Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Yeah, like you saw the subject line and thought I was going to cram all of life into a one page blog. I’m good (he says modestly), but I ain’t that good. So I’ll just do my usual hop-skip-and-jump routine on some random observations on the subject.

I’ve always liked the quote: “When people say ‘life is hard,’ I’m always tempted to ask: ‘Compared to what?’”

Perhaps the biggest difference between Man and all other animals is that ours is the only species who is aware of the future, and which expects. The problem with expectations is that they are seldom met to the degree we want them to be. (Another favorite expression, which I’ve quoted before, is a line from the musical The Unsinkable Molly Brown…or, as I insist upon calling it, The Unbrownable Molly Sink: “You say your prayers weren’t answered? That’s just not so! Your prayers were answered: The answer was ‘No.’”)

There are at least two sides to everything in life. Stoicism…simple acceptance of whatever happens…is an admirable and comforting attitude, but stoicism stifles the human urge to make things better. I read a fascinating study that points out that Western cultures are as a rule more technologically advanced than many isolated Eastern societies primarily because we do not accept things the way they are.

There is no statement that can be made that cannot be countered and disputed, often with great vehemence and a good deal of justification. “Life is good” is a truth which can be countered by just reading a newspaper or watching a TV program, or walking down the street with your eyes open. “Life sucks” is also a truth, but is countered by the same methods as in the previous sentence.

Life is a game we all play, but in which the rules are both unclear and constantly changing. It’s a gigantic jigsaw puzzle with no picture on the box. It is a map drawn on a weather vane. It is confusing to the point of being maddening; sad and discouraging to the point of despair; joyous as ten thousand brightly colored balloons released to soar into the sky. It is all these things and infinitely more. But what it is, above all else, is a gift…an all-to-brief nanosecond of existence in the nothingness of eternity from which we somehow emerge and into which we too-quickly return.

Within the gift of life are innumerable other gifts which we too seldom recognize or appreciate. Principle among these is the gift of choice. Circumstances may limit us, but even within those limits we have the ability to make choices which allow us to change, to grow, and to seek happiness…or at the very least, contentment.

Life is also blank canvas presented to us at birth. The tools provided with which to create something on it vary from person to person. Some are given dozens of brushes and a full palette of colors, some a handful or less of crayons or pastels, some merely a single pencil. What we do with what we are given is up to us.

Robert Merrick, the “elephant man” whose life had meaning far beyond the incomprehensibly difficult circumstances he endured with amazing dignity, summed up the point of this entry. “I think my head is so large,” he said, “because it is so full of dreams.” And what more can be said of life than that?

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