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

For one as fastidious as I and who is seemingly intolerant of any disorder whatsoever, I find I have adjusted remarkably well to my many failings, weaknesses, short-comings, lapses and other disappointments in life. I suppose it should come as no surprise. After all there is no misfortune (or fortune, for that matter) in life which we have any option other than to accommodate. So much of life (indeed almost all of it) is simply beyond our control, random as some prefer to moralize. There are perhaps those who seek to resist imperfection but we are powerless to do so in the end. This is a good thing, for recognizing the inherent lack of accomplishment in each of us (and here of course I am speaking for the miserable majority not those very special souls who needn’t bother with these singularly unhelpful observations), recognizing as I say these foibles we each have enables us to stand taller in the morning or at the end of the day, on the heels of one source of dissatisfaction or another. After all, what profit is there is bludgeoning oneself needlessly? Pshaw! We are surely assured a far more prosperous outcome if we, like the clever oyster, coat life’s rough spots with a bit of lacquer.

I trust I will not be misconstrued as suggesting wanton and unrestrained profligacy on the theory that we simply become used to the new situation. No, my point is that less than optimal performance is from time to time inescapable, and that in spite of it, we are wiser to accept it and move on. Some struggles, I needn’t add, are greater than others. Whether it is butting out the evil cigarette for the last time, or locking the crystal highball away forever, or climbing any other mountain which happens to be in one’s path, the going is not always easy, and repeated failures are not uncommon. True, it is a wearing exercise, this business of living, but the alternative thankfully for most of us isn’t greatly more attractive.

Lately I have sought to formulate axioms by which to live which are helpful, none of this rubbish about changing one’s ways, which is positively unforgiving and an unfortunate twist of quality philosophic truths. What we need to do instead is learn to live with ourselves. This immediately takes a lot of heat from the subject. It is only one’s aspiration to be what one isn’t that causes such discomfiture in the first place, needless pressure. The more useful resolution of the problem is to view our backsliding as our personal patina, unquestionably more charitable and certainly more realistic. Relieved of the shroud of self-punishment, we can regain a good deal of what was otherwise wasted effort. If one really believes one’s resources are limited, why squander them on fruitless undertakings.

I have known, as I am sure you have too, people who are completely flattened by what life has dealt them. And to be fair, in many instances I can understand why. However, the fact is that, apart from these exceptional circumstances, most of us have nothing to complain about, though of course we do. Likely the sere and yellow leaf of old age will eventually sour us all, but we needn’t rush the process.