RANDOM THOUGHTS ABOUT LIFE, MORALITY, MORTALITY, WHAT IS RIGHT AND WRONG. With some luck I will reach number 42.
The number 42 in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams is the “Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything“, calculated by an enormous supercomputer named Deep Thought over a period of 7.5 million years. Unfortunately, no one knows what the question is. Thus, to calculate the Ultimate Question, a special computer the size of a small planet was built from organic components and named “Earth”.
THOUGHTS 1 to 42
1. “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose”
There was a wonderful song from my youth sung by, amongst others, Kris Kristofferson and Gordon Lightfoot, called “Me and Bobbie McGee” ( (c) Kris Kristofferson/Fred Foster) One of the lines in this song, although it seemed trite at the time, has really got me thinking over the years. The more I think about it, the more truth and wisdom I see in it.
“Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose”
Now, if that is true, and I believe it is then ……….
…… let’s turn this phrase around for a moment – Possessions (and people) are what tie us down, restrict us, and make us “unfree”
Think about the last three lines before you continue reading.
Regarding possessions, I’ve certainly allowed my possessions to rob me of freedom during my life. A simple example is that whilst still young I went into a great deal of debt to acquire a car and a house. Whilst I certainly derived usage and enjoyment from both there were times when others of my age went off on extended working holidays through Europe and the USA but I was unable to do the same because of my possessions. If I could relive that time of my life I would now rather have obtained a cheaper car with no debt and would have rather rented accommodation. I would then have had the freedom to travel, to move to other places, to have furthered my studies.
Of course, having people that one loves also does, to an extent, rob us of freedom. But this is a question of balance. If you truly love someone who loves you the same way then this will not be an issue for you will probably not want to be away from your soul mate in any event. Basically the rewards of being “tied down” should more than balance the freedoms you lose.
2. Don’t let others control your life – especially not strangers and arseholes
I used to work for a large computer company. We had this really great salesman named Harry. Harry was in charge of selling multi-million systems to the large banks and boy was he successful. After a few years he had converted most of the smaller banks and all but one of the large banks to our systems.
Harry had worked long and hard on the last of the large banks and had reached the point where his proposal had been accepted with enthusiasm by all the committees and sub committees of the bank in question. It had been accepted by junior, middle and senior management. Because of the size and strategic impact the bank’s top management wanted the board of directors to place the last rubber stamp on the order. All that was left was approval by the board of directors – a formality only all believed.
Well on the morning of this fateful meeting, Harry woke up filled with the joys of life. Why shouldn’t he be happy? He was about to close a deal that meant hundreds of millions to our company and several million in commission to Harry. He showered, had a great and leisurely breakfast with his family and then set off for work.
Whilst cruising along happily on the motorway, singing to himself in his luxury BMW some idiot in a Mercedes cut in front of him forcing Harry to take evasive action. At this point Harry lost it! He hooted, swore at the idiot. Drove alongside him swearing and making rude signs at the cretin in the Mercedes. Not surprisingly, Harry’s wonderful mood was no more.
First lesson, why on earth should Harry have let some total stranger destroy his great day? He’d never met the man. Harry could quite easily have just dropped back a little to allow some distance between himself and the fool and continued with his song. But no, quite the opposite. By the time he got to the office he was still seething with anger and regaled us all with this tale of rage on the motorway.
Anyway, by mid afternoon when Harry and the team arrived at the bank’s headquarters Harry had regained his usual good humour and was ready to make the presentation of his life. Harry walks into the boardroom and to his horror recognises the Chairman of the Board as the “Idiot of the Motorway”
Well the rest is history; Harry gave the worst presentation of his life and lost the deal. Harry later told me that he never ever found out whether the Chairman had recognised him or not and could never be sure if that played any part in the negative decision. What was certain in Harry’s mind, was that the circumstances caused Harry to give the worst presentation of his life. All confidence gone he was hesitant and unconvincing. That alone was enough to cost him the deal.
Lesson number 2 – All actions you take have a consequence. Sometimes minor, sometimes serious, often positive and often negative. Don’t allow silly events to cause you to do stupid things. Remember Harry’s multi million Rand zap sign whenever tempted to do the same.
3. People are the most important aspect of life
If you think about the happiest or most satisfying times of your life I can almost guarantee they are all related to activities or relationships with people. You may sometimes relate them to a place and/or time but if you carefully analyse this you will realise that it was the people that made the place or time special.
Sure there were fleeting moments when the acquisition of a new dress, car or house or house made you feel really good but those feelings are fleeting and trivial compared with the impact that other people have made on your life.
People are important. Treat them accordingly.
4. Life gives no guarantees
Even the purchase of a second hand car provides you with more guarantees and safety than life does.
- You have no guarantee that tomorrow will come.
