As I was heading out this morning to the dog park, one of my neighbor’s who follows my blog stopped to discuss the election results. His question was, “Now that it’s over, what will you do with your time?” My answer was, “I’m going to keep on thinking and keep on writing.”
When I was a child, like most children, my parents tried to guide and provide me with the advice that their life lessons had taught them. Fortunately, they were wise enough not just to say, “Do this,” or “Don’t do that.” They took the time to explain the reason for their instructions.
But like most children, while I generally obeyed them, there were times that I occasionally would stray, not seeing the wisdom of their words, and would do exactly what my parents had instructed me not to do. I needed to find out for myself.
Generally speaking, I found that they were correct and that my little adventure had led me into trouble. It’s amazing how some parents are just so darn smart. And as I got older, I continued to be astounded at how much smarter they had become since the time I was a child.
Although I try to conduct myself using common sense which was my parents’ guiding principle, I admit that even as an adult I have strayed from that well trodden and proven road. Fortunately, these lapses are rare – but they do happen.
I suspect that the reason I do this is just to see whether or not gravity still binds us to the earth – or if on that particular day the material laws will no longer apply. My analysis of these experiences is that what is, is and what is not, still is not.
So why is it that people regularly do things that are neither in their own best interests or in the interest of their fellow men and women? I can think of several reasons.
1) We’re ignorant and simply don’t know any better;
2) We don’t care about the consequences of our actions;
3) We believe that we’re “special” and the laws of the universe apply to all others but not to us;
4) We have a perception that what is bad for us is actually good;
5) We have a death wish.
In reviewing this brief list, there is both good news and bad news. The bad news for those holding to view five is that they often achieve their goal and wind up killing themselves. You might consider suicide bombers in that group. Unfortunately, that often results in the deaths of innocents which is further bad news. The good news is that once they have achieved their mission, we no longer have to worry about them.
There is good news in our first item. After all, ignorance, or more correctly, lack of experience is our starting point when we attempt any new venture. If our goal is to become proficient, we have, in the absence of guidance, merely to try and try again until we attain a level of competency which meets our desires. Of course, we need to take the time to analyze our failures and to avoid repeating them by trying different routes until we find those which enable us to succeed.
It is the three attitudes in the middle which are the most troubling – at least to society. They are all outgrowths of the individual who is un-thoughtful or selfish or both. The example of texting while driving is an excellent example of all three of these. Is there any hope for the individual who considers her or his behavior to be something totally within his purview and who considers none of the implications on his fellows when he acts? Fortunately, there is.
That which might enable a person to change, does not in these cases ever come from the person himself but from an external cathartic event that is thrust upon him as a result of his behavior.
Consider the alcoholic. He might have started as a light social drinker. Most people don’t consider that threatening or dangerous behavior. But he notices that having a couple of belts after work make him forget about the cares of the day and how his boss is always on his case. So he increases his intake of alcohol to the point where he returns home buzzed almost every night.
Now he probably realizes that over time, he is doing his body, particularly his liver damage – but the effects of his drinking will not be felt for a long time. And he realizes that passing out on the couch night after night leaves him with a sore back in the morning and a bad tasting mouth – but a little bit of mouthwash will fix the second problem and he can look forward to his time at the bar to correct the first.
And so our friend who has developed an alcohol dependency continues on his self-destructive path, until one night after a particularly festive round of drinking, he gets in his car to drive himself home to pass out, when he passes out behind the wheel and nearly kills himself when he hits a lamp post.
Reality has suddenly struck our friend an eye-opening blow. Or at least we hope that it is one which he will realize is a blessing in disguise – and will take the steps necessary to abandon his old path and choose a new one that is both healthier for himself and for society. Only time will tell if the individual who has had this experience will learn from it or not. But for someone entrenched in the mindset of entitlement and selfishness – it is really the only way to hope that they will change.
And so we come to the recent election.
My forecast that Obama would win, that the Senate would remain in the hands of the Democrats and that the House would remain a Republican bastion was correct. That was the forecast of many others as well – so I claim no special credit for my insight. I believe that the reason for this was because a slight majority of those who voted are victims of item number four on our list – that we believe what, in the long run is bad for us is actually good – at least in the near term.
Our political leadership has built a house of sand for us. And it is, by and large, a very attractive house when viewed from a distance. Until we examine it and discover that the waves have begun to erode the foundation ever so slowly and that this house is beginning to list to one side. It will not take too many more assaults by the ocean tides to cause it to start crumbling.
And when that day comes, as it inevitably will, the house will collapse, trapping those inside who put their faith in its strength to protect them. Then those who have survived will pull themselves from the rubble and will begin to rebuild. But this time, having learned a lesson, they will do so using stronger materials and employing better workmen.
And that is the message of hope and change.