I don’t write as much as I used to. When I was young I was much smarter. Wisdom came to me so fast I couldn’t explain it all. But, over the years I’ve come to realize the older I get and the more I learn, the more I realize how little I know.
That was an original thought when I thunk it. Nobody enlightened me. I had never heard or read anything like it. It was a brilliant and original epiphany. But now we have the Internet and ego crushing reality is just a search away.
A minute ago I typed “The more I learn…” into Google and here’s what popped up:
“The more you learn, the more you know. The more you know, the more you forget. The more you forget, the less you know. So why bother to learn? — George Bernard Shaw”
“The more you know, the less you understand. — Lao-Tse”
And the real stunner…
“The more I learn, the more I learn how little I know. — Socrates”
Socrates had my original thought 2,400 years before I did and said it more crisply!
AND, in ancient Greek!
I suppose having an idea expressed by one of the great thinkers in history come to me all by itself is cool but there’s no point in my passing it along. It obviously occurs to everybody eventually.
Plus, if we all regurgitated every brilliantly mundane original thought we have what would become of the poor philosophy majors who have nothing else to do with their educations?
The other reason I don’t write much anymore is because Americans don’t read much anymore.
We don’t consume information, we spew it.
We Tweet. We text. We spend our days expressing every banal thought that crosses our mind in such a way that we don’t have to bother hearing or reading a response.
Maybe we don’t want response. We’re just spewin’. Maybe we’re just trying to shut off the noise and hear ourselves think.
I could be wrong about this. Maybe, but how can I know?
I’ve learned so much, so fast, I’m rushing toward total ignorance.
CarolAnn and I just sent a birthday gift to our daughter-in-law, Emily. Took just thirty seconds to pick it out and ship it. ?
Gift giving isn’t what it used to be and a lot of us old geezers are highly annoyed by it. Back in the day we’d think about it a lot and then head out to the mall to find the perfect gift for that special someone. Then we’d go home and gift wrap it. If that person lived far away we’d package it and take it to the post office. The whole process could take half a day or more but it was gratifying. It was fun to think of our loved one opening the pretty package and being surprised and delighted by what was inside.
Sending a gift card via email as I just did takes no time at all. No thought. The efficiency of it is undeniable and that doesn’t mean we love our daughter-in-law any less, of course. It just means another tradition has fallen to our modern addiction to efficiency.
We don’t write letters anymore. Heck, most of us don’t even bother with email anymore. We text. We tweet.
Occasionally we use our phones as phones and actually talk with each other but that’s starting to seem like a special occasion these days. I’ve even started texting people to make an appointment to talk with them on the phone. No kidding.
Here’s what I think:
I think adapting to change is difficult as we get older but our only alternative is to refuse to change. Those who do that just sit on the porch and watch life pass by without even bothering to wave to them.
I think wistful longing for the past is natural and fine in small measure. Nostalgia is warm and comforting but it’s no way to live.
I want to keep learning to keep living. These days I find I’m constantly learning from my children. And why not? We taught them the ways of the world with hope they’d make it better. I think they’re doing that, even if we don’t always understand or like the changes.
About thirty years ago I was working with a guy named Bob Nathan. He told me one morning that he had just invested some money in a new company that was going to sell drinking water in plastic bottles. I thought he was kidding. When I found out he wasn’t, I thought he was crazy.
Who would ever pay for bottled water?
Bob retired years ago. I’m still working for the man.
About the same time another friend bought a tanning salon, where people would spend ridiculous amounts of money to bake themselves to a turkey skin crisp. And mind you, this was in California where the sun is always shining for free.
Have you heard about oxygen bars? Yes, it’s true. People make dating reservations to sit down and plug hoses into their noses so they can pay to breathe.
And yet another friend, I’ll call her Jennifer because that’s her name, bought a cattle ranch and decided to supplement her income by chopping up dead trees and selling firewood in small packs at local stores. Firewood! That’s literally burning money!
(And by the way, don’t think it didn’t occur to me to wonder why someone who could buy a cattle ranch needed to sell useless dead wood.)
.I may be slow but I’m not entirely stupid. After thirty years I have an idea of my own. I’m going to charge people money to be nice to them. For a dollar a day I’ll be pleasant whenever our paths cross. Or, wait…how about this? For two dollars a day I’m stay out of your life completely.
