for me, is far too great in terms of stress, tension, aggravation and displeasure. I would much prefer to simply sit in the chair, pet the dogs, read a book or look at shapes in the grain of a wooden door.
There is wisdom, and there is conventional wisdom. I’m pretty sure I lack the former, but at least I’m open to the possibility of learning what it is.
The latter I can do without . . . and gladly so.