My column for the Daily News is online. It’s called, “Words, Just Words.” Here it is:
There are certain maxims of life to which we gravitate. It is not that we always adhere to them, but that they force us to think about the lives we lead. There are a few that stick in my mind these days.
While I admit that I do not know the original source, it has been said that there are two things that steal a man’s life: regret and fear. Regret steals the past. Fear steals the future. The impetus of such a saying is that it is only in the present that one lives. While true, to some extent, it isn’t truth.
Regret and fear are two powerful teachers for how one lives the present. Regret teaches one to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past.
Fear teaches one to steer clear of obstacles. While one may burn their regrets and ignore their fears, they will always guide one’s path.
If we are setting our regrets on fire and ignoring our fears, there’s another maxim that comes to mind.
Be present. It is not enough to be there, or to be around. One should strive to be present. If you are at your kid’s game, be there. If you are at church, be there. If you are simply having a conversation with your spouse, be there. There will never be another person there except you. If you are not present, then nobody ever was.
One of the other poisonous antimaxims revolves around the word “should.” All of us have built anger because something happened or did not happen, because it should or shouldn’t have. Such anger is built upon the foundation of arrogance and hubris. Whether or not something should, or should not have happened, is only a reflection of what one wanted to happen. Things happen because things happen.
There is a higher power that determines such things. It is only our own perspective that ladles on the proviso of “should.” Once we abandon the vanity of thinking we know what “should” really is, we begin to embrace reality.
Another little maxim that husbands tend to share with each other is “happy wife, happy life.” That is certainly true. When one’s relationship with one’s spouse is going well, everything else seems to go better.
But there is more to that adage than meets the eye. One cannot have a happy spouse if one is not happy with life in general. To return to the phrase, a “happy wife” is not the source of a happy life, but the result.
It was good ol’ Col. Potter on M*A*S*H* who said, “Just remember, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do everything and the wrong way is to keep trying to make everybody else do it the right way.” That concurs with another saying that “you can tell me to do something or you can tell me how to do it … not both.” The wisdom in those statements rests in the realization that one’s perception of the “right” way to do something is often a fiction.
The process is immaterial to the result.
There are many words by which to live. Take them for what they are worth. Words are just that – words.
While it’s been many years since I first read them, I harken back to the words of Gov. Richard Coke who said, “Let your watchword be duty, and know no other talisman of success than labor. Let honor be your guiding star in your dealings with your superiors, your fellows, with all. Be as true to a trust reposed as the needle to the pole. Stand by the right even to the sacrifice of life itself, and learn that death is preferable to dishonor.”
As the kids would say nowadays, true dat.