We all get tired of constantly being around other people. Not always or often, but occasionally we need a break from even the people we love most in life: our spouse, our kids, our best friend. And it’s not just one or two of them at a time it’s all of them all at once!
I’m no psychologist but I’m absolutely sure this is normal and healthy and nothing to worry about. After all, absence makes the heart grow fonder, right?
Or, as Dan Hicks put it in his song by the same name: How Can I Miss You If You Won’t Go Away?
Have you ever wondered how you can go through your entire life without feeling that way about yourself? Geez! Everywhere you go all day, every day, there you are!
When you go to bed you go with you. When you wake up you’re still there.
Every single moment of your life you know everything you’re thinking and everything you’re going to say before you say it! Doesn’t that make you just a little crazy every once in awhile?
You understand yourself better than anybody else. You talk to yourself but you never, I mean NEVER, have a disagreement. You like the same foods, watch the same TV shows, laugh and cry at the same things and you love the same people.
The one thing I almost never do is surprise myself. And that’s a drag.
I swear, sometimes I just need a short break from me. I need to send myself away or take a short vacation and be somebody I never met before. Or, be nobody at all just for a little while.
If you know me personally, admit it, the thought of being with me 24/7 for 66 years is unimaginable, right? Sure it is! You couldn’t do it, so why should I be expected to?
Here in North Texas the seasons change overnight. And then they change back again. A couple of days ago we hit 94 degrees. Today we’re going to stay in the 40s. Next month or next week we might have snow, then back to 85 for a couple of days.
Texas is famous for it and I love the variety.
We all mark the passing of time with changes in the weather. If it never changed we would seem to be living the same day over and over.
And yet… the days and years of our lives often seem to change like calendar pages flying off the screen to show passage of time in old movies.
You know what frustrates me? I can’t remember everything. The past 66 years are written on my brain in fuzzy black and white memories like the photographs of my childhood. They’re all mixed up in my shoebox of a brain. I sort through them from time to time and while I can usually remember a relative few specific places and people the entire experience of my life is mostly conjecture.
I figure young people of today will have the opposite problem. When they’re my age they’ll be sorting through hundreds of thousands of pictures of cats and babies they once knew and meals they once ate.
Making sense of your life is as hard as predicting it
I don’t really care. I’m the least busy person I know.
Everybody still says we’ll all lose an hour’s sleep Saturday night. Not me. I go to bed when I’m tired on Saturday and wake up Sunday morning when I’m finished sleeping. The clock says whatever it says, I don’t care.
The only time changing the clock became a personal issue is when I was working on the air at radio stations on the Fall Back all night shift. I would slog through the 1-2 a.m. hour and then, presto time change-o!, it was 1 a.m. again! That kinda sucked.
If you do have to awaken at a particular time on Sunday and you’re afraid losing an hour’s sleep will kick your butt I have two suggestions: go to bed earlier or change your plans.
Seriously, why is this a big deal?
It’s exactly the same as when you fly into a different time zone that’s one hour ahead. Does that wreak havoc in your life for as much as five days as they keep telling us in the news? I don’t think so.
Lately we’ve been treated to sensationalized news stories telling us how changing the clocks one hour leads to more highway deaths for sleepy drivers and more heart attacks and strokes for people who have trouble adjusting their bodies to the arbitrary numbers we call time.
I don’t mean to be a jerk but if you have a heart attack because of Daylight Saving Time I’m guessing that your heart was in critical distress before you changed the clock.
We’ve all been taught that the goal of Daylight Saving Time was to give farmers an extra hour of daylight. Farmers, being much smarter than the rest of us, call that a big pile of horse hockey. The sun rises and sets on its own schedule all year ’round. Farmers adjust their work to the actual hours of daylight, not clocks.
And, by the way, there really are more hours of daylight in the summer. We don’t need to extend them artificially by changing our clocks.
One summer Carolann and I drove to the Canadian Rockies. It didn’t get dark until 10:30 P.M.! The Canadians seem to be just fine with it.
The only thing I find remotely interesting in all of this is the history of keeping time in the United States.
