What If?


by L. G. William Chapman, B.A., LL.B.

Have you ever thought about what you'd wish yourself to be? Have you ever thought you'd like to be someone else, something else, someone with different characteristics? It really is a pointless exercise of course. We can't possibly change the putty of which we're made, though granted we can shape it to a degree; but after a certain point in life, the chance of making any remarkable alteration (much less an improvement) is pretty slim. So we're pretty much stuck with what we are.

The armchair philosophers go on and on about "Know thyself!", the axiom by which one supposedly commences a life-long engagement in self-discovery, apparently the root of all satisfaction. Rather a selfish preoccupation when you think about it. I mean, surely there has to be something a bit more exciting in life than oneself!

And then there are those who insist that love is the answer to everything, getting yourself all wound up in some mysterious and entangled dance with another person. I suppose when it comes to friendship, having someone to do this and that with, sharing the rent, that sort of thing, a certain amount of emotional attachment is not entirely a bad thing. But let's face it, after fifteen years or more with the same person, calling the arrangement "love" is likely stretching the truth not a little! Convenient, yes; workable, yes. But love? Perhaps. Anyway, it's probably nothing more than a distinction without a difference, quibbling over words. After a certain point, it's too late or expensive to change, unless of course you really hate the person (and that's a word that has some meaning).

I find that a sunny day is about as good as it gets. I don't care where you are, or how hot or cold it is, if it's sunny, everything seems to work just fine. The only time I recall having had a good time in the rain was at a funeral in an old stone structure. It had been raining so long throughout the days preceding the funeral that the grass surrounding the building was exceptionally green (and naturally beautifully manicured as those funeral directors are wont to do). Oh, there may have been one or two other occasions when the rain made an impact, but by and large the sunny days take the cake.

One mustn't overlook the attraction of stuff. A splash of bling, or a hot racing car, can go a long way for many people, myself included, although when I recently heard on BBC about the carbon footprint left by even the most unimpressive gold ring, it made me wonder whether I hadn't a very misguided view of pleasure. Small wonder so many Californians have taken to driving themselves about in those preposterous amputated automobiles. The knowledge is just too overwhelming!

If one resigns oneself to oneself, accepting that this is it and it'll never change, the possibility of distancing oneself – even temporarily – from the stark reality is not unattractive. Among my peers, the standard vehicle for such brief dalliances into another world is booze. For the longest time I cultivated quite the evening ceremony, one which I had little difficulty convincing myself was not only therapeutic but improving, involving as it did classic literature (though I confess I seldom got through more than ten pages at a sitting, preferring instead to plow through the oysters and crackers).

Though I have never done it myself, I hear there are people who fascinate themselves by counting their money. For reasons I am not particularly clear about, it is impossible for me to accept the utility of doing that. My objection is not with the cold, calculating nature of the occupation, but rather with the logical failure of the project to fulfill. For example, there must be literally hundreds of thousands of millionaires in this world, and if they all spent their days counting their money, I'm sure we'd find that to be an odd thing. Arguably, they don't spend all day counting their money, just the mornings for example; but you still have to ask, apart from the bookkeeping element of accounting, why bother? I think it is mistaken to suggest they are only taking care of business. Oh, no, there's more to it than that! It's the assessment of one's life, dollar for dollar, pound for pound. It's the measure of one's success. But we all know how likely it is that cash or bullion will save us in the end, so we're back to where we started in fairly short order.

Adopting a life-style change may be the answer. Some decide to become a vegan, grow a beard, feed food to the poor or remove themselves to the wilderness. For those who can afford it, buying an RV and heading for the border presents a momentary thrill, no doubt.

I shouldn't be so jaundiced about it all. If it were I going to Palm Springs for three months of the year I might think differently about one's ability to change. As it is, I've resigned myself to the mini fire crackers of daily living. Best to keep in mind that we're all different, and nobody has it all.