“Take away; take away, this house of mirrors
Give away; give away, all the souvenirs
We’re all in the same boat ready to float off the ledge of the world
The flat old world
The Street is a sideshow from the peddler to the corner girl
Life is a carnival—believe it or not
Life is a carnival—two bits a shot”
~ Robbie Robertson, Levon Helm and Rick Danko
How many times have you sipped your morning coffee, while reading the local paper about the janitor in Albuquerque winning the multi- million dollar lotteries? You take a deep breath, scratch your weary head and ask yourself, “why the hell doesn't something like that happen to me?” Far be it from me to rain on this mental image. However, the statistical probability for winning the Powerball Lottery is about one in two hundred million. Yet, in spite of these overwhelming odds, someone always wins the sizable jackpot. Some poor slobs get struck by lightning too. Unfortunately, you have a far better chance of getting hit by a celestial thunderbolt than you do winning the big payday.
In chapter one, I stated that I believe the concept of fate is a myth. The idea we have a preordained moment in time when we expire seems farfetched to me. For example, if a person dies in a car accident, I contend this is a combination of many factors coming together. These include the moment they chose to leave home, their speed and scores of other variables.
I would never recommend drinking or smoking too much. Nor advocate not having a colonoscopy or not monitoring your weight to prevent diabetes. Beyond high risk jobs and activities, we humans typically have decent mathematical odds of living long, healthy lives. If we exercise, eat right and keep a positive attitude, the chances of longevity are better still. Even with all our planning, scheming and precautions, a person may slip on the icy sidewalk and crack their head open.
Though I believe god has a plan for me, I cannot unequivocally say his design doesn't include a random series of events subject to famine, disease, catastrophic weather and mathematical probabilities. Nah, I was just being negative. I know the big man upstairs will offer me grace upon request, and that he spends the requisite time helping me navigate past the slings and arrows of unforeseen calamities. As for the rest of mankind, who can know for sure?
“Nobody's permanent, everything's on loan here.”
Enjoy the Ride
No matter what belief structure you hold, it is safe to surmise our fixed lives are subject to many factors including health, socio-economic class, the wrath of nature and the whims of our politicians. Given all the obstacles we face, should a citizen of the world sit around waiting for something to happen? The answer to this rhetorical question is manifestly not. In lieu of the world's desire to do you in, you must take care to protect your finite ass. Though I have earlier cautioned the reader about parachuting out of a perfectly operational airplane, this doesn't mean I don't encourage them to enjoy the hayride of human experience.
Existence can also be like a poker game where one is compelled to use the cards they are dealt. Before a person bemoans their lot, they should consider the multitude of people around the world born into poverty and disease. Each year, millions of children die before they reach the age of five. Therefore, if a person is in excellent health, owns reasonable intelligence and dwells in a westernized society, than they already possess better metaphorical cards than most.
Look, I am not writing this book for third world buggers begging for rupees to buy their next meal. If one of them happens to read it and gets a few shits and giggles, then I would consider it a blessing; for them and me. At the risk of being ethnocentric, my goal is to help fellow citizens gain perspective about their lives. This is especially applicable to the shrill bitches who claim to be part of the disenfranchised.
There has always been a disparity between wealthy and poor. In ancient Rome, there were a small group of Patricians ruling the huge Plebian class. The feudal system in medieval times worked in a similar way to Rome. This had nothing to do with a person's ability and everything to do with birthright. Throughout history, some poor slob, has drawn the short straw in the birth lottery. While damn few lucky people have been born of nobility.
Forty years ago, I worked at McDonalds toasting buns because I was too stupid to handle the cash register. Content in my ignorant state, I made one and half dollars per hour. With the proceeds of my primitive work, I purchased albums, concert tickets, fast food, dirt weed and supposedly trendy clothing. This was capitalism and social stratification functioning perfectly in the era of Watergate. I am in agreement with the sociologist Max Weber, who believed social status, can be improved by individual merit and achievement. At age fifteen, I started at the bottom of the food chain because that is what I was qualified to do.
Through trials and tribulations climbing the latter of socioeconomic status, I have been content to take pleasure in the fruits of my labors. I am not a rich man. The reason I live near the beach and drive a Range Rover is simply because I am willing work for a living. Despite our nation's decaying economic system, I still believe an average Joe can be successful with the application of diligent effort.
Most of us are not lucky enough to be born wealthy. I could tell you money doesn't buy you happiness. The honest truth is it does mitigate many challenges facing daily life. In lieu of this, the bulk of humanity will not live the lifestyle of the rich and famous. The reality is, for most of us, existence is a long and arduous journey. This is the reason why you should consider your living body a vessel; one that you merrily ride until the wheels fall off.
Two Bits a Shot
Remember the line from the old pop song? “Wishing and hoping and planning and dreaming.” When I was younger, I spent more time day dreaming than I care to remember. This was pretty much all I did. When it came to action, I was a rampant quitter. I lacked tenacity with jobs, bands, school and hobbies. For example, when I was twenty-one, I started taking karate instructions from a well-known trainer. After three lessons, he gave me a concussion during a sparring session. As it turns out, the guy was sadistic and crazy. However, instead of finding another teacher, I just quit. This lack of resolve was due to a deficiency of confidence. My lack of self assurance was rooted in a dearth of education.
If you have read this book up to this point, chances are favorable you will finish it. So, hang with me for this analogy. Existence is like a day at a theme park. While inside, you have a fixed amount of time to go on as many rides as possible. You also need to ante up for the price of your tickets. Hey, I don't like going on the roller coaster, so I never do. This doesn't mean I sit on the bench the whole day. I go on as many other rides as possible.
One of the recurring themes of this book is that you have to get in the game. Let me rephrase this statement. You don't have to, but you should get into the fray. Otherwise, you risk having your life pass you by. Though I consider myself a late bloomer, I have done numerous things. I have failed often during the course of my journey. It is common that failures are templates for future success. The person that fails assesses their mistakes and continues to forge ahead with a smile on their face should be looked upon with admiration.
Conversely, I feel pity for those I’ve watched frittering their lives away. Fear of failure, physical or mental pain, rejection or a lack of confidence precludes them from engaging in activities. I love the expression “excuses are like assholes, everyone has one.” At the end of your time on earth, do you want to have a lived a life full of accomplishments; or would you prefer to be an asshole with a long list of excuses?
About thirty years ago, I had some friends in a band who were playing the local club circuit. They were terrific fun, so I would try to go to their gigs whenever they played. The lead singer had a sister named Brenda, who was a cutie pie. She was a photographer who generally attended all of the shows. I remember I was exceedingly cocky during our interactions, asking her out twice. The second time, I asked her on a date, pressing her extremely hard to accept. She had another young lad with her at this show. “Why are you with that wimp?” I inquired. Brenda said no to me both times. About five years later, she killed herself and the guy she was living with.