From time to time, I’m struck by the ups and downs of the average life.
Ecstatic happiness is followed by crippling defeat and sadness. People mix together, some positive some negative, and every one of the has an effect on the people around them. Their tunes mix like music around me, and I hear the major mixing with the minor, the consonant blending with the dissonant.
I often hear people talk of life as an amusement park ride, most specifically a roller coaster. The highs and lows of that sort of ride are very easily defined and readily navigated. You close your eyes as you ascend and clench your stomach as you descend, hoping not to expel the $20 pretzel you just bought at the concession stand from a man with more hair than Bigfoot in his nose alone.
In life, you can’t brace yourself for the bad times. In fact, you’re not really able to predict anything that might happen to you. Like Wile E. Coyote in the Looney Tunes cartoons, you never know when a train tunnel might turn out to be a painting. You can’t close your eyes and try to picture where you will be in a month’s time. The people who try to control their lives down to the second are often the ones who can’t deal with the change when it comes, preferring to remain blissfully ignorant as their plans topple down around them like felled trees.
I remember, when I was about seven or so, my friend Nick and I decided to go on The American Eagle at Six Flags Great America. I don’t know what inspired me to follow his plan, but I did, as I was an impressionable young lad. I didn’t think of the future where I was be hundreds of feet in the air and praying to come out alive. Oh, but I forgot one very important detail in this story: It was Fright Fest time at ol’ Six Flags and The American Eagle was going backwards that day! So, not only would I be going on the tallest coaster at the park at that time, I would be riding it backwards. The only definite emotion I can remember of that day is not fear, nor panic, but an almost meditative calm. I wasn’t worried about what was to come, I was only enjoying the moment.
You never know if life is going to go backwards or forwards, up or down, left or right. All we know is that life has many different paths that we can take. And the wonderful thing about that is the choice is ours and ours alone! We get to decided what we do, say, think, feel and create. We have a unique place in history where we have the universe at our fingertips and we need only brace ourselves for impact. There is nothing that we can’t achieve if we put our minds to it, big or small. But, it’s up to us to take the first step, to plan the first plan of our lives. Life is inherently a contact sport; we are constantly in fear that we may end up falling apart of colliding with oncoming vehicles. But, and this is something that took me a long time to embrace, we can’t fear the unknown. I’m not a fortune teller (nor do I quite possess the necessary charlatan skills for that job) but I know that, no matter what, life will move on.
So, my friends, I leave you today with a request: live your lives how you see fit and don’t worry about the monster lurking in the woods.
I shall part with the words of poet Robert Frost, from his poem, “The Road Not Taken,” and composer Stephen Sondheim, from his song from the musical Follies, “The Road You Didn’t Take”:
“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
Go through rocky ground,
The choices that you make
Aren’t all that grim.
The worlds you never see
Still will be around,
The Ben I’ll never be,
Who remembers him?”