Saturday, August 6, 2016

The Secret of Life

The secret of life is that so-called real life is just high school with money. Once you embrace this notion, much becomes clear.

When I was in school, I noticed a phenomenon that has not changed. Much has changed since I graduated from high school in 1971 and the subsequent, but unrelated, beginning of the collapse of Western Civilization in 1972. (1972 was the year disco songs started showing up on the charts). I'm certain it hasn't changed because I have several hundred grandchildren, all children of the new millennium, all of whom I monitor closely.

[Aside: I help to support this sticky syndicate of savages in various ways for various reasons. I've been unusually lucky in that all of them, without exception, are fundamentally kind. Thanks to good parenting they're all well aware that while it's sometimes difficult to discern the straight and narrow path, it does exist, and should be followed if at all possible. I believe that the future will benefit from the fact they're in the world. 

Also, I'm reasonably confident that if I help them out as much as I can now, they'll make sure a certain old crank will never starve, or go without internet access, even if it's just from guilt.]

Where was I? Oh, yeah. As a young grup, I found it interesting that kids of only slightly different ages were often radically different creatures. Grade levels served as a reliable index. Every September, when I returned to school after another summer of back-breaking work in our family steel mill that was located in the Sou-side of Pittsburgh, it was the same.

Most of the kids that were one grade level behind me, the one that I had been in three months previously, were childish and dorky. Most of the kids that were one grade ahead, who were in the grade I was now in, just three months ago, were cooler than me and seemed to know something I didn't know.

[Begged question: Why is the American school calendar still built around an agrarian economy that no longer exists?]

As a callowyute, I was taught that at some point this process would end; that I would be a grup. All that was necessary after that was a slow but steady accumulation of skills and wisdom which I would pass on to the callowyutes in my life. Of course, I wouldn't be like most grups, I'd still be cool. I'd never wear socks with sandals. I'd open a vein rather than wear an all-polyester outfit that included a white patent leather belt and shoes (and sandals with socks). I'd only drive cool cars. Etc.

[Legally speaking, in the US at least, we're adults, or at least callowyutes with privileges, at the age of 16, 18 or 21, depending on the subject at hand and/or the location. Science tells us that H. sapiens are not fully mature until roughly the age of 25. Which explains a lot. I find it interesting that car insurance companies figured this out before I was born based strictly on statistics. No theories, opinions, or legal judgments were needed or called for. The careful collection and verification of the facts was all that was needed. Life as it is, not as we would like it to be. We need more of that.]

Once we finally fully mature we spend the rest of our lives waiting for the next dramatic step -- that day we will wake up filled with wisdom and certainty -- which never actually happens. We never graduate. The rate of change slows down, the lines blur, the average reasonably well-adjusted 40-year-old will find the average reasonably well-adjusted 30-year-old lacking, in specific as well as vague ways.

Most will gradually/slowly/painfully get better at impulse control and learning to share the playground with others, perhaps even pick up a bit of wisdom here and there. Many will not. We will start out confident that we won't be like our parents; that our lives will be _______, _______, and _______! Then our lives will mostly just happen to us.

You're probably in better shape than me. I'm almost 63 years old and over think everything but in my heart of hearts, I'm the same horny, insecure callowyute destined to be a rock star and enlightened Taoist master that I was in high school -- just less so (thank God).

We will do our best to keep the boat in the middle of the stream and going in the right direction. For a tiny minority, this will be easy, not so much for most. Some will win, some will lose, most will tie.

We will do the job, take care of the kids and the parents that are morphing back into kids, keep the car running, etc. Since it's relatively easy to fool most callowyutes/ourselves/other grups, we will all participate in the consensual lie/scam/delusion. We'll all pretend to be well-adjusted grups when in reality we're just high functioning high school kids.

Have an OK day.

[P.S. Gentlereaders, for 25¢ a week, no, seriously, for 25¢ a week you can become a Patron of this weekly column and help to prevent an old crank from running the streets at night in search of cheap thrills and ill-gotten gains.

If there are some readers out there that think my shtuff is worth a buck or three a month, color me honored, and grateful. Regardless, if you like it, could you please share it? There are buttons at the end of every column.]

©2017 Mark Mehlmauer   (The Flyoverland Crank)

If you're reading this on my website (where there are tons of older columns, a glossary, and other goodies) and if you wish to react (way cooler than liking) -- please scroll down.