Friday, April 13, 2012

Inspirational ≠ Insipid

  Inspirational writing can be annoying. It can sound like things a mother would tell her four-year-old child in a 1930s Frank Capra movie.  I suspect most inspirational writers don't live up to their own advice; if they do, they must be incredibly annoying people.

This week, I ran out of books to read (always a dicey time around our house), so I picked over my wife's picked-over bookshelves and found a little volume that surprised me: Live and Learn and Pass it On. Hundreds of people, age 5 to 95, were asked to make short statements about what they've learned in their lives.

The results are often earthy, funny, and inspiring. I sat down this morning to make a first pass at a list, just to see what it would look like. Given that life has been pretty stressful over the last year, it started out heavy on the "hard facts of life," but I got around to inserting some light in there, too.

Here, then, are some things that I've learned in 48 years of living, with no editing and in no particular order. The whole list took 15 minutes:

1.    I've learned that I know a lot less than I think I know, and the things I’m most certain about are sometimes plain wrong.

2.    I've learned that I know a lot more than I think I know. If something scares me, but I just start doing it, it works out.

3.    I’ve learned that most decisions and truths are relative (which is both comforting and disturbing). Make a move, don’t waste life worrying.

4.    I’ve learned that love is uncertain. But also a powerful sustaining force and bonding agent.

5.    I’ve learned that health is relative. You always have some, until you’re dead. Use it.

6.    I’ve learned that leisure is best taken in measure. Too much, and my mood slips downward.

7.    I’ve learned that a truly earnest politician is as rare as gold.

8.    I’ve learned that any company or work organization larger than 10 people has done things I won’t like.

9.    I’ve learned that the wonder and energy in a little child is a powerful tonic, and is very durable. It takes tons to disillusion a child.

10.    I’ve learned that the longer I live, the harder it is to keep that wonder alive. And the more important.

11.    I’ve learned that no one is all good. But some people are WAY more good than others.

12.    I’ve also learned that no one is all bad, with the same corollary.

13.    I’ve learned that life expresses itself in its purest form in Nature, and that time there is always well spent.

14.    I’ve learned that a lot of what happens to me – good or bad – is stuff I never thought would happen to me.

15.    Important corollary: I’ve learned that what I worry about rarely happens.

16.    I’ve learned that money is very important and helpful.

17.    I’ve learned that the most important things are my relationships, my health, a decent job, and having fun. Money isn't on that list.

18.    I may be learning that I will have more success – whatever that may mean – if I think I deserve more success.

19.    I’ve learned that unhappiness is tolerable even in overwhelming doses, and is always followed by happiness – sometimes in overwhelming doses.

20.    I’ve learned that two sunny, warm days in a row make me feel 19 again.

21.    I’ve learned that I have to do stupid, fun things to be able to be mature the rest of the time.

22. I've learned that I often can't remember the things I've learned when I most need them.

With that, I'm off to strap on the helmet and crash around recklessly in the woods. Please add your own tidbits in the comments section.

And get out there today -- time's a-wastin'.


Human Wrecking Ball said...

I’ve learned that I have to do stupid, fun things to be able to be mature the rest of the time.

This could be my next Tattoo

BIGWORM said...

I've learned that control is an illusion. So be in this moment, until the next arrives.

This was awesome, Velosopher. Glad I visited your site, today.

Velosopher said...

HWB, that's a big LOL, good buddy. Tattoo-worthy wisdom is about as solid as it gets.

BW, that's a good one, and a pretty good summary of my whole list!

kris said...

I appreciate the thoughtfulness of this post. Amazing what we learn with age. Question - is all truth relative or is there pure, life-changing truthtoo?

Robert said...

I've learned that a good way to keep the wonder of a child alive in myself, I need to spend time in nature.

Velosopher said...

Thanks, Kris. I guess what I'd say about that question of the ages is, "I've learned that the only absolutes are the laws of Life itself (or God, Source, etc.), and that those laws are mostly beyond my reckoning." Sounds like a dodge when I write it out, but it's the best I got.

Thanks also to you, Robert! Just got back from a mountain bike ride, so I agree with you 100%.