If it weren’t for the moon, to slow Earth’s spin, we’d have 6 hour days instead of 24.
If Teddy Roosevelt hadn’t been carrying his speech in a metal eyeglasses container that October night in 1912 when John Schrank shot him, the bullet would’ve killed him.
If Al Capone hadn’t compulsively carried his trademark mirror around with him everywhere he went, he might’ve had more attempted assaults upon his person. If he didn’t have it with him, he’d sit facing a mirror.
I’ve got a moon to slow my spin;
A container to keep my own words in;
A mirror to see the inevitable
How many “Ifs” make a life?
If this hadn’t happened, then that couldn’t have happened. If I’d done that, or said that then the other thing wouldn’t have come into play.
Life is meant to be full of Ifs. Don’t you think? There is a Rudyard Kipling poem (1895) called “If.” In it, the poet states all the qualities a male person must possess to be considered “a man.” Here are the first eight phrases in that poem, and also the very last 8:
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
There is a gritty British film (1968) about English public school life called “If.” The film uses unusual derogatory words like Scums (younger boys) and Whips (upperclassmen). It even uses the word Fag, which in this case, means something like this: The Whips force the Scums to “fag” (become slaves and do their bidding) for them. There are firearms in this movie; stealing, themes of degradation; inevitably a shooting. A red IF appears on the screen at the end of the film.
Who among us can’t identify with giant red IFs?
I was somewhat of a reckless youth, tame by most standards but nonetheless I took risks I shouldn’t have. One day my friend Sally and I were skipping school and decided to hitchhike around town. Something I do not condone! We ended up getting a ride to the beach and a ride most of the way home by some men in a pick-up truck who let us ride in the truckbed amongst the greasy car parts, nails and tools. We sat on the wheel wells drying our hair in the breeze. But we didn’t have a ride back to my house. They let us off at the foot of a steep winding road. My house was on top of that hill.
Sally stuck out her thumb and before long a pretty yet somewhat frazzled 20-something woman with two kids picked us up. I was so angry! I sat in back with the boys as Sally chatted with the Mom. My mind was reeling…What if we’d been hooligans? Hooligans with knives, guns? A mother should not pick up hitchhikers, I thought. So I stole the little boys jacket by rolling it up and sliding it under my shirt. I later gave it to my cousin who got a lot of wear out of it.
Why did I do it?
I guess the 15 year old that I was- wanted the Mom to never pick up hitchhikers again. I wanted her to swear under her breath and mutter, “It must’ve been stolen by those awful girls! I will never pick up hitchhikers again!”
Certainly, IF I’d been pushed, supported, steered into my future differently, I’d be either a research chemist, a veterinarian or an editor right now. Instead, I am a person who wants to know why; who seeks answers (the way the chemist would). And I’m an animal rescuer, lover and nurturer of animals (but not a veterinarian). I’m an author and I submit my work to editors, rather than actually being the person who decides whether or not something is worthy of publication (an editor).
Ifs are contemplative clutter; dust that aggravates the passages and makes you feel sick. As I contemplate turning 50 in a few months, I sweep the Ifs away.
Hota Kotbe of the Today Show turned 50 this year (2014). Other people born in 1964: Nicolas Cage, Sarah Palin, Matt Dillon…
I have a perspective on aging which in a nutshell is this: My late spouse died of ALS at the age of 42. All he ever wished for was the
to age. To grow old. And so I have to look at aging as opportunity; I can’t think of it any other way.
With age comes the opportunity to have more stories to tell. For example:
This to a child: When I was your age, we didn’t have computers. If I wanted to know a fact I went to the library or consulted my set of World Book encyclopedias. There was no Google! When I was your age, I listened to music on the radio, on the record player, on 8-Tracks, cassettes.
Music today and the ways we access it are so astounding. Nowadays, I do Spotify for music! I also do Pandora.
I recall a story about a man who decided to do a book about Facebook. There’s an interesting topic. He worked four months on it. However at that point he realized his writing was futile because Facebook had changed so much during that time frame that his writings were obsolete.
I look around and see that my humble abode is a reflection of me. If I order it, if I rearrange it, if I discard clutter, perhaps I’ll feel less chaotic. Less hemmed in by accumulated litter and hodgepodge. If I continue to create art and to appreciate it, then I know I have a foothold. And I have to GET MOVING. An object which is still gathers dust. It decays faster without use.
Check out this:
If you think the following is a melted truck, think again…Melted Ice-Cream Truck Sculpture by Orest Keywan:
Bicycle Chain Sculptures by Seo Young Deok:
If you think this is made of wood, think again. Rethink your think. ‘Wood’ Sculptures that are Actually Made of Ceramic by christopher-david-white:
Yes that last one is truly ceramics, not wood!
If I presume that life is less random than I think, IF it seems like something other than what it really is, I turn to art (either the viewing or the creating) and try to keep things in perspective. Am I doing what I am “supposed” to be doing? When am I going to start getting more physical activity? Am I going to push beyond the pain of auto immune disease and find a hidden strength reserve? A better quality of life means being as healthy as possible. That means being proactive. I ask myself: Do things appear one way when in fact there is another way to view them? (As in the sculptures above?) Well, I have to conclude that
things turn out best when I make the best of how things turn out.
I think someone originally said that, not me, and that I’m extracting it from my memory without being able to give the quote proper credit. If anyone knows who uttered the phrase, do tell me.
In summation, I have to say that if I ever came across that woman again, I would buy her new clothes and apologize! And this: If I ever hypervigilantly carry around a mirror like Capone did, to see if anyone’s sneaking up on me, then my life is nothing. Finally- if life is a classroom, and it is, then I’ve learned that art always trumps gym in my book, but physical activity is crucial too.
There are 37 Ifs in this blog (including the title). Oops, that makes 38 which is an excellent number, because it adds up to 11 which is a sublime number!
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