Until 1883 clocks were set at noon when the sun was straight overhead no matter where you happened to be. This made sense except that a town fifty miles east or west would set their clocks to noon when the sun was straight overhead a few minutes earlier or later.
That was no big deal until the railroads came along and started moving people great distances faster than the speed of the overhead sun. The availability of pocket watches made the problem suddenly obvious: your watch said 2:30 but the clock at the railroad station where you just arrived might say it was 3:15.
Imagine flying into an airport today and needing to change planes. Say it only takes you five minutes to walk from one terminal to another but when you get there you’ve mysteriously lost half an hour and missed your connecting flight.
That’s how railroads worked until 1883. There were literally hundreds of “time zones” in the U.S.
But then the government got involved and, as usual, made everything work smoothly.
But here’s the good news: if we insist on maintaining this silly tradition we’re darned close to living in a world where all clocks change themselves. Your computers, tablets and phones already do this. Watches, clocks on stoves and in cars can’t be far behind.
And you know what that means? Blessedly, nothing.
We’ll never notice anything except that it suddenly stays light an hour longer.
“Hmm. I guess the time changed last night.”
That’s all we’ll say.
If TV and radio stop beating us over the head with stuff to worry about we’ll all be fine.
For some reason the word “cripple” is distasteful so we now say “disabled.” Frankly, I don’t see how that’s any better. I guess the nice police figure it implies strength within infirmity. It excuses us from our physical and mental shortcomings though it doesn’t help us overcome and live with them. It helps us pretend we are not less than complete; we cripples are just as good as anybody else, even though we are, admittedly, “disabled.”
In the words of my Wyoming coal-mining cowboy grandfather, that is horse hockey.
I’m crippled. It’s no shame. I had an accident, that’s all. My feet don’t work well but my brain still does. I suffer a bit but I make do and live with it. And by the way, the accident was my own fault. I need to remember that so please don’t take it away from me.
Nobody is old these days. We’re “senior citizens.”
Puh-leeze. It’s cute but I’m not a big fan of cute except in babies and puppies. You can be a “senior” if you like but don’t call me that, okay? I’d rather be “old” or, better yet, not defined by my age at all. Don’t make me cute. I’m more than that.
I think all this social nice-nice has less to do with respect for others than our own desire to seem caring so we can accept our own imperfections.
People don’t get fired these days, they get “laid off.”
I remember when “laid off” meant you could expect to be rehired in the near future. Not anymore. The fact is you’ve been fired, canned, kicked to the curb. The company you worked for just doesn’t need or want you anymore. But, it’s supposed to be somehow less painful to say you were “laid off.” Being “fired” is terribly, terribly personal.
It’s not your fault, nothing is.
And that’s the problem, isn’t it? Nobody is at fault and nobody is to blame for the ups and downs of what we used to just call life.
My grandson’s soccer league doesn’t keep score. They don’t want any losers.
I don’t have to explain to you why that’s so horribly twisted. Most of you are old and wise like me. You remember when your parents and grandparents watched you fall, waited for you to cry and picked you up to wipe your tears, clean your wound and say, “I told you so!” Touching a hot stove is the only way to learn to never do it again. Losing is the only way to learn to win.
It used to be, anyway. These days being on the losing side of a soccer game is considered the death of self-respect.
The only thing that seems to matter now are our fragile egos and manufactured self-esteem.
I can’t change the culture but I still have something to say about the raising of my own sons and grandsons. Here’s what I’d like to say to them:
–You will curse your mistakes and failures. I will quietly celebrate them because they’re lessons I can’t give you. You are a winner and, at times, a loser. Deal with it. You’ll be happier for it.
–You will suffer emotionally and I will try to love you out of your pain but then I’ll have to go home and leave you to sort it out for yourself. Can’t help it, that’s the way it works.
— There is not enough time in my life or yours for us to completely share our hearts. Try to be grateful for every moment we have together, especially the ones that seem unimportant at the time.
Thirty-some years ago while in the depths of my personal despair my father, my hero, told me — in these exact words, which I will never forget:
“If you don’t love yourself you’ll never be worth a damn to anybody else.”
And now, I have finally reached an age where I am qualified to add to my dad’s life-defining revelation:
You don’t love yourself for being good, that’s a given. You love yourself for falling down, getting up and living better for what you have learned.