Questions – Mostly Why!

QuestionFrom their Dark Horse Album, Nickelback sings, “If Today Was Your Last Day.”  The central theme discusses a principle I am struggling with, centered around a question, “Why do we wait?”  The song’s lyrics include the following:

“My best friend gave me the best advice
He said, “Each day’s a gift and not a given right.
Leave no stone unturned, leave your fears behind
And try to take the path less traveled by.
That first step you take is the longest stride.”

If today was your last day
And tomorrow was too late
Could you say “goodbye” to yesterday?
Would you live each moment like your last?
Leave old pictures in the past
Donate every dime you had?
If today was your last day.”

From the Live Like You Were Dying album, Tim McGraw, sings a similarly themed song of the same name, with the following lyrics:Rescued Butterfly 2

Said I was in my early 40’s
With a lot of life before me
When a moment came, that stopped me on a dime
I spent most of the next days lookin’ at the x-rays
Talkin’ ’bout the options and talkin’ ’bout sweet time
Asked him when it sank in
That this might really be the real end
How’s it hit ya, when you get that kind of news
Man what ya do
And he says

I went sky divin’
I went Rocky Mountain climbin’
I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fu Manchu
And I loved deeper
And I spoke sweeter
And I gave forgiveness I’ve been denying
And he said someday I hope you get the chance
To live like you were dyin’

The follow-up question continues, when will you finally start living big?

Why do we wait?

LaughterWhy do humans wait to begin living until they get a death sentence?  Look, I have lived my life as hard and as full as possible, not because I am dying, but to eventually be an interesting old person.  I remember sentiments from reading books as a kid, things like, “it’s not how wide or how deep you live that matters; it’s proving you lived at all.”  Or, “if you go through life without collecting scars and enemies, you’re a coward or worse.”  I do not understand about waiting for some earth-shaking revelation before you take time to laugh, be adventurous, explore, or forgive.

I talked to a person back in Ohio; his Father-In-Law dropped dead suddenly.  There were no health indications, no warning, no previous symptoms, just got up one morning, took a step, and fell down dead!  The man I was speaking to claimed this shook his wife, marriage, and family, but it would not change him.  He was rushing to a meeting for a job he hated, to go home to a family in turmoil, and he had no clue what to do.  Just a casual conversation, the man was not looking for answers; I would not offer advice.  I wished him well!Paradox

He had a long list of things to do in his “Some-Day” Bucket List.  When is someday?  I cannot find this as a day of the week on a single calendar.  Yet, how many times a day is a person dreaming of “someday” when they plan to start living?  Please do not get me wrong; I am not claiming we all need to be “Eat, Drink, and Be Merry for tomorrow we die” people.  I am arguing we might want to stop waiting for the bus to someday, to take us to a place called somewhere, so we can become people we refused to be all our lives.

Why finally start living big?

Ernest Lawrence Thayer wrote a poem I favored as a child called “Casey at the Bat.”  Not to ruin the poem, but the last stanza is essential.

“Oh, somewhere in this favoured land, the sun is shining bright,
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light;
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout,
But there is no joy in Mudville—mighty Casey has struck out” [emphasis mine].

The land of somewhere, where people live like they never lived in real life, is that mythical place of rainbows, lollipops, roses, and summer bands. Casey at the Bat | Tolley's Topics

James Wilson wrote a sequel to “Casey at the Bat” titled “Casey’s Revenge.”  Again the final stanza holds a clear message for us.

“Oh, somewhere in this favored land, dark clouds may hide the sun.
And somewhere bands no longer play, children have no fun;
And somewhere over blighted lives there hangs a heavy pall;
But Mudville hearts are happy now — for Casey hit the ball!”

The final Casey poem is called “Casey 20-Years Later,” authored by Clarence P. McDonald.  The Mudville Nine were hurt; they needed a player to finish the game.  The coach appealed to the crowd for a player to come and play.  An older man from the crowd, unknown and unnamed, claims he knows baseball and can help finish the game.  The game continues, and the stranger comes to bat; he hits the game-winning hit and stands there and cried.  For the stranger was Mighty Casey, the man chided and derided by the crowd so many years before.

Mighty Casey at Bat - Welcome to Wayne Hunt Huebner 4 ArtI have always wondered what happened between the first, the second, and the third poems about Mighty Casey.  The humility it took to play again.  The kindness he showed to the audience and other players, the respect he showed to the umpire.  So many lessons, but the number one among them all, why are we not living larger, deeper, fuller?  Why do we worship sports heroes instead of being sports heroes?  Why do we settle for the daily grind when even in the daily tasks, there are things to discover, new things to learn, new experiences, and new methods of doing things that will surprise us if we but take a risk.

