Security is Mostly Superstition

A great king once asked a great wise man to give him counsel.  In only four words the king wanted advice for when things are good as well as when things are bad. The sage advisor offered his succinct answer: “This too shall pass.”

Across time I have discovered that truth can be trite and no less true. Or, to put my late Aunt Edith’s spin on it: “Common sense is not that common.”

A great many of us miss much in life not because it is out of sight, but, rather, because it is right it is right in front of us. Sometimes the obvious is camouflaged by its obviousness. So let’s start with what ought to be obvious to any of us: Life is precious.

Like any commodity, life’s preciousness is characterized by its limited supply. More than a few philosophers have posed that the meaning of life is found in the awareness that it ends. People you love are here. And then they’re not. As you get older it’s tough to keep track. You really have to stop and think about it. Is he still alive? When did she go? Were they on a trip when it happened? Whatever happened to their son? You know, the one with the problems. And his wife? Didn’t she have cancer? No, not that one. That one died on the farm. Remember? She was alone. He had gone to the market and came home and found her. Just sitting there. She still had her apron on. He’s devastated. Tears salt the sea in sadness.

Anybody can be taken in a moment, at any moment. During the days of vaudeville, every performer was also warily watching the stage manager in the wings for fear of “the hook,” being yanked off stage. Vaudeville is dead; the hook lives.

The cosmic orchestra is always tuning up to play our song. Unfortunately, unlike Ulysses, even having ourselves tied to the mast of life’s sailing ship will not save us from mortality’s siren call.

My advice in two words for appreciating the time we are given, and the time we are given with others, is: “Be present.” To cut even closer to the nub, my best advice in one word is: “Gratitude.”

“Most people,” said the writer H.L. Mencken, “want security in this world, not liberty.” Ironically, what we’re all free to feel is not secure.

If you want a guarantee in life, buy a vacuum cleaner.

Living is the best offer we get in life. Bottom line, bottom line, as the big boys like to put it, none of us are getting out of here alive. But what may be a breaking news update even to the big boys is that there are no luggage racks on hearses. Ouch!

We’re also not getting out of here unscathed. By the time we’re twenty or forty or seventy or ah, who’s counting – we all have scars from broken fingers or broken hearts. With each misstep we remember our weak knees and our weak moments.  Still, “No saint without a past,” says an old adage, “and no sinner without a future.” Flaws, it turns out, do not preclude a future.

Into everyone’s life some life creeps. We all get stuff in life. Even if it’s stuff we’ve never ordered. In the end, the only currency any of us have is character. Just like with everything else in life some of us have more. Some of us have less. Some of us deal in counterfeit character by trying to pass off aggression as courage, bravado for bravery.

Mettle is its own medal, just as life is its own mortal wound. Mortality nominates everyone for a Purple Heart.

Helen Keller, the American author and lecturer was 19 months old when she became deaf and blind after an acute illness. Helen Keller graduated with honors from Radcliffe College in 1904. “Security,” she reminded us across time “is mostly superstition.”

Helen Keller had a few advantages most of us will never know, thank God. She was deaf and blind. And knew it. And did something about it.

All of us are subject to some deafness and blindness. And most of us don’t do much about it. Helen knew that the world we see and hear could disappear in a New York minute.

In a post 9/11 reality, certainly that idiom has more sad truth to it now than ever before. Now you see it. Now you don’t. Now you see him. Now you see her. Now you don’t. One can only hope evil will also be forced to leap from buildings.

Death does not take a holiday. Thinking about this, is not morbid. What’s morbid is denying this.

What’s morbid is not taking the moment to tell someone how much we care for him or her before the moment takes them, or us. Standing with our hand out begging for another moment may only make us beggars. And fate is not necessarily philanthropic.

What’s morbid is getting so locked into some role we’re playing in this moment that we forget we’re all here for only a moment, and now is the right moment to cut someone else a little slack. And ourselves.

People busy playing perturbed parents sometimes forget that once they were kids playing – and took that role just as seriously as they now take parenting.

People busy playing I’m too busy parents forget sometime soon life will be too busy to remember them.

Lovers who fall out of love are so busy acting angry that they sometimes forget the lines they mouthed when they were in love and believed, with all their heart, just as they now believe with all their hurt or hate.

But today’s performance is moving on folks. The tents are folding. And if you are a big thing, remember they are already shoveling up after the elephants.

Today’s show will never be shown again. This moment is the greatest act on earth. Popcorn! Peanuts! Cracker Jacks! In every box a prize: Life.

Many of us grew up wondering what JFK would be doing now if he were still alive. Now, many of us will grow older wondering what JFK, Jr. would be doing if he were still alive. Who would have thought?

Researchers tell us the average person checks their smart phone 150 times a day. Life is like that. We walk around checking everything and missing much because of all the checking.

Mortality is not up for argument. Call this personal climate change. Some will argue about it, but arguing doesn’t change the weather.

Going up? Going down? Who knows? Going for sure. My advice in two words: Be present. In one word: Gratitude.

Being loving may not be the only way to live but loving life is the best way to live. “Live,” wrote Camus, “live to the point of tears.”


Noah benShea, Copyright 2014 – All Rights Reserved