- No guarantee that you’ll still have a job
- No guarantee that you’ll still have your partner or children
- No guarantee that you’ll have food or drink
- No guarantee that you’ll still remain healthy
- No guarantee that you’ll even want to keep living
Meatloaf has a song called “Life is a lemon and I want my money back” Great song but obviously this is not an option. No mother is ever told by the maternity hospital that if she is not happy with her child she can bring it back within 30 days in its original wrapper and get her money back. There are no guarantees other than the fact that life will deal you some good and some bad cards. The way you play the cards is what is going to make the difference in your life.
So make the most of NOW. Enjoy your life. Do the things you want to do. Don’t do things that you may not be able to undo later. Apologise immediately. Resolve arguments as soon as possible. Tell those that you love that you do love them OFTEN.
38 to go…..
In no particular order, here are a few more….
5. The River System Path of Life
I love this analogy. Look at the picture of a river system. See how, starting at the river mouth, the river splits and then how each of these tributaries then splits again and again.
Well life is like this. The only difference is that the water in the river system has it easy. It always moves downhill and never has to make choices.
We, on the other hand, are starting at the river mouth and moving uphill. On a frequent, but irregular basis, we are forced to make choices that will send us to either the right or the left tributary. We continue for a while until the next choice is made and so on. Eventually we could find ourselves in Brazil or Uruguay
Here comes the really interesting piece of philosophy.
If you are reasonably happy with who you are and what you are doing this means that every single decision you have made thus far was the correct one. You have been wrong! (Isn’t this a great thought?)
If, on the other hand, you are not happy with your current position, just understand that it was the sum of many decisions that have got you where you are today and that you cannot, in practical terms, retrace your steps and take a different decision/tributary.
You now have to find a decision that will totally change your direction. Examples include going back to school, to university, resigning your job and perhaps taking a lower paid job (for starters) in another industry
6. Life is just a tube of toothpaste.
The Small Faces had a song in which one of the lines said “Life is just a bowl of All Bran, you wake in the morning and it’s there”
Unfortunately this is obviously not necessarily always the case.
I believe that “Life is just a tube of toothpaste”
Most folks open a new tube carefully, squeeze from the bottom of the tube and even replace the cap when they have finished. After some time the tube is no longer new and they start getting a little careless where they squeeze the tube and even sometimes don’t put the cap on properly. Still later on they don’t give a damn, squeeze it any old way leave the opened tube lying around and so on. Then…. It happens one morning you stand before the mirror and find that the tube is virtually finished. We then carefully start trying to squeeze out as much as we can from this wreck of a tube.
Well life is almost exactly the same. If a person received the same care and protection we rightly give to new born babies all of his life just imagine how healthy and cared for he will be in old age. But no, we don’t do this. We tend to take great care of ourselves when really young. Regular meals, constant exercise, Mom makes us eat well. We take great care of our tube of life.
We grow older, get lazy, eat the wrong foods do all manner of things that we KNOW are bad for our body like drinking too much or smoking or stop exercising and keep this up throughout most of our middle years. We forget about care of our tube of life.
Then, one day in front of a mirror (or after a nasty experience at our doctor) we realize that we have blown it – BIG TIME. Our tube is damaged and is no longer full of life. Why do you think there are so many wrinklies out there suddenly walking and exercising and eating organic foods? People start reading magazines and books specializing in longevity, healthy eating, and exercise and so on. They are squeezing out the last vestiges of toothpaste from their tubes. How about the vast number of middle aged women in particular out there power walking and spending fortunes on one form of wonder diet or another. They realise one day that that lovely body (Toothpaste Tube) is no longer as in shape as it was and now go through all sorts of hell trying to regain that lost shape.
If you are smiling and smirking right now – DON’T! With very few exceptions, you are going to do the same dumb things as they have. Your wonderful, youthful, healthy body is also going to be like that one day. You have the power to avoid these mistake please try to.
You probably will not like the read the next few lines:
Start NOW –
- Give up smoking or better still never start
- Start eating and drinking healthily
- Keep up steady regular exercise
- Do the smart things (Wear protective clothing when working with hazardous things etc.)
- Avoid indiscriminate sex! A.I.D.S. is no joke and it’s kind of permanent
Life is limited. Time is limited. Make the most of it while you have it. You can never recapture lost time so try very hard not to waste it.
7. Truth is irrelevant – Perceptions are everything
This may seem a very strange remark to make. It is, however, all too often not only true but the root cause of most arguments and problems we encounter in life.
You see, I’ve never met anyone blessed with prescience, unlimited sensitivity, total understanding and complete empathy to all others, and especially with the ability to truly read other people’s minds. I certainly am not in possession of these qualities
Without these qualities it is all too easy for me to interpret something you say or do from my perspective in life rather than in the exact way you intended me to understand it. This results in disputes ranging from the trivial (Sorry Dad, I did not think you wanted it done this very minute) to the more serious (Well if you don’t like the way I do ……. Well find someone else, to the cataclysmic – “I thought you were joking about the gun being loaded.
