Thursday, November 7, 2013

Simple Man

Recognizing some variations of degree, I contend there are two sides of the same road through life: complex and simple. The complex life sounds more exciting, fun and even a bit wild at times; while the simple path at first glance looks to be predictable, boring and far too tame.

In the movie “Harvey,” Jimmy Stewart plays the part of Elwood P. Dowd who is quite content living a simple life. In one scene he says, “Years ago my mother used to say to me, she'd say, ‘In this world, Elwood, you must be’ - she always called me Elwood – ‘In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant.’ Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.”

I am neither terribly smart nor exceedingly pleasant, but since I don’t want to turn into a crabby old man, I will strive to be more pleasant. Hopefully, this can be accomplished without having to pal around with a 6 foot rabbit that no one else sees.

It’s easier to be sour and cynical. I have noticed that the complexities of life have been having their way with me and making me unpleasant to be around; I am currently trying to correct that by simplifying.  “Less is more,” said the writer Robert Browning. His wife, poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning, counted out the ways.

I decided to change lanes about two years ago. I was talking with an old friend on the second floor of a coffee shop, and I was telling him of some great plan I had and how I was going to spend my time to achieve it. Since he had at one time shared a similar dream, I asked him what he thought.

“I only have fifteen or twenty good years left, and I have to decide how I want to spend it; and I don’t think I want to spend it doing that.”

Being 6 months older than me, his perspective may be sharper in that regard, as he has less time to waste than me.  Yet I thought it a good exercise to consider how I want to live my life on “this side of the hill”.

The answer doesn't come easily, as my interests are varied and not always long-lived. Time with family and friends will always be a priority, and I hope to continue to write and read, watch some movies and play music. Then there are places to go, things to do, people to see. And, of course, I need to remain employed for a while, so I can sustain all this silliness.

So to accomplish this, I had to make some changes. I bought an old warehouse and moved my office to it. My large monthly rent payment has been replaced by a smaller mortgage payment.

Plus, I have to get rid of stuff. I thought I could be entertained by things – but instead I found they must be maintained. My focus needs to be narrowed. 
Take my banjo. Please. Playing the banjo requires the right hand to pick or roll through the strings while the left hand is in charge of the chord selection.  The rolls I’m getting down – but I struggle with the chords.

Lou Reed, who died last week, once said. “One chord is fine. Two chords is pushing it. Three chords and you’re into jazz.” “Ostrich” was a song he recorded where all six guitar strings were tuned to the same note (D-D-D-D-d-d).  Although he took a walk on the wild side he recognized the need to keep things simple.   

I choose the simple path – and you may quote me.

1 comment:

  1. Personally I'm still looking for the simple life. Let me know if you ever find it, because I sure have not. I'm slowly coming to the conclusion that I don't run my life. It runs me in what ever direction it feels like doing. So I have no idea in what direction I will be going tomorrow or if even there will be a tomorrow. As for making plans for the future, I've long since given that up as a lost cause.