There are three graphics going around Facebook these days that cause me to pause and contemplate. They’re supposed to be funny and the originator probably didn’t intend them to provoke deep philosophical thoughts, but nonetheless.
The last few years have just been something. I remarked the other day that having the rug pulled out from under my feet every 30 seconds or so should feel normal; it should no longer surprise me or provoke nothing more than an off-hand comment of “here we go again.”
Still, I’m surprised, outraged, demoralized, saddened, defeated or whatever emotion the Lucy-with-the-football moment has provoked. This proves something although I’m not sure what. Perhaps it proves that finding contentment in chaos is pretty damned difficult, but I suspect that any of the Buddhists of my acquaintance could have told me that. I wouldn’t have argued with them either because I am having a right awful time with finding any contentment, much less holding on to it long enough to marvel at the positive aspects of chaos.
I tried to abolish the rest of July the other day, but folks celebrating a birthday this month were opposed. In truth, it’s not just been July that’s been a problem so it was a flawed idea – a no solution solution.
Right on schedule, at about the age of 30 or so, I noticed that I didn’t know one single normal person. In talking with other people, I gather this is a rite of passage. Young’uns get this idea from somewhere that at the appropriate calendar moment they will enter the great society of something called “grownups” and much of the drama of the playground, school hallway and sports fields will cease. Decisions will be thoughtful and correct. Maturity and right-thinking will be abound and between bouts of doing the right thing, flossing our teeth, paying our bills on time, and running well-ordered lives, the “grownups” will look around, take a gander at what’s not working and correct it.
Poppycock. This is probably the worst fairytale we tell our children. “Grownups” are nothing more than children without the qualities that make children such wonderful creatures. Worse, the quirks of childhood solidify into something heavy, dark and dreary. There is so much that we don’t outgrow. And some of what we do outgrow, perhaps we shouldn’t. How I would have loved the other day to stand up and shout “Liar, liar, pants on fire!” But grownups don’t do that. If we’ve been through enough classes, employee trainings, and CEU conferences, we might say something like “That’s not my understanding of what happened.”
By the age of 50, most of us understand that “normal” is nothing but a dryer setting. But chances are pretty good that we’re angry about that truth. At least that’s my take when a statement purporting to state the norm is always met by a “but.” “But” is a result of the residual anger from learning the playground bullies are still bullies, the tattletale is still tattling and we’re still using rock, paper, scissors to solve problems.
Some of us embark on Sinatra’s “My Way” to navigate our lives. We’ve learned that the “grownups” aren’t, there is no “normal” and the Buddha is always killed on the road. We resolve to pilot our own ship, forge our destiny, march to our own drummer, yada yada yada. While we’re heaping those platitudes on the Chinette plate of our lives, we pass over Donne’s “No Man is an Island.” Perhaps we never had a teacher make us read that bit of wisdom.
No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.
I’m not good at planning. I never have been, but like Charlie Brown, I continue to try. I set out from a to b with the simplest path in mind. I’m never very far when chaos reminds me I’m not an island and the rich, often rewarding, continent of my life is going to complicate the straight route I’ve planned.
I had plans for this weekend that were derailed before the first footstep. Before I could alter them appropriately, a tragedy unfolded killing folks I don’t know and I’m caught up in the tolling bells. While learning of that horror, I read of others and now Wordsworth’s “The world is too much with me” is complicating the hope of the Easy Way to prevail.
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not.–Great God! I’d rather be
A pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.
Someone I knew, who died a few months ago, used to go on a media fast once a year to celebrate his birthday. For thirty days, he partook of no television, newspapers, Internet. It sounded like a fine idea, but I don’t have the self-discipline to effect such a total block. Periodically, I’ll declare a media fast lite where I refuse all but the lightest forms of media entertainment ignoring politics and the mayhem of what we call “news.”
Is finding contentment in chaos achieved by blinders? Maybe? Is it necessary to allow my senses to be assaulted by the mayhem with only literature as a bandage?
And why is it that I think if I could only restore order to my home, I could find some equanimity? I know this last thing to be true, because it’s worked so many times before. Is it because by controlling what I can, I buy into that childish myth that when I’m a grownup I’ll have the power to right wrongs?
Liar, liar, pants on fire.
I’m off to self-delude.