Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Brass Ring

Whenever I have something to say about the younger generations I know that I can immediately be labeled as an old guy who either doesn’t know anything about the younger generations, or who might know something about them but doesn’t really get it.

Well, one of the reasons I embrace the moniker of The Old Coyote is to just get that out of the way right up front. Not only am I old, but I’m also getting older every day. If that disqualifies me from valid observation of life, so be it. I happen to know, however, that I know a little more about life than those coming up behind me, as they will know a little more than those coming up behind them.
But if you really believe that age should disqualify my observation, you must then also disqualify my experience. And in that case you should disqualify your own as well, and not bother reading anything else I have to say.

And here is what I have to say today.
“The brass ring cannot be attained.”

No matter how many times one goes around the carousel of life, no matter how many different animals one may ride, no matter how many reinventions of one’s self, a person cannot, as a life goal, seek the brass ring and hope to find happiness, fulfillment, contentment, honor, dignity, or love.

It is never to be found on the carousel. It is anathema to the very concept. The carousel holds two illusions. The first is that if you grab the brass ring you’ll be happy. And the second is that if you missed the ring on the last pass, you’ll get it the next time around.
The ring is a promise, but it is a promise broken, invalidated if you will, even before it’s given. The wise among us know that intuitively, and the fortunate among us have been taught, and embrace, the truth of its lie.

Life is not a party, as many in today’s world seek for it to be. Life is a serious endeavor, punctuated with degrees of joy and sorrow, pleasure and pain. Those whose primary motivation in life is to party, to have wealth, stuff, recognition, prestige, celebrity, position, or power, will wake up to an empty life, a life bereft of everything that matters. The sad part about it is that they will not realize its full emptiness until later in life. It is the modern day equivalent of ‘keeping up with the Joneses', and it plays itself out today just as it always has.

As many young people find themselves always ‘needing’ the newest ‘this’, the latest ‘that’, the next ‘must have’, they also find themselves needing another drink, another toke, another hook-up, another party to satisfy the emptiness, to be OK with themselves. Every person of substance knows that those things, those endeavors, and those behaviors, don’t satisfy, but rather, just numb the senses, subjugate the pain, and prolong the inevitable.

I do not write these things to judge, or to condemn, young people. I was young once. But I am not here to be their friend either. I am here to show the way. I express what I know because I care deeply about them, as individuals, and as collective generations. I care about their long-term wellbeing, much more so than with their temporal gratification. I want them to wake up down the road and be satisfied that they have made wise, and responsible choices, that their actions, when young, will serve to enhance their overall lives, rather than to inhibit them.

True value in life is in a commitment to what you have, and to what is within reasonable reach of your means, rather than in a compulsive drive to acquire whatever you can get. It is true of relationships with people, as well as lifestyle. Value is in embracing love, and family, finding deeply satisfying work, and an appreciation of the divine, the God around whom all life actually revolves. Honor, respect, dignity, fulfillment, contentment, and, hopefully, even happiness, will follow. Happiness is not guaranteed to anybody, but seeking the brass ring only ensures that it will never be attained.

Do not believe the happiness images that celebrities, rock stars, socialites, and their publicists, attach to their lives. They have the wealth, the mansions, the adulation, beautiful people on their arms, sex at their command, enormous fame and notoriety; and they are, for the most part, pretty lonely, ambiguous, and unhappy people.

The party only lasts until closing time, and then the lights just dim again. They always do. They always will. Unconscious people tend to repeat the same familiar patterns, thinking there is satisfaction to be found. Don’t be unconscious, and don’t be fool enough to just repeat your own futile patterns.
Be smart, and be true to truth.

Our time on earth is short, and much too valuable to live with a shallow and cavalier ambition. Life is the greatest treasure one can be given, and it has already been given in abundance to each of us. It could never have been acquired on our own. It is not a brass ring. It just does not work that way. Take seriously what you do with the gift of your life.

The brass ring is slippery, and all but impossible to hold.
Believe me, it is not even worth the ride.

If you know somebody chasing the brass ring, and you want to help, please forward this to them.

And have a meaningful holiday this year.