Copyright Dennis Mitton
I’ve started reading Sean Carroll‘s so-far-fantastic-book The Big Picture. It’s tagged as an exploration of the origins of life, the origins of meaning, and the origins of the universe. What could be more fun?? My Kindle lists it at 840 pages but so far each one is worth reading so I expect it will jog all kinds of thoughts and questions that I will translate into posts.
The book opens with Wile E. Coyote defying gravity after running headlong over a steep cliff. Thinking about this, I started to write one thing, and then, mid-paragraph, I thought that, no, this isn’t right, I always advise just the opposite. So I return to one of my favorite topics – things are often more complex than they seem – and offer up the following:
My first thought, with Wile E. suspended above the hard sand below, was of my Mother. I’ve written much about my Father but my Mom is worthy of a few stories in her own right. What made me think of her here is how she stops in the middle of everything to assess the minutia of relationships. Everything is parsed and scrutinized. Motivations, real meanings of words, why someone used that particular word, is all sieved and funneled as she re-evaluates her entire history with that person. And that’s just before breakfast. I’m exaggerating a bit but it’s entirely exhausting to me. I am of that happy and dopey ilk who doesn’t notice these things. I know that when they are mad, they say things they don’t always mean. I know that there are times when people play word-games and mind-games. In general, I’m just so interested in what I’m doing that I’m not that bothered by what you are doing. Some say it’s a flaw. I say it keeps me out of a lot of hot water. I finally did an end-around with my Mom during one of her ‘now, don’t tell your sister this…’ phone calls: I told her that I don’t want to know anything that I can’t tell someone to their face at the Christmas party. She was quiet and finally said Okay. And then didn’t talk to me for six months. We’ve got on fine ever since. I’m seriously out of the family gossip loop and I can’t say how many days or weeks of good living I’ve recovered.
How does this relate to the cartoon? My first thought when I read Carroll was how debilitating it can be to stop and assess every meaningless thing around you. But no more had I thought that than I tripped over the word ‘meaningless’. These things are obviously meaningful to my Mother. They are not to me. But I am a great fan of thoughtful living. Of moving through life intentionally. Of decoding your beliefs and culture and feelings.
So the takeaway is to choose what to think about. If it’s how your son-in-law wears his shirt around your house then that’s your decision. It’s okay. It’s not what I want to focus on. That’s okay, too. Just remember that when you are suspended in mid-air, you are going to fall and hit hard ground. Maybe what we think about can make the landing a little less bruising.