Saturday, March 10, 2018

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

If you're new here, this is a weekly column consisting of letters written to my grandchildren (who exist) and my great-grandchildren (who aren't here yet) —  the Stickies — to haunt them after they become grups and/or I'm dead.

                                   THE AGE OF UNLIGHTENMENT?

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Irregularly Appearing Imaginary Guest Stars
Marie-Louise -- My beautiful muse (right shoulder) and back scratcher 
Iggy -- My designated Sticky
Dana -- My designated gentlereader (left shoulder)

Dear Gentlereaders, 

I've written a few columns, three to be exact (1,2,3), titled The State of the Zeitgeist. This was supposed to be an ongoing thing, but it hasn't been. Well, it's back (tell your friends) and it's now called May You Live In Interesting Times.

Also, going forward, you'll find that I will be (well, trying to) limiting my columns to 755 wpc (HT: Gloria A.). Till now, the (theoretical) limit was 1,000 wpc (words per column) but I've often gone over that, occasionally waaay over that.

While the primary purpose of my feeble scribbles is to leave a written legacy for my grandstickies & great-grandstickies, I confess I wouldn't mind generating a buck or three for my efforts, "No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money." -Samuel Johnson

Most writers don't make much money, if any money, to speak of; the competition is fierce, competitors numerous. But I confess that my No. 1 fantasy (I am getting old after all; my fantasies ain't what they used to be) is to generate a few bucks for my efforts.

However, the market has spoken. Being a wild-eyed free marketeer I semi-gracefully accept it's verdict. I've managed to secure exactly one Patron who supports my efforts to the tune of $5/monh. But I'm a patron of four others, all of whom deserve donations more than I, which costs me $6/month, I've written roughly 140 columns and my cash flow is: (-)$1/month.

Which is why I'm going to spend less time on my column so that I can spend more time working on my version of the great not too shabby American novel. Easy peasy, right? I'll be rolling in the big bucks in no time.

Oh, and for the record, the "four others" are Jordan B. PetersonDave RubinCrash Course, and Quillette.

"We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light." -Plato

Dear (eventual) Grandstickies & Great-Grandstickies,

Heavy sigh...

[Just start writing, mon cher, all is well.]

Merci, Marie-Louise. I will try. Deadlines: I really need to get rolling on this next letter/column/blog post/whatever — and I'm   just   not   feeling   it... Run for your lives! There's an Ennui running amok in the kingdom!

[A Retail concept for all those empty storefronts in need of a retail concept. Now open at Sunny Acres Mall and Combat Simulator  Mommy, Ennui & Me. Proudly providing poor service for the genetically depressed. Matching black outfits for mommies and their little monsters. Check out our line of Goth Girl temporary tattoos and faux piercing jewelry.]

While I refuse to cultivate my inner victim — a currently popular pastime that I hope is a neon accentuated anachronism by the time you read this — the light at the end of the tunnel keeps turning out to be a train coming the other way.

Gimme a sec', I'll be right back...

Being me, I just went looking for the source of what I thought was just a lame joke (the light/train/tunnel thing) and it turns out that it's credited to a poet, Robert Lowell. Mr. Lowell was a famous Pulitzer Prize (twice)/National Book Award winning poet that I confess I've never heard of.

[And why, pray tell, do you feel the need to share this fascinating literary tidbit with we mere mortals?]

In fact, I have two reasons, Dana. The first is that I now know what I want to write about. The second is that the light/train/tunnel metaphor reminds me of a bon mot from the Vietnam era that's worth repeating.

"Will the last person leaving Vietnam please turn out the light at the end of the tunnel."

[What the hell does that have to do with anything!]

Well obviously, it's a variation on the light/train/tunnel meme/theme. But mostly, it's just an excuse to insert the phrase bon mot (French: literally "good word", plural: bons mots) into a column. Although I'll be celebrating my 39th birthday for the 26th time this year this is the first time in my life I've ever written this phrase anywhere. I've never even said it, or rather tried to, out loud.

"Honey, have you seen my bons mots? I can't find 'em anywhere."

"Look under the bed. Ma stopped by today and I kicked them under there so she wouldn't see them."

[Mumble, mutter, maunder, murmur.]

Door SLAMS. Dana has left the column.

You're no doubt sick of hearing the following geezerism. Pay attention and you'll learn something every day. However, I don't think that I've pointed out that the accumulation of fun facts, unless your goal in life is to win big on Jeopardy, is only step one.

Of course, I may have mentioned step two before (I am a Junior Geezer...). Regardless, it's worth repeating, and, it's worth repeating.

Step two: Integrate what you learn with what you already know, who you are, and who you might like to be. Which brings us back to the light at the end of the tunnel. Our poet's original line is "The light at the end of the tunnel is just the light of an oncoming train."

Which, I will make no effort to memorize because what's important (to me) is:

I now know that a metaphor I use all the time comes from a poet who was famous for a minute and that even though poetry is one of the many subjects I wish I knew more about (but not all that strongly) I only have so much time and energy so I must prioritize because if you want to get something done (as this confirms) you have to or you'll just spin your wheels. Andy Warhol was, and Jordan Peterson is, right — 99.999% of all fame is fleeting at best so finding meaning is more important than happiness because for most of us, as Thomas Hobbes pointed out, life is indeed nasty, brutish, and short although that guy that runs the AEI, the one that used to be a classical musician in Spain? has a point when he says that earned accomplishment is the secret of happiness. But...

That is to say, it's not what you know — it's the relentless pursuit of who you might like to be. Poppa loves you. (To be continued...)

[Note: Without the heading, the introduction (Dear Gentlereaders...), the Have an OK day, the P.S., and the footer, the content of this missive has been rated at 762 wpc by the Association of Would-Be Writers of America. The author has filed a formal objection and maintains that without the introductory quote the wpc rating is 736 and that this number is a more accurate reflection of the content. At the time the column was published this dispute had yet to be resolved. Also, please note that this note was not included in the wpc calculation. Thank you.

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)

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