Growing up in Maine, I learned something the day I had 20 loads of laundry to complete, no dryer, and the temperature was dropping like a rocket sled on rails.  Did you know you can hang clothes on a line outside, in the freezing cold, and they will dry?  My fingers just about froze stiff, the laundry was freezing faster than I could hang it, and I had to iron a bunch of wrinkles out.  But, what a cool (pun intended) lesson.  The clothes came in dry, smelled of the Maine woods, wood smoke, and had a crisp smell that I cannot forget.Lemmings 1

On my 30th birthday, I was in Maine again; my wife bought a birthday dinner at Red Robin.  I had some great food that day, but the memory that stays in my head, clear as a new spring morning, was the table cube.  On this cube was a picture of a man, standing outside a plane hangar, looking for all the world as confident as he can.  The heading, “All I want to be when I grow up is an interesting old person.”  At this moment, I knew what I wanted to be when I grew old, an interesting old person.

Plant JokePeople had been asking me what I wanted to do or be when I grew up for years and years.  I never had a clue.  I had already been a fireman, a diesel mechanic, a truck driver, a shepherd, a dairy farmhand, a blueberry harvester, a paper delivery boy, been through the US Army and US Navy, as well as a trip through the US Army National Guard.  I had worked in call centers, been a general contractor, a business consultant, worked in multiple warehouses in different roles, and so much more.  When I turned 30, my wife and I had already racked up 20+ moves, traveled uncountable miles across the lower-48 states, and had some crazy life experiences.  The US Military had already sent me ¾’s of the way around the world.

But, I finally found what I wanted to be, an interesting older person.  Thus, when I hear these songs by Nickelback and Tim McGraw, I cannot understand why wait?  Why live large and adventurous only after getting a life sentence?  Why withhold forgiveness and forget the past only after it becomes apparent you are going to die?  Did you forget that everyone has a death certificate waiting?  Did you get stuck in a rut, put on blinders, and forget that life is more than just breathing in and out and turning food into mulch?Mediocre Joke

A Final Thought

Would you volunteer?  The poem “Casey 20-years later” is a perfect ending for this topic.  Especially with the question, would you volunteer?  Would you volunteer to pull some weeds for a neighbor?  Would you volunteer to shovel a little more snow for another person?  Would you cross a lawn and pick up a trashcan the wind had knocked around?  Would you volunteer to buy some groceries when the teller asks for more money, and it is clear that the person does not have enough?  Would you buy gas for a stranger?

Knowledge Check!The poems of Casey relate a tale of humanity and the songs of Nickelback and Tim McGraw relate that it is never too late to help someone unless you’re dead!  Why wait?  Why hold off on living larger, deeper, fuller lives?  Why not volunteer?  Why do we wait to act like we care until a few days between Thanksgiving and Christmas but spend the rest of the year not living at all?  These are just some random questions, two really good songs, three incredible poems, and my brain trying to make sense.

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

NO MORE BS: Revisiting A Powerful Tool – Humor

GarnerCamden, Maine, I am wandering through a bookstore and randomly select a book, “Politically Correct Bedtime Stories,” authored by James Finn Gardner.  I laughed so hard; people chose to become offended.  From 1995 to the present, I have read and re-read these books, and they just get funnier!  Yes; I own all of Gardner’s books on being politically correct and read them often for a good chuckle!

I was visiting Camp Red Cloud, Uijeongbu, South Korea.  I stopped at the Post Exchange (PX) just looking and tripped across Robert Fulghum’s book, “It Was on Fire When I laid Down on it.”  I had never heard of this author, but after reading about the birdbath fire, the hose, and the burning mattress, I was hooked!  Another author who delights in telling stories that make me laugh.  If you have never read his books, make some time to read, then you too can enjoy the ultimate “Mother of the Bride” and the “Naked Lady and the Gorilla” stories.  Don’t mind me; I am laughing at the memories.

LinkletterHere I am, a person without memory for names, but I can tell you the details of these events like they happened yesterday.  Heck, just thinking about that bookstore in Camden, Maine, brings back the smell of the bookstore, the wood fire stove heating the place, and the person who suggested I visit that particular store.  Thus, the power of humor and the adventure of a good book.

When my wife and I first married, I read to her the Robert Fulghum books I had collected, we spent several evenings laughing merrily, and those memories I cherish!  I laughed so hard when I discovered that my wife could not understand the humor of politically correct bedtime stories.  Still, I rejoiced mightily when she discovered how funny Robert Fulghum was to her.  The best part of the Robert Fulghum books is how you can read them with a Hudson Bay mindset and enjoy them in small pieces or large equally.

I was traveling from Federal Way to downtown Seattle by bus and needed a book.  I grabbed my wife’s copy of Art Linkletter’s “Kids Say the Darndest Things!”  I laughed all the way to my job interview.  I discussed the book on the bus ride all the way back to Federal Way.  Great bus ride!  I have no idea who I sat beside, but we had a great conversation about books, kids, life, and humor.  “My Dad is a Stupidvisor!”

Why is humor so powerful?

