Tuesday, June 23, 2009

I Never Met a Man I Didn't Like

Will Rogers used to say "I never met a man I didn't like." I've pondered this statement for far too long and have come to the conclusion that either he just liked everybody or he just said that to be nice, or he never met the people I've bumped into in my life. I do know someone who says he never met a stranger -- but I must tell you he is not well liked by everybody. He's loud and obnoxious and I've seen people avoid him like the plague in social situations.

I think Will Rogers was trying to make a point. I think he meant to say to the rest of us that everybody deserves respect and their opinions count too. I just can't believe he liked everybody he met. It isn't humanly possible since we all have bad days.

Now Jesus loved everybody but I don't think he was a big fan of Pontius Pilate. It is more likely he was setting an example for the rest of us to follow and he knew that forgiving even one's enemies is better than harboring a grudge because that's self-destructive. The idea that it's easier for a poor man to get into heaven than a rich one through the eye of a needle implies that having little does not distract you from the goal of doing good. Having so much you think it needs protecting, makes you greedy and less likely to selflessly do the right thing.

Will Rogers was a political humorist. You could say he was an early stand-up comedian but ran more one-man commentator on the events of his day. He wrote many newspaper columns and was a movie star in both silent and early talking movies. He died in a small plane accident in 1935. Although he is credited with the statement, I've heard he used to append it with a "yet." I have also heard stories others have told who refute Will's ability to like everybody. Once when invited to join a newsman's chat he told his host to "get lost kid."

One of my greatest regrets in life is that I cannot say I never met a man I didn't like. Being a shy person, I find myself avoiding situations where I might lose my inhibitions and start liking people more. At least knowing I am doing that is a step in the right direction.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Patience Is a Virtue

There once was a monk who lived in a monastery with several other monks. The head monk was called the abbot. Now these monks had taken a vow of silence so each day they did their tasks in silence. They read in silence, did their chores, worked in the garden, and prayed in silence. Every seven years the abbot would take a census of each monk and called them one by one into his residence where he would ask them a simple question. One day as it was the custom, the abbot called a monk in to speak to him on this special occasion. "How are you doing brother," the abbot asked? The monk replied, "I'm alright brother superior, but my bed is very hard and uncomfortable when I try to sleep." The abbot thanked the monk and sent him on his way. Seven years passed. Again it was his turn to speak to the abbot. When asked how he was doing, the monk replied, "Everything is fine, but the food is foul and leaves much to be desired." The abbot thanked him again and the monk went back to his cell to pray. Seven years passed. The monk was summoned to speak with the abbot on the day of his census and the abbot asked how he was doing. The monk replied, "I've given it a lot of thought and frankly abbot I'm thinking of quitting the brotherhood." And the abbot responded, "I'm not surprised, all you do is complain."

I am reminded of this (borrowed) story when I think all that I think is bad or negative. I have to deliberately say and think things that are positive and uplifting. It seems to be my nature to go the other way. Far too many judgments, upsets, and frustrations. I make myself say "hello" to my cat Marvin, every day. It's one of the nicest things I do. My wife always says it's a nice day, or beautiful trees, or something that is positive. It's one of her good habits. I must confess, I don't have many good habits. I have a bag full of bad ones, though. I'm a nice enough person, I don't wish anyone any harm. I don't go way out of my way to be nice, though. If you're familiar with 12 step programs, you know there is a step where you are supposed to go back and make amends as long as it wouldn't hurt or upset anybody. I am haunted by people and things for which I need to make amends but cannot connect. Can I forgive myself? I'm not sure. The ways I have in the past seem more like denial than acceptance.

Today I heard some musical tunes I hadn't heard in quite a while. I recognized Telstar, an oldie instrumental from the early 60s. The Star Wars theme brought back some good memories of the movie and waiting in line to see it, and the theme song from Hill Street Blues TV series reminded me of the time in Las Vegas when Hal Miller got on stage and "covered" for the piano player who was tardy. That was about the same time as the series and I remember Hal playing it for the cocktail crowd. If I could just get as big a kick out of right now as that. It's just beyond my grasp, but I keep working on it.

I've seen a couple of television programs on PBS recently of Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood 40 years after Blind Faith and about the last days of Fillmore West. Where did the time go? Will I ever get it back? What is the meaning of life? How do I fit in the universe? What is reality?

I saw a video of Steve Jobs commencement speech to the 2009 graduates of Stanford University. I learned a lot about Steve I didn't know. Funny isn't it, two of the most influential men in the new millennium never graduated from college. If you've got to be something, be lucky.