Obviously I’m going for something subtle here or the really quick answer would be, “Yeah, Stupid.” If you think about it, there’s more than one kind of “awake”. Substitute the word, aware, if it makes more sense to you. Perhaps I should kick off with an example to make the point: Two hours ago I was sitting down to the last slice of homemade amaretto sour cream cheesecake. It’s really good, in fact, good enough that I’ll turn down the stereo when I’m eating a slice so I can savor it more. (That actually works by the way.) I sat down, began salivating in expectation of the sour cream melting in my mouth…and then the phone rang. It was a business call. A company that sells our sculptures wanted to know why we’d charge $3.50 extra to insure our sculptures.
Ten minutes later, I got off the phone, shaking my head at the idiocy, only to realize that my slice of cheesecake had strangely disappeared. I smacked my lips. Yeah, I’d eaten it all right, but because my mind had been somewhere else, I might as well have tossed it in the trash. No enjoyment whatsoever. Zilch…the null set…nada. Is this some mystical occurrence I’m talking about? Hell no. I just…forgot to enjoy it.
In the following paragraphs I may bounce around a bit, or seem to. I’m thinking it might be interesting for you to see how these paragraphs lace together in YOUR mind.
Over the years, Pam and I have camped out in different countries and with different friends. What each occurrence had in common, however, was first, a camaraderie. The guys get the firewood. The women chat about how terribly lucky they are to have us guys as they slice mushrooms, pour wine, make hamburger patties, etc.
Second observation: Every campfire we’ve ever had has been a wondrous thing, from watching it take hold, watching the first tendrils of smoke disappear up in the branches, to the pulsation of the elderly embers later on in the evening. There are devils and goblins and horsetails and piano keys in the coals and embers. They’re all alive and beautiful. The conversation is so STELLAR, I feel like someone should have a tape recorder to get it all down.
The food: Even without the occasional hit of MJ or Johnny Walker Black the food is always AMAZING! Best damn burger I’ve ever had! The stars, particularly up on Mt. Lemmon in Arizona, are worthy of a standing ovation. I believe we’ve even done that on occasion. Strangely, even the next morning when everyone looks like hell, the coffee smells GREAT and the scrambled eggs fried in last night’s hamburger grease are incredible! Now, is all of this true? By definition, yes. It’s true for us. A more pointed question: Are those eggs, hamburgers, hot dogs any better than at home? Not all that much. What is going on??????
A Corollary: Ever had root canal? Or just one gigantic cavity? The type where you get five minutes of Novocain before they even look at you? Or…they slip safety glasses over your eyes to protect you from….bits of flying tooth? With a bit of practice you can (you have to go there ahead of time) go to that place where you are happiest. I’ll go to the mountains, the campfire, or sometimes walk the beaches in Florida with Pam and Scootie. And like that amaretto cheesecake, when I’m there, I’m not in the dental chair, smelling burning tooth fragments and the Ziiizzzzzzzz of the drill. I have, on several occasions had the dentist stop to see if I was okay, because I wasn’t reacting. It works.
(Are you lacing these vignettes together yet?) At some point your mind will begin self-extrapolating, a new term I’m coining…today! At some point your brain jumps ahead and asks, What about a really good wine? What about my favorite song of all time? That new Macallan 18-year-old bottle of single malt? …SEX??? My new super-duper car that will take me 5 years to pay off? Am I really enjoying it? What about a great conversation with an old friend? What about seeing that your kid or your grand kid has turned a corner and is suddenly blossoming into something new? What about your dog jumping in your lap and just gazing lovingly at you? …What about? …What about? …What about?
There’s an old but famous play entitled, Our Town. You’ve probably seen it a couple of times. It’s good…really good. Premise: Small country town with all the typical players, Mom, Dad, siblings, grandparents, boyfriend, and a little girl who dies. She begs the powers-that-be to go back one last time and spend a day with them all, and her wish is granted. She goes back and tries to catch Mom’s eye, to hug her and really communicate with her, but Mom’s very busy cooking dinner. The same goes for every one whom she loves. They’re all busy, preoccupied. None of them are really…….awake. Finally she can’t stand it anymore and she asks to be allowed to just go up to the burial ground. Her day was just too painful in its frustration.
For reasons that are difficult to describe or explain, I am either cursed or blessed with a very keen sense of my own brief time on this planet. It extends to my friends and loved ones as well. I know, when I look at my pups every day, that they will be memories in the not-too-distant future. And so I hug them really tight. I know that Pam and I won’t last forever. We both hope that whatever takes us out…takes us out simultaneously. It would be the kindest thing for us. It may sound maudlin, but being aware of your mortality and of your inevitable future permits you to see the present for what it is. Utterly precious.
Who is getting gypped? Very sadly, there are entire generations of very ,very worthwhile human beings who got absolutely sucker-punched by technology. When you look at a toddler, teenager, or young adult with his or her head stuck in an iPhone, don’t laugh. Don’t snicker. They’re just as worthwhile as you and I are, but they got weened onto something as powerful…more powerful than any drug. They have, for all intents and purposes, traded a dinner out, a camping trip, a family discussion, a campfire conversation, a rock concert…sex…love…for…..texting about those same things.
Believe me, sexting isn’t a distant one-thousandth to having sex with someone you love. It’s a shame, but no one seems to be talking about the canary in the coal mine, the early-onset arthritis for kids who are wearing out their thumbs taking a cheap distant tenth place to actually living life. Love, marriage, sex, dancing together, watching the stars, watching a campfire come to life and eventually die, these are all huge things getting lost in a shuffle of texting and playing online games. Kids now are having difficulty…….making eye contact.
At the very least, help yourself and the loved ones you have surrounding you. After this sentence, I’m going downstairs, grabbing Pamela and telling her for the millionth time how much I love her. You can never do this too many times.
Who’s a good teacher? Strangely, my pups are the only creatures who have the concept down pat. Every moment is precious to them, every pat on the head appreciated, every piece of pasta accidentally falling on the floor…greatly appreciated. If your pup were to lose a leg in an accident, next day, they’re ready for a walk, a good pee on a tree, and a big hug. They alone, understand that there’s no purpose served in bemoaning your fate. Go grab someone’s ass…preferably your mate’s. Hug ’em till they...wake up as you have just done.