Monday, June 1, 2009
Be luminous! The day is over.
Title generated by a robotic poetrix-- but it's not half-bad, especially for a Monday evening mantra.
Except I am lucky. I have a job, and I love my job. I realize not everyone is in that happy boat.
I remember the dip of the mid to late 80's-- people walking away from their 18% mortgages, plants shutting or cutting down left and right. I was working in Southeast Texas. Many of my clients had worked for years on the rigs or at refineries, where no degree at all, not even a high school diploma, was needed to make a family wage and have health insurance. When the Savings and Loans failed, those same folks couldn't even find minimum wage jobs. We didn't wait to see how things turned out. We left our newer, Lone-Star-State scale Texas home on the market for a year and a half at much well under 100K in a town that had boomed, then busted on oil.
The good thing about getting old is watching history rewind and unwind. The market goes up, the market goes down. If you live long enough, or die at the right time, it doesn't matter so much. In a book called "Astonish Yourself! 101 Experiments in the Philosophy of Everyday Life", this is illustrated in No. 55: Invent Headlines. Author Roger-Pol Droit encourages the reader to write an imagined front page full of political changes, scientific advances, crime stories, celebrity tidbits and natural disasters. At the end of the entry, he notes: "Killing time is not the point of this experiment, which is rather to prove to yourself how the flood of news never ceases to repeat itself, and how it is always the same. It shows neither progress or novelty...only confirm(s) that there is nothing less new than the news. All it shows, interminably, is the endless misfortune of man."
That seems rather disheartening. But for every sorrow there are also joys, and guess what? Neither are permanent. There is something to be said for being an observer rather than interpreter of events. I like the old Chinese story about the farmer, out in the field. One day he finds a stray horse. His neighbor tells him, "You are so lucky! Now you have help for harvest." The farmer nods, and says, "Maybe, maybe not." The next day, the farmer's son attempts to ride the wild horse, and is bucked off and breaks both legs. The neighbor comes over to comfort the farmer, saying, "Bad luck! Now your son can't help you with the harvest!" The farmer replies, "Maybe. Maybe not." A day later, the dynasty in power comes searching for any able-bodied young men to go on a suicide mission. The farmer's son is out of commission. The neighbor says, "So lucky for you!" And again the farmer replies: "Maybe, maybe not."
We don't know the ending. We can't know. We can make meaning out of what is offered. We can do the serenity prayer-- change what we can, accept what we can't. We can do, as my grandmother used to say, the best we can do, and that's all we can do. But the answer to most of our worrisome thoughts is: Don't know. While we wait-- try not to suffer in advance.