Tuesday, January 5, 2010
Wisdom and Lemonade
Does my knowledge, if I may use the term loosely, belong to me? I think not. To a certain extent it’s probably peculiar to me, but I can hardly lay claim to knowledge itself. Or wisdom. I simply know what I know and understand what I understand, and what I know and understand will grow, diminish, and change as long as I’m here. And even that knowledge is suspect. Likewise, I can’t begin to say what portion of these precious commodities I was born with, and what arrived later. My mother liked to say I was “born old.” Maybe she was on to something. To be born old, and then to die young at an advanced age seems a desirable goal.
When we read these words, what is happening, really? Do we approach them the way we do fire, a substance so dangerous and attractive that we can’t leave it alone? Or do we swim toward meaning as if they were water? Among other things, I submit they are a mirror. Do they teach, or do they simply remind? What do they reveal, and how do they reveal it? And how accurate are our guesses about them? As accurate, perhaps, as our guesses about each other.
What shall I do with these words? Since I always need money, I can package some for sale, and hope that someone will buy. The rest I can keep or give away. And yet, whether they have a price on them or not, they’re all given anyway. Because I truly believe that those with prices on them and those without are given. In all their frailty and wisdom, they are my contribution. I don’t know how to write like an accountant. My own accountant understands this and sympathizes. He buys my books, though, because he knows I’m writing for him too.
If I seem like a kid with a lemonade stand, it’s because I am. But remember, the lemonade is spiked.
If I sound like a philosopher too tired or lazy to think, it’s because I am.
If I act like a salesman, it’s because, publicly, I am. Sometimes, the way we behave, I think we’re all in sales.
If I sound rich, it’s because I am. If I sound poor, it’s because I am. I am both, abysmally so.
I’ve met beggars who possess more wisdom and grace than I. Others were morally repulsive.
I know wealthy people who make me ill, and others who shame me with their generosity.
Just before he died, the great short story writer O. Henry is supposed to have said, “Turn up the lights. I don’t want to go home in the dark.” But there is no darkness worse than darkness we embrace of our own choosing.
If I seem to ramble, it’s because I do. But which of us is not the product of the free association of bodies and minds, words and wills?
In the Forum: desiring desirable desires.