If I Could Suggest Just One Thing...
With each new Thanksgiving holiday, I watch with increased gratitude my passing years. Now that I have reached the august age of 67, not to be confused with the September age of 66 or the October age of 68, I have begun to notice that a distressingly large number of people I have known, admired, or been inspired by are no longer among the living.
This puts quite a stress on our relationships. I am impressed with the claims of folks who like meditation, shamanism, or sťances, but in the main they leave one in the lurch when it comes to carrying on an affair of the heart, or simply a meaningless casual liaison, once one of the parties to the pairing is deceased.
In any case, all of this democratic shuffling off of the mortal coil gives me pause. No telling how much longer I can hold out against the urge to merge with the infinite. All things considered, then, Thanksgiving, chance, and the relentlessly forward movement of existence, it may be high time - interesting that one never hears it could be "low time," except perhaps in connection with the cows coming in, needing imminently to be milked, etc. - for me to bequeath (and is not that a really heavy word? I mean, solid!) to my waiting-with-bated-breath fans and groupies a few parting wise words.
Toward this end, so to speak, I venture to address you on the matter of premier import in leading one's life, the singlemost significant bit of advice I can impart then before I depart.
Others have had their own versions of the magnum opus of pithy wisdom. My wife, Valerie, for instance, suggests: remember to breathe. Douglas Adams, of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe fame, opines that we ought to always carry a towel.
Here, in a nutshell, is my own advice: we cannot take ourselves seriously enough. After all, if we do not, who will?
A variety of corollaries follow naturally from this essential earnestness:
- We ought to conduct ourselves with a weightiness befitting our true importance. This means avoiding frivolity, banter, or any form of cutting up.
- When others are cracking jokes, we should keep a smug, self-righteous expression, showing them by our examples just how ridiculous and irrelevant they are.
- We should start each day with the intention to be perfect, and then simply carry that out, moment by moment, till day's end.
- Folks who take themselves seriously are concise. They utter as few words as possible to make their points. Think of John Wayne. Would he have ever used 50 words when five would do? No, of course not, so we must be the same, whittling down discourse and written expressions to the bare minimum.
- Let us always tend toward the outrageously extreme and shun any coming together in a middle ground spirit of compromise or cooperation.
- We have to resist spontaneity, for too often it leads to one form or another of foolishness.
Peri has her towel.
- We ought to walk without any spring in the step, and never even think about skipping!
- Laughter is only the best medicine for silly people with nothing better to do. We must be about the serious task of getting through life's gloom with our dignities very much intact.
- Let us compose ourselves in demeanor with such gravity that, though a passing bird may defecate upon our perfectly combed and gel-set hair, a thoughtlessly discarded banana peel send us cartwheeling, or an unexpectedly returning tide soak our finest shoes and up to our best suit's crotch, nobody would ever think to laugh.
- The worst, superlative ignominiousness way to go is to die laughing. Nor can one afford to "lose it" in tears. We, by contrast, must in all ways and times comport ourselves with the stoicism of truly tight-assed royalty, or at least of their butlers and chief factotums.
- We can absolutely never admit to an error. To make a mistake is close to being silly, which of course is lacking in dignity, so we have to, first, be correct in all things and, second, not acknowledge any deviation from this if it were ever to occur.
- It is imperative that we never get tickled. This might lead to uncontrollable paroxysms of laughter, a devastating breach for a woman or man of sober uprightness. In every situation, we ought to think of being in a church, synagogue, mosque, court, or temple, with hundreds of people watching us, and to act accordingly.
- Never "wing it!"
- We must always be ready with a convenient criticism or a look of severe disapproval for those who take themselves or us with less seriousness than we do. A perpetual sneer can do wonders in heading off the unwarranted and sophomoric hilarity of others. One might, alternatively, simply carry on as though a hot poker were always shoved up one's alimentary canal.
- We must never give an inch. Being serious, it is for us but to maintain our ground and await others' - those who are weakened by less starch in their attitudes - giving in first.
- Look on the cloudy side of life. Who ever heard of people being taken seriously who look on the sunny side of things!?
- One must at all times be ready to defend her or his honor. A weapons stash is fundamental. Threats of bodily harm or death also go a long way toward our objectives here. Think of Vladimir Putin or a Mafia boss. A few horse heads in the right beds can work miracles.
- Let us as well endeavor to prance about life's stage with an evident sense of entitlement. Nothing is too good for us. No efforts should go unspared by others to accommodate our needs. One can probably count on only one hand the number of genuine prima donnas one has known. This is a black hole deficit calling out to be filled!
I am sure the reader is already thinking of numerous other appropriate illustrations. Remember, it is far better to be a standup guy or gal, one to whom people naturally defer or else, than a standup comedian. After all, when the fecal material hits those proverbial whirring blades, fear is far more instructive than humor.