Posts Tagged ‘advice’

From the Editor’s Perch…

October 18, 2013

Where we talk about anything that passes through my gol’ durned mind…

Sky8

Achieving Mediocrity

“When trouble arises, quickly roll up into the posture of a failure.”

 

            Mediocrity gets a bad rap.  Its word roots mean ‘halfway up a mountain’.  The word mediocre is used to denote moderate ability or value.  In other words, you’re right in the middle of the herd.

But what does this mean?  Well, halfway up the mountain is just above the tree line where all the grasses and flowers grow.  You’re successful enough to get fed.  There are lots of others around.  You’re safe, protected by numbers.  But you’re enough of a failure to enjoy the freedom of nursing an odd idea, preoccupation, or interest with relative impunity.  Why, no one of importance is following what you’re up to.

Prince Harry dresses up for fun in Nazi memorabilia, and he gets called on it big time.  However, mediocrities get away with this sort of misbehavior all the time.  Mediocrities come and go pretty much as they please.  It’s like having a universal passport.  If you are mediocre you have your work, and your vacation and your family and your car and boat – and your venal sins – you might even harbor a few mortal sins, plus a little free time.  You don’t have it all.  But having it all requires a lot of expensive upkeep and safe keeping.  You have a bit of everything, and no obligatory posturing.  A mediocre person can more or less just let themselves go.

Being mediocre is about as close to enjoying the perks of failure as the average prudent Joe can afford to be.  He’s neither pious, nor afflicted with chancres.  He’s neither a drunken sot, nor abstemious.  He’s neither a fool nor a genius.  If he has made any remarkable achievement at all, it might be in acquiring no small amount of common sense, humility, and tolerance for others, all the while enjoying him or herself, more or less… that is, pretty much so, and not expecting any more.  Self-supporting, procreative, relaxed and affable, the mediocrity has a lot of common, garden variety achievements to be proud of, plus a bit of time which he sometimes spends helping others, or raising kids.

If the mediocrity has any special ability, it is usually employed in a supporting role.  As they say in the halls of Congress, “There is no end to what you can accomplish here, if you don’t want to take credit for it.”  This is very true of life in general, all of which means and offers fertile soil for the mediocre and the unsuccessful.

The successful mediocrity takes advantage.  There’s hardly any other word for it.  The obviously successful are vulnerable.  There’s hardly anything more true that could be said about obviously successful people than that they need an enormous support staff… lots and lots of underlings.  These successful people need a lot of other people helping and assisting them with their work and all their trappings; helping them to get on with their lives.  The normal successful person is a virtual living cripple, honed to a razor’s edge to excel in a very narrow range of endeavor, like a supersonic jet.  They can’t be used to just taxi off to the store, or to hammer a nail, or much of anything else!

The obviously successful person is so cocooned in the frenetic network of whatever it is they are pursuing, that they rarely have the time or inclination to inquire or follow-up on wherever or whatever their underlings are doing.  It is enough that they do ‘it’, whenever ‘it’ is required.  So, whereas the successful person has to be mindful of many, many things, the mediocrity has to be mindful of only one, or at the most two.  This can be quite relaxing and the mediocrity can live a long life, while employed well enough to enjoy much of life.  And if, or when, trouble arises, they can quickly roll up into the posture of a failure, and pass as unnoticed as a “block, a stone, or some senseless thing”.

As Charles Bukowski, the poet, advised:  “Don’t try so hard.”

Photo by Carl Nelson

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From the Editor’s Perch…

July 9, 2013

Editor’s disclaimer:  Just because we talk the talk doesn’t mean we can necessarily walk the walk.  If we all had to be good at what we talk about, not much would get said.

This takes place at the funeral home. BERNICE has angered her other son, BERT, who has decided to bury her in her underwear.

This takes place at the funeral home. BERNICE has angered her other son, BERT, who has decided to bury her in her underwear.

 

Two Guidelines for Relationships

 

These are two nuggets of wisdom, which in my experience, should be fundamental in guiding any relationship – but especially those between men and women.

 

This first was related to me by a psychiatrist years ago.  He said, the secret to dealing with women is to listen to what they say, and then to do what you want.  He said that the way most men get into trouble is that they either listen and don’t do what they want; or they don’t listen and do do what they want.  I believe this advice is also useful when the roles are reversed and for nearly all relationships.  It’s hard to maintain a head of steam when you really listen.  And when the other person won’t listen it’s hard not to get a head of steam.  When a man only does what he’s told, the woman comes to wonder why she needs to be married. And when a man doesn’t listen at all, a woman comes to wonder the same thing.

