“This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one, the being a force of nature, instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community, and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch, which I've got held up for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.” George Bernard Shaw
I’m addicted to watching Facebook Short Reels every morning and every morning I find something that touches my soul or my funny bone or makes me think. Today I ran across the above quote of George Bernard Shaw and it shined a light on what I’ve been doing wrong my entire adult life and what my niece has been doing right her entire adult life. She is being honored in September as a ‘Hometown Hero’ so it’s not just my opinion as a proud aunt that she's making a difference in the world. Me? I’m may not be a “selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making [me] happy” but except for a brief few years in my life when I was mentor and administrator at a large stroke support website I’ve lived a life one might say was devoted to making myself happy.
A recent post in Donna’s blog, My View From Here, reminded of a quote from Socrates that goes "the unexamined life is not worth living." That’s one thing I’ve done in my life. I’ve examined the stuffings out of my every action, my every thought and that comes from being a life long diary keeper starting at age ten. Cause and effect. I said or did so-and-so and as a result this or that happening. It was that cut and dry when I was a teenager writing about crushes I had and all I can say about that is I’m glad we didn’t have the internet back then. I would have been a cyber stalker instead of just a girl joy riding with my best friend past the places where our crushes lived, hoping they’d be outside washing a car or mowing the grass. Guys back then did the same thing. My best friend and I would hang out on our front stoops hoping a guy we liked would drive by. One time a guy drove around the block seven times before he got the courage to stop and talk to us. Trust me when I say that was a red letter day in the life of a teenage diary keeper. Literately. Back in those days I put a red star next to “special” encounters with the opposite sex.
Now days my encounters with the opposite sex involve disputes I’d like to have but avoid over the community jigsaw puzzle. I’ve decided I’m too OCD to play nice with others at that table. Last month I spent over an hour sorting a new puzzle by colors---we have a puzzle table with drawers for that purpose---and a guy came along and dumped all the drawers with the sorted pieces onto a large, white foam core board. He likes the white background to “see the pieces better." I didn’t say a word to anyone about the ‘dumping’ but I vowed that was the last time I’d work on the puzzles. The guys are the ones who used to take pieces of the puzzles home so they could be the last person to compete a puzzle. And it's a guy who stacks pieces on top of the finished portion of the puzzles and that makes me want to go postal. If you ever see a headline that reads: 'Beloved Grandfather Killed Over a Jigsaw Puzzle' you'll know I finally did! If you say anything to him about how hard it is see pieces laying on top of the others, he'll say "I don't worry stuff like that. That's my wife's job." I'll bet she's been picking his dirty clothes up off the floor, too, for the past 61 years and putting them in the hamper.
For two weeks I stayed away from the puzzle and it was a hardship because I love working on it 10-15 minutes while waiting for a class or lecture to start or for my dinner reservation time. It’s set up in the hub of everything and it’s the best gossip gathering spot on campus, with its location just a few feet away from a grouping of chairs by the fireplace. People tend to forget you’re there with your back to them and your listening ears on. The only time I work longer on the puzzles are when they unbox a new one; I’ve gained a reputation for being The Sorter because no one else seems to want to do it and it's my favorite part.
Changing topics: I admire how so many young people today seem have found their sense of community at such a young age. Every day on Facebook I see them working for causes that sets them apart from the self-absorbed teen I used to be. They are bringing attention to climate change issues, working to change our gun culture or helping the homeless or standing up for their LGBTQ+ friends. They are going to be force to be reckoned with when they come of age. That has me wondering what my parents' generation must have thought about me and my best friend when were we teenagers. Did they think we were self-centered or naive? Looking back I know I was both those things. Even so, until the Trump administration came along I was proud of my generation because we’d done our part to make the world a better place as all the generations before ours had done. In the sixties---the era of social changes---we Baby Boomers led the charge through activism. But all our gains in Women's Rights, Civil Rights, Voting Rights and personal freedom are on the cutting block.
Yesterday at a birthday party/sing-along on campus we sang God Bless America at the beginning and the end and it felt hollow and wrong. The night before six of the eight candidates in the Republican primary stood on a stage and pledged with a show of hands to support Trump if he wins the primary "even if he's convicted of high crimes in a federal court." (One retracted his hand raising afterward, said he misunderstood the question.) How can anyone be proud of our country and ask God to bless Her when so many Americans are willing to trade our Democracy for Fascism and the Cult of Personality? ©
Until next Wednesday…