Saturday, August 2, 2008

Words to the Wise

Ahhh...words of wisdom. We've all heard them. And, from time to time, we have all offered them to those who we hope to guide from the 'wisdom' of our own experience.

Wisdom, according to Peter Avelard, is something akin to the distillation of truth that comes from questioning through our doubts. In the end then, it is the reason that stands. Thus, it stands to reason that we can trust the wisdom that guides us on our harrowing journey through the traps and travails of the lives we lead.

Doesnt it?

Hmmm. Not really.

Think about where you get most of your wisdom from. I think the best kind of wisdom comes from good old natural selection. You touch the stop touching the damn fire. Ahh...useful wisdom. But there are other kinds of wisdom. Most of the wisdom we take for granted we basically get from other people...people we consider wise...or in the know. And that's why advertisers put lab coats on Maybelline spokeswomen and why every political hack and pundit gets his 15 seconds of fame among the channel surfers.

Lots of people appear to be wise. The guy on the 3AM informercial with the ferrari, loads of dough and a yachtful of young blondes seems pretty savvy to me! And come Sunday morning, there is the suit and tie waving the good book with tales of instant fish and water walking. Scientists sure seem to be wise right alongside of bookish academics. And I think you're even smarter if you happen to have a Phd or an MD or an NAACP or IUD or something like that.

Face it. You wouldnt want someone who didnt know what the hell he or she was talking about doing your triple bypass. He better have a lab coat, an IUD and know something about cosmetics.

We learn and grow wise from experience. I suspect failure the first few hundred times that guys without the necessary lab coats sliced into coronary cases. And just how many odds and ends from the seabed did people have to gobble down before someone found the oyster and decided it would taste good on a cracker with tobasco?

Everyone has wisdom. Yadda yadda Yoda. Religions, advertisers, politicians, sages, scientists, teachers, parents. Lots of it going around. What part of it do you trust? I thought that wisdom comes from experience, from questioning. Can we take it for granted!? Is that wise!!?

'Just do it.' So sayeth Nike. Did you know that Nike was a classical goddess?She didnt even own a pair of running shoes. She wore sandals and they quote her? Did they even meet Nike? Her bust is in the Louvre in Paris. Go ask her whether she wants us to do it. And, while you're there, ask her what it is that she wants us to do. I'm ready for the answer and I already have a pair of shoes, and sandals just in case.

Point is, we follow a lot of instructions in this world. I dont remember bringing the instruction book with me on the way in. Spiders know how to make cool webs and I know that girls make me happy when they run on the beach. But that is instinct. Is that the best wisdom? Is that the only manual for life we really need?

Well. Better not poke your friend in the eye or rob a bank when the cops are watching. That wouldnt be wise. But nobody really told me that when I was a baby. Without girls to tease my instincts I was pretty much a useless blob of crib crawler. Dont get me wrong. I liked girls then too, but I was hungry.

Is it wise to write about wisdom? I think that shows a bit of hubris myself. But I didnt always have the best instincts. Or was I just not wise enough to follow them? Hmm. Damn wisdom. Maybe I'm catching on!

What got me thinking about this was a letter I wrote to myself when I was leaving high school for the real world few years ago. I was cleaning out my garage when I found the letter written inside an old yearbook of mine. I dont remember writing the letter but I do remember leaving behind the only world I knew, with all of its comfort and familiarity, to boldly crossover into the fierce unknown...the mystery of adventure abroad!

What words of wisdom did I give myself before I left all security behind, before I waved the long goodbye and jumped the chasm of uncertainty? Just these..."Have fun...and don't eat too many tacos."

That's what I left myself with. That was the wisdom I armed my teenage mind with against those snares and mines of the world at large. Now I know that I have had fun...lots of it!! Yay! I'd like to say that I really havent gone too far with the Mexican food. Alas, I had three tacos just last night after going out and having some of that fun I hastened myself to enjoy. I was full after the first two. Did I eat the third? Yes. And that wasnt very wise.

After all of these years I really thought that I must have had some kind of amazing plan for my life back in the day. Surely, I had words to live by. Surely, I had the instruction manual under my arm. There are wolves out there just waiting.

I guess I know now why I spend so much time having fun. And I suppose that I have finally explained what it is about tacos.

How much 'wisdom' do I live by? How much 'wisdom' do you live by? Maybe we should all just shake the eight ball and start over. The world is always at war, the genders bash each other mercilessly, the ice is melting at the poles and we're worried about what?

Did you ever just look up? Do it sometime. Trust me, there is something there. I know...I know...wake up...walk to the fridge, go to school/work, think about sex, go home, think about more sex, watch a movie, play with the dog, stop the kids from fighting, go to bed, try to have sex, go to sleep.That's the routine. But look up sometime, day or night.

When you look up in the day (noonish) you'll see this massive ball of FIRE up in the sky. It's totally cool and looks really dangerous (I bet there are all kinds of lab coats involved). When you look up at night you'll see all of these stars - more balls of FIRE - in an endless sea of dreamlike nothingness.

Get a little perspective. That's wise. That's the best to what I said was somewhere up there before and in relation to the instinct kind of wisdom...if that is. Confused? are wise.

Perspective helps with confusion. It lets you see the big picture. And the big picture is really way too big, frighteningly so. And that gives you some perspective.

No one knows what the hell they are talking about.

Some say anything is possible and others say you cant teach an old dog new tricks. Douglas Adams shared quite possibly the best wisdom ever in his book "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" when he wrote "Don't Panic" as the axiom for the universal guide. With those balls of fire up there that's definitely good advice whether it qualifies as wisdom or not.

How about...'find your own way but dont do anything really stupid.'
That's mine. Nike cannot have that one no matter whether she decides to wear her own shoes or not.

Society might have a problem with that one so there is always the Golden Rule..."Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Pretty good stuff. Does that apply to Maybelline? I hope so. But it doesnt help me with my taxes. At least it keeps me honest.

What's your Golden Rule? What words did your father tell you to live by or what words did you write down only to find in your garage years later? You know what I think? Forget em. Try some new ones. Change your religion and move to another country. Course...the big ball of fire is still there. Damnit.

I, for one, am suitably armed when it comes to tacos and I do know the value of a good time. Trust me on that one.

"Have fun...and don't eat too many tacos."

I will. And I haven't.

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