 

The second guideline is that doing is not listening; listening is listening.  I’ve heard this rule memorialized in a hundred country songs.  Typically the husband is brought around to the fact that he has not paid enough attention to his wife, and so he brings her flowers, buys her a diamond, gets her a dress, buys a bigger house, takes her on a trip…  anything to shut her up.  But he’s still not listening, and the resentment abides.  Or, we’ve seen this rule broken in a numerous families.  The worldly parents either refuse to take the childrens’ concerns seriously, or they don’t take the time to grant the children an audience.  To smooth their feelings, they buy them stuff.  But it doesn’t make matters better.  The parents have alienated their children and taught them to harbor and monetize their grievances.  Each family gathering becomes another trial through which the children receive punitive damages for pain and suffering.

 

Gifts have a long history of being used to shut people up.  Politicians typically greet a hostile crowd bearing gifts.   Explorers offer gifts to native tribes whose lands they are crossing.  Corporations give gifts to the leaders of the nations they exploit.  When the local theater heads finally spoke to the local playwrights, (whose plays they had refused to produce), they came for the sole expressed purpose of offering them ‘opportunities’.  Whenever anyone offers you a gift – especially one you’d like, it makes it bad form to bring up a grievance.  So you contain your bile, and smile.

 

It’s very common for someone to try and make up for some rudeness by doing something for the aggrieved party.  This is fine and good the first couple of times around.  But eventually, it becomes what it is: purchasing the right to treat another person poorly.

 

In my estimation, the best thing to do when you have refused to listen to somebody – is to listen.  That’s it.  That’s all.  All it takes is a little time.  Just listen, and then do what you want.

Photo by Candice Kerwin of scene from a play by Carl Nelson, “Into the Wild Blue Yonder”.

From the Editor’s Perch

February 4, 2013

Hippies1

Following Our Bliss

“The reality is embarrassing.  Being me just doesn’t seem to get me anywhere.”

– John, incarcerated sex offender

I had an acquaintance years ago when I was much younger who was upset one day because he’d just been fired from his job at a wine shop.  I tried consoling him with those sorts of things you say, such as, ‘these things will happen’ and ‘there are other jobs out there’, to which he replied:  “But I’ve been fired from every job I’ve ever held!”  My older brother at the time told me, “There are a lot of people like this.  It’s very sad.”  (“They’ll work for cheap!” years later I read a small construction company owner saying.)

My favorite character in Sherman Alexie’s new book of collected stories, “Blasphemy” is Thomas Builds-the- Fire.  His mission in life is to tell stories.  He’s kind, gentle, wise, and tells pretty good stories.  But no one in the tribe wants to/will listen.  God seemingly has granted Thomas Builds-the- Fire the urge, but neglected the audience.

Does this strike a little close?

Then the Bible tells us about Jonah, who really doesn’t want to do what the Lord wants him to do.  Ordered by God to go to the city of Nineveh to prophesy against it “for their great wickedness is come up before me,”  Wikipedia   So he runs away to sea, only to be swallowed by a whale and spit back out to face God’s admonition.  It seems there is no escaping one’s Duty.

Not knowing how to end this, I’ll leave you with this anonymous note copied from an elderly man’s Facebook comment:  “It was great to see you in Great Falls, even if it was for a short time. I missed Saturday as Merrillee slipped on the ice on our way to MPAB showcases and put her should out of joint. More than 10 hours in the ER followed.”

The point?  Life is oftentimes much more what happens to us, than what we intend.

Postscript: One reader found this essay a confusing “stream of consciousness”.  What I’d intended to point out by retailing these various anecdotes was that conducting your life by “following your bliss” is a little like driving with your eyes closed.  Reality doesn’t know (or care) anything about your ‘bliss’.  You very well might run into things if you drive  with your eyes closed!

This idea of following one’s bliss is taken over from the Christian notion of allowing Christ to run your life – only Christ has been removed, and one’s Self has been placed in the driver’s seat.   (And no one is watching out for you.)   Certainly a person should listen to themselves.  (If you don’t, who will?)  But then, the wiser more mature person (in my view) listens to others.  A mature person realizes that life is a collaboration.  You give a present; then you listen to see if that person really wanted it.

Hippies2

Photos taken from Google Images


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