It's well past Father's Day, I know, but I read a story today written by a woman whose father had taught her to bunt a baseball when she was a kid. It was a nice little story that the writer tried to stretch into a metaphor about how her father had taught her to live a decent life and so on and so forth, and it didn't really work for me. I mean, I take her point about how it's reasonable to aim for just advancing a guy on base, and not always shoot for the fences, but it still just seemed a bit of a stretch, and a little depressing at that.
It did, however, start me thinking about nuggets of wisdom from my own father, who never taught me to hit bunts or homeruns or anything, which is probably a good thing, since I most likely would have wound up concussing someone with a badly swung bat. I'm just not that coordinated. The few times I did play ball, what I remember most is my teammates yelling at me to stop throwing the bat whenever I got a hit and ran towards first. If there's a life lesson there, it's that some of us aren't meant to play organized sports.
No, the metaphors for life my father passed down to me tended to be of a more poetic nature. For instance, when someone has done something extraordinarily dumb, he might be described as "So stupid he couldn't pour piss out of a boot with instructions on the heel." This isn't so much a philosophy of course, as way to avoid being. The reason I enjoy this phrase so much is that the first time I heard it, it came with a mimed visual provided by my younger brother that made me laugh so hard I had to sit down. Plus, it helps to meditate on such an image when dealing with the type of individual it describes. Try it sometime.
For times when absolutely nothing is going right, and every thing you've tried that day has ended in epic failure: "Some days you buy a duck, and it drowns." Why the image of a drowned duck, one that I paid good money for no less, makes me feel a little more philosophical about my situation, I don't know. I think it's on the order of Alexander's mom telling him that "Some days are like that. Even in Australia." at the end of Judith Viorist's Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. (This, by the way, is also an excellent thing to read on epic failure days.)
The last nugget, any possibly my favorite, is the saying that "It's tough to remember that your original objective was do drain the swamp when you're up to your ass in alligators." This one is just golden. I think he has it on a plaque in his office. So much of life is like that. Sometimes I like to imagine all the petty rules, red tape, small minds and other obstacles that are standing in the way of what I want to do as alligators. Then I can imagine them as really nice luggage. But really, it's just a way of remembering that there is a bigger goal out there, and if I can just get to that, the rest of the details will fall into place.
And it's funny. They all are. Never underestimate the power of making somebody laugh, even yourself. So maybe that's the real life lesson -- to not take things so seriously. Or maybe I'm just stretching things into more than they are. Such, as they say, is life.