Monday, February 13, 2012

Getting Small

My thinking tends to be somewhat grandiose. Even when troubleshooting small problems in my life, you might be surprised to learn how high suicide ranks on the list of possible solutions. ‘The grocery store is out of vitamin D milk. I should probably order a cyanide capsule from Amazon’. Of course I’m just joking about that. Amazon doesn’t sell cyanide capsules.

There are certain common things that people spend time thinking about that I have trouble focusing on. I used to take pride in this, but now I see that my ‘big picture’ thinking is often a huge deficit in day-to-day living. There was a time when I thought people who worried about things like investing a portion of their paycheck, keeping their clothes updated, their house spotless, or understanding the inner working of their car’s engine were hopelessly terrestrial. Those were little things. Philosophy was the big thing. Art. The arc of history and our place in it; those were the things that mattered.

Well, surprise, surprise, it turns out I have very little impact on the ultimate fate of mankind, and the odds of me contributing a significant theory to philosophy, or a moment to history, or a great work of art to humanity’s creative canon, is slim. The odds of me needing to be able to change a tire or balance a check book—on the other hand—are quite high.

They say at the end of his life, Mark Twain just laid around in his bedroom, smoking cigars, rarely changing out of his pajamas, and reading, and writing. With the exception of cigar-smoking, this is the life I think I am inclined towards. Unfortunately, society at large feels it would be more appropriate for me to occupy other stations. So be it, I guess. Who am I to shirk the will of the people?

Living is a humbling experience, especially for those of us who need to be humbled. ‘You fools!’ I said under my breath to everyone around me who deigned to be interested in anything practical. ‘All of this will pass away! Only the life of the mind matters--Only the liberation of the spirit.’ What an asshole. 

So here’s to doing the dishes and washing the laundry. Here’s to changing the oil and taking out the trash. Here’s to cutting the grass, ironing the pants, and weeding the garden. Here’s to doing the taxes, here’s to vacuuming the carpet. Here’s to cleaning the toilet bowl and walking the dog. Here’s to investing in your 401k, and purchasing low-risk stocks. I am terrible, terrible, terrible, at every one of these activities, and I tip my hat to everyone who was humble enough—and had enough foresight—to pick these things up when they were in their teens and early twenties. I may be fun to have a conversation with every now and then, but when the zombie apocalypse finally arrives, you will be the folks who survive.


the elegant ape said...

I helped my kid get together a costume for his play stone soup.. Not the invasion of Europe, but a job well done.

Lodo Grdzak said...

Doing the dishes, washing the laundry, taking out the trash. There's a lot of philosophy in the performance of these tasks when done with the right mind-set. In fact, most of my real writing isn't done at a computer, its done while I wash the dishes or do my chores. And don't be so quick to dismiss your life decisions! I've seen many "successful" professionals and business people who, when faced with retirement or downsizing have no idea how to spend their free time, how to define themselves, or who the hell they even are. Only then do they realize that they can't stand to spend time with the wife; dont even really like their snotty, adult daughter; and have nothing of substance to show for their 35+ years of "productive" work.

Grass is always greener man!

Willie Y said...

Spencer you have, for me anyway, enlightened me and made me think of things I never would have give a shit about. We all want to have a monument build to celebrate our lives and accomplishments. But you living your life can influence others who influence others for generations on living a caring and thoughtful existence. I think you are doing just great.

If you need any instructions on cleaning the toilet or washing dishes, I'm your man.

Spencer Troxell said...

Ape: Sounds like time well spent to me.

Lodo: Good words. I cross posted this at Daily Kos, and a commenter left the following zen saying: "Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water."

Sounds like you're on to something!

Willie: Thanks! I probably need your toilet cleaning advice way more than you could even guess.

I'm inspired by people who can consistently engage in their day to day work in a 'prayerful' or philosophical fashion. That's a character trait I hope to gain over time.