Though the weather is bleak – grey skies, driving rain and a cold wind out of the north – we’re having a cheerful start to the New Year and effectively avoiding its blizzard effect. Last night we lingered in front of the wide-screen television until after midnight to watch the descent of the crystal ball in Times Square and to see the local fireworks on the beach and along the Halifax River. After five years without a drop of alcohol I can bear the deprivation. I cannot imagine how I might accomodate the erstwhile indulgence without compromising competing ambitions. This doesn’t mean however that when I awoke this morning I was perky. Far from it! What has transpired commensurately with my elongating abstinence (and dietary purification) is the undeniable and unbidden degeneration of age. Alas the frozen truth is that I am no longer young. But until this unseen and capricious senescence renders me immobile I am not about to concede defeat; and like any other self-respecting old fogey I shall in the meantime rely upon deception, mendacity and wilful ignorance.
By contrast there are I have no doubt some today whose heads are filled with the more uplifiting prospect of New Year’s Resolutions – or at least hopes for new beginnings. The little I recall about resolutions is that they are momentarily inspiring but their implementation proves far less enthralling. Putting oneself in the timewrap of change is sabotaging. The mere absence of something or someone inevitably leaves a vacuum and we all know how “nature abhors a vacuum” (Aristotle’s famous “horror vacui“). It captures our fear of the incipient void. But in spite of the perceived emptiness of the future, face it we must no matter how reluctantly. With or without its resolutions, life goes on!
Luckily for me I am beyond making resolutions, not that I believe I am incapable of improvement (though that too is quite possibly true) but that I am satisfied to address life’s provocations on an ad hoc basis rather than through the panoply of alteration. This likely is nothing more than quibbling semantics in that as a matter of logic one can only deal with one thing at a time but the thrust of the observation is that we may be overwhelmed by what we imagine awaits us. It is this twitchiness which contributes to our demolition. Resolve is after all such an empty preoccupation of its own! Disentangling life’s dilemmas is far more than analysis, it is tarsome action. Even with the fluff of firmness of purpose the determination is mere pluck. Perhaps it is true that what is bred in the bone will out in the flesh but we must be prepared for incremental results only. And don’t count on any sustaining drama and bravado. Change like the universe is ultimately personal.
I am however amused to consider good advice even when not conjoined with any particular resolution. The absorption of advice is less wearing than the performance of resolve. Call me pusillanimous but I much prefer contemplation to implementation. Coincidentally this morning I read the “Advice from an Old Farmer” which I’ve attached below. While I’m not convinced that farmers more than others have a monopoly on wisdom there is nonetheless a persuasiveness to its earthy vernacular. For my part the lessons I’m prompted to share with others are simply these: trust your instincts; do what you do best and out-source the rest; you can’t have money and things; if she knows why she loves him she doesn’t; criticism is the best autobiography; you can’t give what you don’t have; believe what you see; and, honesty is the best policy as long as you’re not in trouble. It is moderately embarrassing that those succinct summations represent the synthesis of seven decades’ backscattering. The only feature which is missing in my opinion is the not insignificant matter of luck. All the wisdom, opportunity, capital and ability aside, without luck it is but a disassembled mixture and perhaps equally flavourless. Balancing that seeming diminution is the recognition that if one is lucky enough still to be functioning and to have any one or more of those other ingredients then that at least is a commonalty with others.
Advice from an Old Farmer
Your fences need to be horse-high, pig-tight and bull-strong. Keep skunks and bankers at a distance.
Life is simpler when you plow around the stump. A bumble bee is considerably faster than a John Deere tractor.Words that soak into your ears are whispered… not yelled.Meanness don’t jes’ happen overnight.
Forgive your enemies; it messes up their heads. Do not corner something that you know is meaner than you. It don’t take a very big person to carry a grudge. You cannot unsay a cruel word. Every path has a few puddles. When you wallow with pigs, expect to get dirty. The best sermons are lived, not preached. Most of the stuff people worry about ain’t never gonna happen anyway.Don’t judge folks by their relatives. Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer. Live a good, honorable life… Then when you get older and think back, you’ll enjoy it a second time. Don ‘t interfere with somethin’ that ain’t bothering you none. Timing has a lot to do with the outcome of a Rain dance. If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop diggin’.Sometimes you get, and sometimes you get got. The biggest troublemaker you’ll probably ever have to deal with, watches you from the mirror every mornin’. Always drink upstream from the herd. Good judgment comes from experience, and a lotta that comes from bad judgment. Lettin’ the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier than puttin’ it back in. If you get to thinkin’ you’re a person of some influence, try orderin’ somebody else’s dog around.. Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly. Leave the rest to God. Don’t pick a fight with an old man. If he is too old to fight, he’ll just kill you.Most times, it just gets down to common sense.
Judge Roy English, Texas State Legislator, “Don’t Whiz on an Electric Fence: Grandpa’s Country Wisdom (1996)”