So what does this have to do with truth and perception?
Well let’s say that you have a friend (a girl) and a boyfriend and that at your party they have a dance. So far no problem. However, after some time you start feeling less than comfortable. From your perspective they are going too far. It looks like they are falling for one another. This is your perception. You however, don’t want people at the party to see your “humiliation” so you put on a brave face and laugh and joke with them.
Your boyfriend, however, feels that you seem too happy about this. His perception, at best, is that you are OK with this is or at worst, that you don’t care anymore.
Thus you have two different perceptions of the same event that are going to lead to a clash. Neither of which may actually reflect the truth. The truth in this case may have been that they were that close together because they were planning a surprise for you. This truth is totally irrelevant now – the damage is done.
What do I expect you to do about this? I don’t really know. Until you can attain all those impossible attributes I mentioned earlier differences in perceptions will colour most aspects of your life. All I can hope for is that an awareness that this problem will always exist will allow you the opportunity to recognise the problem and deal with it accordingly. Getting back to the friend/boyfriend analogy, had either of you been aware that there may have been a perceptional difference, the bright thing to have done would have been to have had a quiet unemotional chat during which you explained your relative positions.
Also, don’t believe this is a problem that goes away as you get older. In many ways it gets worse. Especially within long term relationships and marriages. For some strange reason we assume that someone we love should be” in tune” with us as if some kind of mental magic had taken place.
See my notes on assumptions. They are dangerous and silly. Don’t assume – discuss!
8. Don’t create problems where none actually exist.
Whereas forward planning and especially allowing for a Plan “B” in case Plan “A” fails is a good idea, don’t waste too much time, effort and emotions on what may go wrong.
This is best illustrated by a little joke I once heard.
A man is driving through the Karoo and runs out of fuel late one night. He is desperately worried as all he has are credit cards and no cash. What to do? He then sees the lights of a distant farm house. Knowing the almost legendary hospitality of these farmers he sets off full of hope that the farmer will help him.
As he walks though, doubts set in. What if the farmer is worried about being repaid? “Ah, well I’ll give him a cheque” What if he won’t take a cheque? “I’ll offer to leave my gold Rolex as security” What if he thinks it is a fake? “Well I’ll offer to leave one of my credit cards as security as well” What if he … … and so it goes on.
By the time he gets to the farmhouse he is seriously stressed and negative. The farmer opens his door and says “Hi, you look like a man in trouble, what I can do to help you?” Our hero then explodes “Just keep your fuel, I’ll find another solution” and storms off.
Moral of the story, he saw problems where none existed and got himself into the emotional state that might only have been required had everything gone wrong – his negativity blew it. So, while never forgetting that things may go wrong, don’t invest too much emotion until you actually have to.
9. Try everything once / Don’t die wondering
We’ve all heard people say “I don’t eat pumpkin/beans/mushrooms/tripe etc.” But when asked whether they’ve tried it say no. The same applies to different music, books, movies, arts, cultures, sports, pastimes, everything.
As long it is not totally stupid or harmful, try almost anything at least once.
As a youngster, I totally rejected classical music on the sole basis of once having attended a concert which I hated. For the next thirty years I never again even tried to listen again. I convinced myself that the people who “claimed” to love it were lying and simply trying to impress.
Through sheer chance I later on had the opportunity to hear a piece of music that really got through to me (Eine kleine nagchtmusiek by Mozart) Since then I’ve gained so much pleasure from classical music that I can kick myself for my stupidity in shutting it out my life for thirty years.
Variety is the spice of life. Never reject anything without good reason. Life is too short to be boring or bland.
Caution: There are certain things that obviously should not be included in this category. Most are obvious. Smoking, Drugs, Russian Roulette, illegal activities, climbing into the lion’s enclosure at the zoo, telling your wife she looks fat in that outfit etc.
10. What is Government?
Back in the olden days society found that it was efficient to share out communal tasks. It made no sense for every farmer in the district to have to own equipment to maintain the roads around his farm. So they got together and decided that they would all contribute a small sum of money to buy the equipment (a very specific tax) They then appointed a man to do the job on their behalf and paid him a salary (a civil servant) In a similar vein, they appointed people to keep the peace (police), someone to arbitrate disputes (judges), someone to teach their kids (schools) and so on.
These civil servants were just employees of the community!
Why have we allowed them to become our rulers?
Why do we just sit back and allow them to take away our freedoms ?
Why do we allow unscrupulous, inefficient politicians to feast at the trough at our expense?
Why do we accept slovenly service at government departments ?
FOR HEAVEN’S SAKE. We are paying these bastards to work for us. Let’s make them!!!
BTW. This is not railing at any particular country. If you know of a country where this does not happen please let me know – I want to live there.
32 to go…..