Sunday, March 25, 2007

Listen Up

I should never just let my mind wander, because it's bound to end up somewhere, and I'm probably going to want to talk about it. Sure enough, it did ... and I do.

I was thinking about listening to the message we're trying to send ourselves when we call it depression, and I got to thinking about the other messages we send ourselves all the time, and how we don't really pay enough attention to them, either.

Somehow that led to thinking about how inundated we are with information, and whether or not that's a good thing. I haven't really formulated a firm answer, but that never stopped me from talking before, so why should it now?

It seems to me that we have enough stuff to fret over that we can actually do something about without adding to the stress with a lot of stuff we can only fret about and can't do anything about.

When I ponder how much information we take in about the world around us, I start pondering whether it's of any benefit to me to know, for instance, how many countries hate us and might be building weapons to blow us off the planet. I'm going to vote ... no.

Here's why:

If I knew a nuclear weapon were hurtling toward my house right now there's not a damn thing I could do about it but be terrified. I'd rather that when death comes for me it just plucks me out of my life without a lot of warning. I want to be happily doing something, oblivious to the oncoming cataclysm, and then ... not be.

I don't read the news as much as Ev does, and I think maybe it's because it just makes me worry about things I can't do anything about. I can't stop North Korea from making nuclear weapons. I can't get the troops out of Iraq. I can't force Medicare to stay in business until I need it. I can't make FEMA show up when and where they're needed. I can't even get my kid to pay his rent on time.

When I vote, I do the best I can to vote for someone who I hope, in most instances, will think pretty much along the same lines I do, because he or she is going to be my proxy when it comes to foreign policy, environmental issues, budget decisions, civil rights legislation and all of the other decisions that are part of that job description and not part of mine. My responsibility is to choose wisely who I put in that position, and then hope for the best. After that, I can only deal with the consequences to my own life created by the collective choice of all of us.

What I can influence is me, and how I impact the people around me. That's where listening to the messages I send myself comes in.

When people say they do want to be forewarned about global dangers, or they would like to know the hour of their death, they often say it's because they want a chance to finish unfinished business or make unmade amends or say unsaid things to people. Hello? If I have unfinished business, unmade amends or unsaid things, then my life is already out of balance, and it's going to continue to come apart in small ways until I put it back in balance. How long do I want to wait to do that? And if we're all rushing around trying to do that last minute cleanup before nuclear winter sets in, my guess is that we aren't going to hear each other anyway.

For the past month my car ... correction, my dream car ... the car I love ... the car I thought ought to be illegal to drive because it was so exhiliratingly nirvanic ... my car has had "issues." One of it's issues was that the rear window was coming loose from the weatherstripping, but it's a convertible, so repairing it was going to cost several hundred dollars. Ev and I were planning an expensive vacation and I knew we couldn't afford both. So I drove the car with the weatherstripping getting flappier and flappier, hoping that it just wouldn't get any worse. Then I stopped enjoying driving the car, because I couldn't stop watching the flappy weatherstripping in the rearview mirror. Then I started to resent the car and not want the car, and consider getting rid of the car ... all over a piece of weatherstripping. Finally the whole window came loose on the highway and took the decision out of my hands. It's still going to cost a few hundred dollars, and we have to cancel the vaction just like I knew we would, but I no longer have to worry about when it's going to happen ... and oddly ... I no longer dislike the car. In fact, I love it again. It was the anticipation, coupled with the knowledge that I was ignoring a clear message from myself, that had me anxious and out of balance.

So, if there are other places in my life where the weatherstripping is coming loose, and if it's inevitable that I'm going to have to do something about that, what good does it do me to ignore it? If there are things I need to get in balance in the last fifteen minutes of my life, there are things I need to get in balance now ... just in case I have another fifty years to enjoy not feeling anxious and wondering when my rear window is going to fall out.

I can't do anything about North Korea's weatherstripping, but I can refer them to a good automotive upholsterer if they're interested.


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