Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Scattered Thoughts on Bumper Stickers
I am listening to Jethro Tull playing "It Was a New Day Yesterday, But it's an Old Day Now." I feel poorly qualified to share anything meaningful about the transitory nature of time. I have spent the last seventeen years listening to people saying things like, "If you have one foot in today, and one foot in tomorrow, you are pissing all over today." What does that mean? I know of other people who say things like ,"Today is a gift, that is why we call it the present." That sounds quaint enough, but still has certain limitations.
I feel sure that there exists truth in both of those thoughts. But just as I know of no law that really states "pedestrians always have the right of way", I know no prevailing wisdom in disregarding the past, or suggesting no chance of a future. Having been both a driver and a pedestrian, I took comfort in my experiences overseas where it became clear that cars, not pedestrians, always have the right of way. Drivers regularly, dispassionately honk horns at pedestrians to remind them to get out of the way. So, when I hear these pithy little sayings, I still smile at the frequent usefulness of such sayings.
I wonder how many asshole pedestrians have gotten killed in traffic, believing this nonexistent right of way would magically engage the braking systems of oncoming vehicles. I ought to ask a police officer if she or he believes pedestrians "always have the right of way." I just like to be careful not to let my life run on quaint generalizations.
But, when I live my life, I hope to know when to keep my reflections to myself. I get tired of people trying to control my thoughts or my words by telling me one of their canned wisdoms. Now, I can think all I want about the past, and I can plan as much as I want about the future. Do we have a message, a caution, in this time preoccupation? Without the guarantee of tomorrow, anytime spent in planning- keeping a calendar, perhaps- becomes useless? Maybe equally silly to reflect on our joys, sadness, successes and failures from the past? Surely we have nothing to gain in that.
I only mention these thoughts, because the people sharing them, often seem intent on changing people's lives with these cutting-edge wisdoms. Do I seem recalcitrant? Does my resistance, my irritation seem unreasonable? I throw these ideas out to the world.... I have bumper sticker wisdoms of my own, I am sure. I continue to smile and placate opinionated busy-bodies, and then I write about them.
You may sense sarcasm in my examples. I think bumper sticker philosophies can work. I still like to keep friends around me who have a collection of life experiences that help iron out, and transcend bumper stickers when I make life decisions for myself. I enjoy having such friends in my life. With such people, I can see the success they have in their life, I can hear how they achieved their success, and I find most of them share about the things they do without needing to advise.
Years ago, I attended a meeting of a group called Al-Anon. Al-Anon groups gather together and works the twelve step program to help themselves learn how to live with alcoholics in their lives. One thing I remember vividly from those groups was every meeting they ended with a fixed statement including the phrase, "Let there be no advice, gossip, or criticism ..." Can human beings grow and develop without those things? Maybe a person can even grow better in the absence of "advice, gossip (and) criticism"? What do I have to gain by learning to leave people alone if they fail to live a standard I hold true for myself?
Of course, maybe I am just being silly.
Thank you for reading.