Published on September 5th, 2018 | by Randy Weeks0
The View from the Balcony: Finding Your Balance
This is a bit of a follow-up to my last TLV column, “The Ten Commandments for Students.” This might sound like the rantings of a geezer who can’t accept societal changes, but I did grow up in the ‘60s, a time when many thought Elvis and The Beatles were going to be the downfall of the free world and hippies, war protesters, and draft dodgers were anarchists and cowards. And let’s not forget the Civil Rights movement. As Bobby Dylan wrote, “The times, they are a changin’.” He knew what he was talking about. The times still are a changin’. They always will be.
Last week I watched The Circle, a film about a young lady’s (Emma Watson) attempts to navigate with integrity and humanness the Big Brother nature of a social media giant (Tom Hanks) that was on track to covertly control as many people in the world as possible. She lived a transparent life, meaning that her every move (except her bathroom time) could be watched by anyone who had a Circle account. Her life was not a life lived. It was a life observed—observed by hundreds of millions of people all around the world.
I also watched a video on Facebook that showed about six or eight college-aged girls sitting together in the bleachers at a major league baseball game. They were enslaved to their phones, texting and taking pictures of themselves eating hot dogs. Rarely, if ever, did they look at the game. Theirs was also a life observed rather than lived.
College is a great place to spread your wings, discover your limits, and develop healthy values. A lot of you will drink too much, cut too many classes, and try things you’ve never tried before and probably shouldn’t. It’s called “growing up.” This should be a time when, if you fall flat on your face, in most cases the price tag will be lower than it will be in ten, twenty, or thirty years. Hopefully you’ll have a strong, healthy family and/or friends to love you, pick you up, and help you learn balanced living through your mistakes and misadventures.
Some of you unknowingly suffer from the disease of Childolatry, a pestilent plague, usually brought on by parents who, by making you the very center of their universe, raised you to believe the world revolves around you. At some point between now and your first few postgraduate years you’re going to learn the hard way the cold reality that the world does not, in fact, revolve around you. Accept it or reject it, but eventually it’s coming. There’s nothing so special about any of us that would entitle us to a free ride or special privileges. Truth is, the world doesn’t owe anything to any of us.
You all brought a set of values with you to Oxford. Some of you think that the important things in life are clothes, jewelry, expensive cars, social standing, self-glorification, and revelry. The great philosopher George Carlin said, “Stuff’ll mess your life up.”
Many of you may have learned to prize the values of honor, integrity, truthfulness, caring, sharing, equality, and respect for self and others. You can do those things and still have fun, and still not hurt yourselves or others.
First Americans (read: Indians/Native Americans), didn’t care much for stuff. They didn’t party much (but they did smoke peyote from time to time). They were grounded in the ways of Mother Earth. They respected the elderly, gave to those in need, and practiced silence. They lived in the now.
Don’t be a bystander in your own life. Be engaged and aware. Party hardy but be safe. When you’re living a see-saw life, constantly overdoing or underdoing, stop. Breathe. Ground yourself in healthy values. Think. Plan. Then get off your hiney and do something about it. You and you alone have that power.
“As a little child it was instilled in me to be silent and reticent . . . This was thought to lay the foundations of patience and self-control. There are times when boisterous mirth is indulged in by our people, but the rule is gravity and decorum.” Ohiyesa (Charles Alexander Eastman), Santee Sioux