Sword and ShieldHelmy and Frerichs (2013) pointed out the first and most significant role of humor “both as a sword and a shield.”  The Egyptian Revolution of 2011 was some dark days in the Middle East, but the terror of a revolution was significantly reduced through the use of humor, and “Egyptians laughed themselves into a democracy.”  Quoting Orwell (1945), Helmy and Frerichs (2013) related, “Every joke is a tiny revolution,” “humor is at its best when it is upsetting the established order.”  “Whatever …. brings down the mighty from their seats, preferably with a bump, is funny!”

Helmy and Frerichs (2013) add another aspect to humor, the paradox between playfulness and seriousness.  Consider this for a moment, how often has the environment been serious, but you have felt a desire to laugh.  I had this occur at a funeral for a dear friend; her grandson was being a typical boy and did something right in the middle of the funeral.  I laughed.  Totally not appreciated by the family and friends gathered, but it was funny.  My first command and staff meeting in the US Army, serious business, lots of high-ranking officers, lots of junior officers practicing seriousness, something was said, I laughed.  Few others followed, but the rest of the crowd’s disgusted looks soon stifled the humor out of the situation.  I learned a valuable lesson that day, when serious, be sure to laugh!

WWGDThus, bringing Smith (2009) into the mix of humor and seriousness by understanding the audience’s role in humor.  Smith (2009) writes about the Danish Cartoon debacle from January and February 2006, calling this event a grim series of events that proves humor is not a trivial matter.  Hello, the audience, for the most part, found the cartoons funny, and the only thing shown by those events in 2006 is that humor is also a choice.  Choose to be offended, and you can justify your offense by acting like a rube.  It happens daily when people choose offense, and then they start acting like a tantrum-throwing child in the grocery store cereal or candy aisle!

Yes; the audience does play a role in the humor level, but choosing to take offense is not allowed.  There are comedians out there who say outrageous stuff; I decide not to listen to them due to their vulgarity, which is okay with the vulgar comedian and me.  I am not the targeted audience for indecency in comedians and have even given some thumbs down to favorite comedians who have used vulgarity.  But, I do not go out and throw a tantrum just because I chose to be offended.

Why discuss these aspects of humor?

Semper GumbyHelmy and Frerichs (2013) explained best why these aspects of humor are important, “humor is both a sword and a shield.”  Political cartoons are one of the highest forms of humor, representing both a sword and a shield.  I have seen political cartoons cover the entire spectrum of human efforts and find them priceless examples of how to protect (shield) and attack (sword) the cartoons’ subjects.  For instance, I saw an “Iraqi SCUD Missile Launcher” political cartoon that has kept me chuckling for years.  The camel in that cartoon has the absolute best face.  In the US Army, a picture hung above my desk of a loon trying to swallow a frog, captioned,  “Never Give Up!”  A humorous reminder to me while working in my job at the time.

I currently have a picture of Gumby with the caption, “Semper Gumby” (Always Flexible), another humorous reminder of what I want in my mind and life.  When the WWJD wristbands came out, a friend spoofed them with WWGD (What Would Gumby Do?), and I laughed and laughed.  The sword and shield of humor are essential to personal health, group cohesion, team building, and much more, all because of what humor does in our brains.

Never Give Up!Watson, Matthews, and Allman (2007) remind us that humor relieves stress, facilitates social bonding, acting as an intrinsic reward, and powerfully activates significant portions of the brain, helping humans navigate complex social environments.  Chemicals are released in the brain when we laugh that mellows moods, opens possibilities for problem-solving, and generates goodwill.  As a nerd, I find the fMRI imaging used in Watson, et al’s. (2007) research fascinating.

In a “Liberty FIRST Culture,” laughter is both anticipated and acceptable.  Laugh!  Enjoy the humor in situations, for I can tell you a well-known truth, humans are funny!  Watching humans interact is hilarious.  Want to blow a cashier’s mind when they ask, “How are you?” tell them, “Breathing.”  Then stand and watch their face.  Hilarious!

Leap DayI was behind a person in line; with my sense of humor, the cashier asked, “How are you?” The gentleman said he was “pooping square turds.”  I laughed!  I still laugh.  What a line!  But, the cashier’s face was indescribably funny!  The gentleman paid for his groceries and left, as the next customer, the cashier, was still off her mojo during our transaction.  I was there for her next customer and witnessed the cashier still was off her mojo for that customer.  I have no idea what that cashier thought about this transaction, but I found it an incredibly great break from the ordinary.

ResilienceLaughter is good!  Use it, know it, and practice it.  The best tool in the world is to make someone else laugh.

Non Sequitur - Carpe DiemReferences

Helmy, M. M., & Frerichs, S. (2013). Stripping the boss: The powerful role of humor in the Egyptian Revolution 2011. Integrative Psychological and Behavioral Science, 47(4), 450-481.

Smith, M. (2009). Humor, unlaughter, and boundary maintenance. Journal of American Folklore, 148-171.

Watson, K. K., Matthews, B. J., & Allman, J. M. (2007). Brain activation during sight gags and language-dependent humor. Cerebral cortex, 17(2), 314-324.

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.