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Saturday, June 27, 2020

How Low Can You Go?

Back in the late 1980s when I was 30-something, my two girlfriends from college and I went out on the town one night at a popular new nightclub called Studebaker's - a franchise now apparently defunct. We usually got together for a long, leisurely chit-chat over lunch or dinner at some nice restaurant, but this time we decided to go see what all the fuss was about.

The joint was hopping:  a huge, brightly lit room with a crowded dance floor and a gleaming, honest-to-God Studebaker convertible perched on a dais at one end. Probably there was no motor in it, but it looked showroom-new, and people kept taking turns climbing in, sitting on the back where the top folds down, singing along to the oldies music and waving their arms to the rhythm - of course we eventually took our turn there, too. It was great fun.

The drinks were delicious, the music was marvelous, and everybody was joyously well-behaved.  At some point, the staff set up a limbo stick, and a crowd immediately lined up to go under it, dancing their way through.  Even your staid and sensible Head Trucker - normally the very soul of decorum - got into the spirit of things and joined the line.  The stick was not set very low, and people were merrily dancing their way under it with ease, leaning far backwards.  Everyone but me, that is.

Just as I got my waist under the stick, and my chin on a level with it, I realized too late that to go an inch lower would require the use of certain back muscles which had lain entirely undisturbed since I was a schoolboy climbing on the monkey bars in the playground, and who were now loath to be roused from their slumber.  Chagrined and perplexed as to how to proceed without knocking the bar down or collapsing on the floor, I hesitated for a second in order to give reverent consideration to the laws of physics.

But of course hesitation is fatal on the dance floor.  During that brief second, two other people, one on each side of me, not to be hindered for a moment, came limbo-ing through without so much as a by-your-leave, followed closely by other impatient folks.  The crowd was not about to allow time for a rethink or a redo - onward, onward, onward!  Too bad for you if you can't make it.  Out of our way!

Mortified, I somehow managed to get on through by a kind of crablike crawl - most undignified.  But this humiliating experience did teach me a significant lesson about human nature:  if you can't run with the big dogs, better stay up on the porch.  

This principle applies in ordinary, everyday life as well as in society at large.  It is one thing to dance your own dance to the music of the moment - it is quite another to be completely out of step and out of tune with everyone around you.  In the latter case, you can waste all your strength and joie de vivre in a lonely, forlorn, unwinnable battle - and what purpose would that serve? - or you can pull off the road and let the traffic diesel on by, going hell-for-leather whither it will.

Only rarely does a single determined soul turn the tide, in the name of a noble cause; but such cases are few, and beyond the strength of most.

Your Head Trucker, now old and gray, and less limber each year, cannot keep up with the mad rush of the modern world.  In the last month, I have used what little talent I have to express outrage and call for reform - just one small voice, joined to a great chorus of others.  I have said my piece, and more I cannot do.  The world is rushing madly around and beyond me, on either side - I have no power to stop the flood or divert it from what seems a looming disaster of willful ignorance and arrogance on both sides.

For several years past, I have paid less and less attention to the news of the day because it is so awful and so depressing - in this great moment of crisis, I have refocused my attention on current events, but now I notice that the upset and dismay are intruding upon my hours of rest and filling my waking mind.  News in this day of endless and often mindless reportage, 24/7, is very much an addictive drug - some people are even called, deservedly, "news junkies."

But it serves no good purpose for myself or for anyone else to fill up my thoughts, day and night, with such an obsession; in fact, it is positively detrimental to my physical and mental health. In any case, I have long since outlived my time - this present age, even before the current uproar started, is not at all to my taste. I feel myself very much a stranger in a strange land - an exile far from home. And of course, one can never go home again.

So let the current generation make of it what they will - perhaps a better world, or perhaps something even more ugly, vulgar, and brutal than the present one - even so, why should I let that destroy my serenity and peace of mind?  I have no power to help or hinder.  I am an old man without family or posterity, and much closer to the end of life's course than its beginning. Soon enough I shall be a thing that is past knowing. I have had my day, a full cup of joys and sorrows - but now the sun is low in the sky, and the night is coming when I shall rest from all labors.

So I think I will now attempt to redirect my thoughts and spirit to more peaceful things, abstaining from further comment on current events, unless something truly earthshaking happens - and please God, it won't. In the past month on this blog, I have stated very clearly where I stand, and I am sure that my stand is very much in line with the moral arc of the universe, and of the highest Good - that patient, impartial, eternal Love that moves the stars.

So this old dog is going to lie back down in that shady spot on the porch.  If any of y'all want to run yourselves crazy chasing cars, have at it. I'm done.

Better is an handful with quietness, than both the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit.

--Ecclesiastes 4:6


Davis said...

Enjoy your rest on the porch - I'm biding my time in the garden being helpless to change the world as I would wish.

Russ Manley said...

To simply bloom where you are planted is a fine thing.

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