Author: Campbell, Bruce

The Agony and the Ecstasy

Gather ‘round chilluns – Uncle Bruce is gonna relate some heavy life wisdom on you here in the next 500 words or so.

I’ve had a pretty interesting last couple of weeks, and it caused me to ponder some of the vagaries of the human condition. While we spend a lot of time and energy trying to achieve true happiness and also avoid misery, much of our time is spent in the wide spectrum of emotions between those extremes – if we’re lucky.

When our race on earth is run, and we look back over the whole of our existence, I think most of us will see some memorable high points, and the number of those, and/or the heights of those points, will define the quality of our lives. We will look back on our low points, shudder and try to return our focus back to the triumphs and joys. Sadly, some folks will have to cling to relatively few high points, and work hard to shut out the tough times.

The number of those high points will not be directly related to the amount of money you make during your lifetime. The quality of cars you drove (if, indeed you even drove), and the size of your house will not be significant factors, either. Even more strangely, the things that happened to you will not loom all that large.

What will define your life will be the things you do. Yes, stuff happens to you, but how you deal with those things, what you do in response will create those special moments by which you (and perhaps Somebody Up There) will come to view the overall worth of your time on this planet.

This is not a treatise on “doing the right thing” – aside from your own moral convictions, what’s the right thing to do any given situation could be more than one choice, and often darn near indistinguishable from the dumbest choice. So, let us not dwell on the decisions – rather, let’s focus on the results, because that what goes on the balance sheet.

Of course, there are lows, and honestly, some are low enough that I wouldn’t want to even burden my readers with the knowledge of them. But I make plenty of decisions, some dumb, and some just unfortunate, that lead to lessons that seek to counterbalance my high points:

The Agony (partial list)

* Discovering that slicing turkey in your hand, assuming that you’ll be able to stop slicing just as the blade reaches your palm, is not possible.
* Trying to pole vault with a big tent pole is more likely to cause an injury than get you to the Olympics.
* Pulling off ALL the spark plug wires on a V8 prior to changing the plugs and learning how that can cause some confusion later on.
* Learning that a deer can kick you in the crotch even harder than the schoolyard bully

I could go on, but it’s just too embarrassing.

Now, I know I’ve led a lucky life. I can point to some high points that have occurred in my half century or so that I know loom large on the positive side of my life story. Here are a few, times when I could honestly say “Right now, this is exactly where I should be”:

The Ecstasy:

* The births of my children (no brainer!)
* Having my children (and later, grandkids) fall asleep in my lap
* Seeing the drawings and reading the stories my kids made (an open window into their remarkable, perfect minds)
* Learning how to coax music from instruments, and even my own throat
* Cresting a high point in the mountains to encounter a panoramic view
* Watching my lure create the first ripples in the still water in a lake
* Playing on stage (almost any time!)
* Courting, then marrying my wife (maybe the best thing on my list)

What’s the moral of all this? Where’s the wisdom?

I guess I’d sum it up like this: if you don’t do anything, all you are is what happened to you. If you’re always doing stuff, some of the things you do will lead to moments you would not trade for anything. Oh, yeah, you’ll step in something disagreeable a few times along the way, but you can always scrape that off later...
Posted:  7/7/2010

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