Once upon a time, a man said to me, “I could write a column like yours, you often use other people’s words.” I agreed. I have not been everywhere, man, I have not read it all, heard it all nor seen it all.
And, we must not forget, everyone is unique. There is no other human being like you. Millions have two eyes, a nose, a mouth, but not like you. None have your traits, none think like you and none speak like you. Your individuality is your one unique possession, and your only real claim to importance.
Think for yourself is a motto to help achieve, and maintain, our uniqueness.
Will and Ariel Durant’s Story of Civilization was a good start, well, actually ending, for in their brief summary of what they discovered after studying and writing about the world’s people, came this thought-provoking observation: “What we are up against is the simple fact that man is still an animal. That is the deepest thing in his nature – the survival instinct and the hunting instinct. Those were necessary at one time. When self-preservation was the rule, rather than the pressures of society. So morality has an uphill battle against these two inheritances. You have to recognize the enormous difficulty in making an animal and hunter into a citizen, a civilized man.”
All of which may play into our search for the good life, which Marya Marmes has observed, “The good life exists only when you stop wanting a better one. It is the condition of savouring what is, rather than longing for what might be. The itch for things so brilliantly injected by those who make and sell them is, in effect, a virus draining the soul of contentment.
“A man never earns enough; a woman is never beautiful enough; clothes are never new enough; the house is never finished enough; the food is never fancy enough.
“There is a point at which salvation lies in stepping off the escalator – of saying, Enough! What I have will do. What I make of it is up to me!”
And, about the children in our lives, Dr. William J. Riley suggests, “If we were to begin, even in grade school, to teach everyone the simple lessons of human relations – just as we teach reading, writing and arithmetic, it would have a profound effect on the world we live in. This task represents perhaps the greatest challenge which education faces today and in centuries to come.”
And, about adults, consider, “A man may hide himself from you, or misrepresent himself to you in every other way, but he cannot do so in his work. His imagination, his perseverance, his impatience, his clumsiness, his cleverness, everything is there to be seen in a man’s work. For example, if stonework is well put together it means a thoughtful man planned it, a careful man cut it, and an honest man cemented it.”
I cite, in closing, from an old tale.
“All my life,” he said, “I have searched for the treasure. I have sought it in the high places and in the narrow. I have sought it in the deep jungles, and at the ends of rivers, and in dark caverns and yet have not found it.
“Instead, at the end of every trail, I have found you awaiting me. And now you have become familiar to me, though I cannot say I know you well. Who are you?”
And the stranger answered, “Thyself.”
Finally, something to think about from one of my favorites, Chief Dan George:
Keep a few embers
From the fire
That used to burn in your village.
Some day go back
So all can gather again
And rekindle a new flame
For a new life in a changed world.
A tip of the hat to everyone involved in our municipal elections, from the scrutineers to the candidates and all in between.
See you at the polls!