Some Parting Words…
(from A Universe of Metal Sculpture)
Here’s a challenge for you. See if you can boil down the sum total of your wisdom into six or eight short paragraphs.
It was a task given to me by my Muse at about one-thirty in the morning. It was the final wrap-up for my book, A Universe of Metal Sculpture and…having a grandchild whom I probably won’t see to grow into a full-grown man, I figured I’d boil down the total sum of my wisdom for him…not that he’s going to take it. No one does. That’s why wisdom is so special. Sooooo, here goes…
It is now one-forty-two in the morning and that little voice that I call my Muse has chosen to wake me up to tell me that it’s time. It’s time to bring it on home. I am not a night-owl by nature, much preferring the sights and sounds of the morning and so when I’m awakened this way I know that it’s important and so…I listen.
I think most of us come to a point in our lives when we think about the transient aspect of life and wonder what we would tell our children or our grandchildren if we only had a few minutes or a couple of pages to sum the whole thing up. It’s a tall order but here goes:
Looking back on it all, I see that like most, my path has been a circuitous one. In college I was a weekend-hippy, who studied four years…to be a lawyer. And I was shocked and dismayed when right about graduation time, my draft lottery number determined that I would be taking a little detour for a good number of years in the military. At the time, I thought my life had fallen apart. I was that kid on the ski slope, just having fallen down, and glaring out at the world.
And then from weekend hippy and potential lawyer, I flew air force jets…and for better or worse, depending on your point of view, was an LES launch officer for Titan II intercontinental ballistic missiles…hardly your typical preamble to becoming a sculptor.
The sculpting, as it turned out, was my life raft, and I soon discovered that I what I really wanted to do was try to spend the rest of my life making people happy, not blowing them up or suing them into oblivion. In truth, I would have made a lousy lawyer, though at the time I was convinced that quite the opposite was true. I just didn’t know it then, nor did I have any inkling whatsoever that I would spend the rest of my life (happily) sculpting and attempting to reinterpret the planet through inventions and the magic of the printed word.
I’m going to close with an attempt to reach across the invisible void of time and give my grandson, Gryffin McLaren Harvey, who is just coming up on the age of two, the distillation of what I’ve learned…in business, and in life. Listen if you care to.
Gryffin! None of the sage wisdom I’m attempting to impart here is going to sink in and help you in any way, at least not right now. It’s just a fact of life that though information can be imparted to another, wisdom cannot. Wisdom only comes from experience and you’re going to have to fall down, scrape you knees, break your arm, and probably get hurt in the category of love. It’s unfortunate, but we humans seem to only learn these lessons by experiencing them ourselves.
Having said that, if you have a little sneak peek, a glimmering of what’s in store, you just might be able to learn some of these life lessons without having to make all the same mistakes. Some of it just might rub off a little. The lessons are simple, so simple in fact, that we sophisticated and self-important adults take them for granted, while rarely taking them to heart.
ONE: Keep your word. In this complicated world, maintaining the value of your word, and telling the truth has become a rarity. As a man, there will come a time when your word is the only thing you have. Protect this treasure and don’t let it become tarnished.
TWO: Learn the art of listening. Listening is not just remaining silent, until the other person stops talking. Listening seems simple enough, and yet it isn’t. Like a muscle, the less it is used the weaker it becomes. Listen to your friends, listen to your mate. Listen to those with whom you do business and listen to your enemies as well. It is one of the best ways to learn.
THREE: Luck. Yes, it exists…or at least it would seem to. The cliché goes this way: the harder you work, the luckier you get. It’s true, it’s really true.
FOUR: Be very careful what yardstick you choose to measure success. Success is not money, for money is an elusive measure and you will never have enough. Neither is fame or success. Fame can be the harshest mistress of all, leaving you without freedom, solitude, or privacy. And power, in and of itself, is not success, either. The many would think so, it is said that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Look around you. Judge for yourself. Success is finding something in your life that you like to do, and finding a way to do it for your life’s work. It doesn’t have to be wondrous; it just has to fulfill you. And guess what the definition of happiness is…that’s right, they are the same.
FIVE: Look for the paradoxes of life. They are always there and knowing this will give you an inkling what to watch out for. The good things always have some cost to them, though those costs are often difficult to see. Know what those costs are. Strangely, bad things almost always have a good hidden inside as well, if only in the form of a life lesson.
SIX: Forgiving. At some point in your life, you will do something that requires forgiveness. You must be able to forgive yourself, and in learning how to do this, you will learn how to forgive others. There are no perfect people on this planet. And holding a grudge…not forgiving, will ultimately hurt you more than anyone else. For your own sake, live this rule.
SEVEN: Being careful. There is a time for it, such as in crossing streets and such. But there is a time to go for it, grab your dreams, and hold onto them. You do, indeed, have only one life. Cross those scary bridges. Burn them if you have to. But never be afraid to take a chance. It is the spice of life and it is what we covet in others who have become successful. Don’t come to the end of your life thinking, “gee…I wish…”
EIGHT: Love. Try not to compromise nor be cynical about love. Wait for the real thing.
Without love, nothing else has any value. With it, life is sweet.