“Nothing is enough for the man to whom enough is too little.” [Epicurus] (not Mitt Romney, I find the two are often confused)
“I don’t have granite countertops in my kitchen, therefor, I am not.” [Mrs. N.]
Fifty years ago, in the seventh grade, a gray haired woman named Mrs. Longo who was our teacher took precious time out of her day to chastise me in front of the entire class. I don’t remember why, what I did or didn’t do, but, if I close my eyes I can see her clear as day and even remember her voice. She pointed at me and proclaimed in a most serious tone… “Your problem is, YOU LACK SERIOUSNESS OF PURPOSE!” The entire class laughed as seventh graders will when one of their own is singled out by authority figures for correction. I can still see Steven Wise, who sat directly behind me, laughing and pointing at me and saying, “It’s true Mrs. Longo, it’s true!“, much to the added delight of my fellow classmates.
To this day I remain dumfounded with regard to just how she knew this. How was it possible for her to know more about me than I had yet to understand about myself? I don’t recall spending much time contemplating the meaning or gravity of her pronouncement at the time, but today, fifty years later, the utter correctness of her observation continues to astound me. It is only now, as decrepitude advances upon me, that I come to contemplate “why” and the “how” of my life to date.
Indeed I do most assuredly lack seriousness of purpose. I have come, upon the reflection that comes with advancing years, to attribute it to two basic things. Two critical influences in my young life. (1) The death at a very young age of my father. (2) My mothers favorite saying… “Go and have some fun, you are going to be dead a LONG time you know.” The first taught me how pathetically finite and ridiculous this thing called life is and the second seemed like very sound advice. I took it with gay abandon and, lucky duck that I am, was saved from the self destruction that comes with overdoing anything by the advice of Hanse Selye, the pioneering Hungarian endocrinologist and father of “Stress Research”. Hanse introduced me to the damage stress (good or bad) caused biologically and to his personal philosophy of “altruistic egoism”. He believed, as I came to, that the best way a person could lead their life and be happy was to, somehow, make them self valuable to those around them. How simple is that? How little time it takes out of one’s day! How “unlike” work it truly is. I have come to believe that THIS is how our primitive ancestors must have lived their lives (if they were happy) and how it all went wrong for mankind when “stuff” took the place of relationships.
[I will close with a few lines from John Schumaker’s “In search of Happiness”] (I do hope he doesn’t mind)
“Agriculture planted in people’s minds the seeds of overkills of all sorts. These lurked in the perception that we are not constrained by nature. All it took was work to transform nature from our parent to our slave. But thinly disguised in this new form of hope was our own slavery. Before that, nature did most of the work. Agriculture signaled the arrival of a type of slave success that would put us on an unceasing treadmill and prevent a return to Eden. There would simply be too many people to turn back. As time went on, the bane of overwork and overpopulation would continue to negate the benefits of slave success. It would be the largest single hurdle to human happiness.”
“Tales and stories about Eden emerged not long after the advent of agriculture. This reflected a type of existential homesickness. But, we would never again find our way home emotionally.”
“But what is happiness except the simple harmony between a man and the life he leads.” [Albert Camus]
My advice for today is to stop taking anything seriously and start farting around while you still have time.