Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Wisdom and time

There was a sage in days of yore
And he a handsome pigtail wore,
Yet wondered much and sorrowed more
Because it hung behind him.
The 'Lazy L' is full of sages, wise men and oracles, all ready to impart wondrous amounts of sagacity and advice to us lesser beings. However, it is surprising how many of them are really as wise as an idiot in a hurry.

I have to confess that I make a very big error in judgement a great deal of the time because I make the mistake of thinking that everyone else thinks the way I do. That is why, when I have explained something to someone in what I consider to be perfectly lucid terms and they don't understand me, or seem to fail to listen, I can be rude and terse with them - "What's wrong with you? It's not rocket science!" - sort of thing.

It occurs to me that the likelihood is that they are exactly the same as I am in that they too think everyone else thinks like they do. Which is all very well, but a person who isn't too bright may well be making the classic error in thinking that everyone else isn't too bright either.

I have seen them, these paragons of idiocy, as they approach someone a little wiser than they are and they have a plan. They go ahead and explain this plan and the wiser person sees the flaw instantly. The wiser fellow points out the flaw and the idiot stands there stunned, wondering why the wiser fellow hasn't been fooled or taken in - the plan would have fooled the idiot! The most interesting part is that the idiotic one can then get a bit agitated because he genuinely thinks he is clever - and nobody likes a smart arse.

I had one the other day who came to see me and said, "Frank, can I have a word?"

"Pomegranate," said I. "That's a good word. You can have it, I'm not using it at the minute."

"No," said he, "listen! I've got a good deal for you."

"I bet you haven't!" said I.

"Just listen!"

"Okay, I'm listening," said I. "But don't expect too much."

"No," said he, "just listen. If you get me twenty quids' worth of stuff at the canteen, I'll send fifty into your account. That's a good deal, that is."

"No doubt," said I, "for a moron."

"What do you mean?"

"Listen mate," was my response, "if you have got fifty quid, I suggest you have it sent in to yourself. That way you get the full benefit of it rather than just twenty quid - and THAT'S a good deal!"

I could see his little mind working as he wondered how I had seen the flaw in his plan - it would have fooled him! Let me put it this way, if he had had a pigtail he would have been spinning round and round trying to see it, like a dog chasing his own tail.

However, once an idiot gets what he sees as a good idea, no matter how silly it may be, he is most reluctant to let it go.

"Well, listen!" said he. "How about a tenner then?"

The best part is that this fellow, this insane member of my little community, is seen as one of the chaps - people ask him for advice and he freely gives it! None of it is ever any good of course, but he doesn't let that stop him. Personally I would assess him as having a mental age of about fourteen but he can talk the hind leg off a duck-billed platypus.

That's the thing with people who talk a lot - they are never quiet long enough to listen to anyone else and consequently learn nowt!


It is just after 9.30 on the morning of Tuesday 20th April 2010 and I've just got rid of a young fellow who came to talk to me for no good reason that I could see. I think he really sought some kind of reassurance that his life was not completely over, as young as he is. What seemed to be exercising his mind was the fact that even after more than twenty-four years I still seemed to have kept my sanity and sense of humour, twisted as that may be. I think he just needed someone to tell him that he would be fine, he too would get through the next couple of decades okay.

He may not of course, and even if he does he will still have over ten years left. I think he is about twenty-seven now - add a little over thirty years to that and he will be about my age when he gets to the stage where he can see home on the horizon, if he still has a home by then of course.

So many of these young men are in that position - nothing ahead of them but decades of this life and maybe, if they survive it, their final few years in the community, if they are lucky.

I don't tell them these things of course, that would be unkind and would, in effect, remove all hope from them. That could have disastrous consequences, something these young, trainee psychologists don't seem to understand. But how can they even begin to understand? They are youngsters too! They know nothing about the fleeting feet of time, how it simply disappears when we are not looking. One day we are sniggering at dirty drawings of boys or girls and giggling at mucky words in the dictionary; we have our first meaningful kiss, hopefully with a member of the opposite sex (but these days, who knows); then, before we can draw breath, we are sixty and wonder what happened in between!

Young people cannot understand time and the passage of it, they have other, more interesting things to think about. It is only when we get older that we begin to wonder about it and generally regret its passing. How many of us do not look back and say, "I wish I had known then what I know now"? Show me someone who has not said that and I'll show you a liar.

I had intended to write a verse of a song at this point, one from Pink Floyd from "The Dark Side of the Moon" album called "Time", but have decided against that. Instead I will write a verse from an old Irish tune called, "Maggie". The song itself concerns an old man singing to his wife, who has clearly grown old with him, and he is looking back on their life together.

They say we are feeble with age, Maggie,
Our steps are much slower than then;
My face is a well-written page, Maggie,
And time all alone was the pen.
They say we have outlived our time, Maggie,
As dated as songs we have sung.
But to me, you're as fair as you were, Maggie,
When you and I were young.
Oh yes, my face is a well-written page too, and time was the pen, but older folk have an answer to that - they say that it is character. Character my arse - every line tells a tale, as often as not of difficulty and struggle. We look into the mirror and see the ravages of time that are right there in front of our eyes. Gone is the fresh-faced Adonis and in its place we see what can only be described as a dried-out prune. It's coming to us all although some weather better than others. It is said that when we are teenagers we have the face which God gave us, but when we get to fifty or sixty we have the face we gave ourselves.

Well, I hope that the young fellows who speak to me from time to time understand that. The funny part is, we don't see the gradual change ourselves, nor do we feel it - that is left to others.

The Voice In The Wilderness

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