Accidentally Inspired is checking out for a dose of vitamin sea. Normality will be restored when we are sure what is normal anyway.
Monthly Archives: September 2018
When I read books, the best quotes go in an ever-growing Evernote file. Sometimes I reach into that file and ruminate on a passage or two. The result is “Accidental Philosophy.”
I recently finished Dan Harris’s 10% Happier, which I’ve mentioned once or twice ’round these parts. It’s a bit of a strange bird: a book about meditation which is somehow riveting. A great skeptic’s look at a practice that, from the outside, seems to be dripping with woo. If you’re considering the practice of meditation, or just curious about it, it’s worth your time.
But today’s words aren’t about the book, they’re about a single passage within it. Which is actually a quote of something else. So I’m quoting a quote about another quote. Anyway:
The Sufi Muslims say, “Praise Allah, but also tie your camel to the post.” In other words, it’s good to take a transcendent view of the world, but don’t be a chump. (201)
Let the record show, then: good ideas can come from religion!
I love this quote, and here’s why: we rely too much on faith. Even those of us who are decidedly not people of faith lean too much on faith at the expense of our common sense.
Faith in our own abilities. Faith in other people. Faith in society. And, yeah, for those who swing that way, faith in higher powers.
And that’s not, in and of itself, a problem, or even a mistake. Sometimes we do estimate our own abilities appropriately. Sometimes other people do live up to the hope we hold for them. Sometimes societies do the right thing.
But certainly more often than “rarely” those things don’t happen. You overestimate yourself and get in over your head. A person you trust lets you down. Society disappoints you. (Oh lord, how society has disappointed me these past two years.)
This quote, then, is a little reminder, a little prick in the pocket, to stay skeptical. To not rely too much on faith. To hold nothing so sacred that you give no thought to the consequences if it doesn’t deliver.
In other words, tie up your camels. Tie ’em right up.
And then keep your distance. I hear they spit.
This post is part of Stream of Consciousness Saturday.
I’m a bad parent, I realize, as I slow-pedal up to the front of the house. It’s 5:30 AM, I’m just getting back from my run, and I can see through the blinds on my son’s window that he’s awake and bouncing around in his bed. (Literally. He’s six. Settle down.)
My first thought is, “why is he up so early?” Which, as soon as it’s asked, is answered by the second thought: “because he’s checking for his tooth fairy money.” Which I forgot to place under his pillow last night.
Because I’m a bad parent.
I don’t have a great excuse, and I’m no fan of excuses anyway. It just wasn’t a priority. So somewhere between Masterchef (which I watch too much and hate every minute of) and a couple dozen pre-sleep pages of How I Killed Pluto (and Why It Had It Coming), it slipped through the cracks in the ol’ memory box. Which is kind of terrible, because this tooth has been falling out for about two weeks. First, it was just loose. Then it was really loose. And for the past week or so, it’s literally been hanging on by a thread. (I know, it makes me queasy just to think about it, much less to write about.) Seriously, it could spin in its socket like a stripped-out screw in drywall. (My further apologies.) Its loss is an event, awaited with the same kind of impatience that accompanies the weeks leading up to college football starting up.
Yesterday, it finally fell out.
Sprout tried to pull a fast one on my wife and I. He told me, when he got home, that he “lost it”, and when I asked him what that meant, he said it was either on the road somewhere (my first clue — he’s such a little sack of nerves that he won’t go anywhere near the road out of somebody’s supervision) or that he swallowed it. My wife gave me her unimpressed face and said, “oh, you mean it’s not in the bag your teacher told me about?” And then he went running to his room to get it.
He had come straight in the door and put his newly unmoored tooth directly under his pillow.
I remember reading a story recently about somebody whose kid ran a science experiment on this whole “tooth fairy” business. Said kid lost a tooth — one of the back ones, one that’s not readily within notice (whereas my poor kid basically has a bay window in the front of his mouth now thanks to losing both of his front-top chompers). Said kid suspected that the tooth fairy had something to do with her parents, so without telling her parents, she hid the tooth under her pillow.
Three mornings later, short of cash and still in possession of a dried-out tooth, she presented her findings to her parents, I imagine buttoning her Ted Talk with a petulant “this is all bullshit, isn’t it?”
So, I thought of that, and my heart leapt for a second. Maybe my son was trying to test the existence of the tooth fairy. Maybe he’s a secret scientific genius. Maybe this is the beginning of his skeptical awakening.
But no, I’ve watched enough TV to know better. Follow the money. He was trying to get paid, preferably as soon as possible so that he could get some dollar-store candy, thank you very much.
But, as I said — here I am the next morning, and I’ve forgotten.
And he’s already up. And the only reason he’d be up early on a school day is because he’s excited about something, and that something is the fat stack of cash he’s anticipating for his missing tooth. So he’s seen that his tooth is still there, still in its wrinkled plastic baggy, dried blood flaking of the craggy underside. His little heart will be broken. A little bit of magic will have gone out of the world.
And because I’m an evergreen Scrooge, my heart brightens a little bit at that thought. Well, this is as good an opportunity as any to tell him the whole thing is a sham, the miser in my head says. He was gonna learn sooner or later, so why not now? First, kick this tooth fairy business out the front door — with great prejudice, I might add. Next on the hit list: Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. It’s gonna be a good year.
These thoughts I share with my wife as I’m climbing into the shower. “Might as well tell him,” I say. “We already blew it, so we ought to just send the hard lesson now.” She gives me the unimpressed look, so I stop telling her the things I’m thinking out loud and resolve to have The Talk with my kid once I’m clean.
But I won’t get the chance, as you might have guessed when she was giving me the unimpressed look. Sure enough, I’m mid towel-off when my son bursts in the door with a fistful of dollars. (That’s the funny thing about having young kids. They don’t care about bathroom doors. They’ll come right in. And then stare at you. Nothing weird about that.)
Cue the following exchange:
Sprout: “DADDY LOOK.”
Me: “Oh, you got some money, huh?”
Sprout: “YEAH. I woke up and the tooth fairy forgot to pick up my tooth, but then I went to the bathroom and when I came back, SHE GOT IT.”
Me: “Oh, wow. That’s awesome, buddy.”
Sprout: “Yeah. And daddy, guess what?”
(I often wonder if he actually thinks my name is “daddy guess what”.)
Sprout: “She gave me EXTRA dollars this time. LOOK.”
Me: “Super cool.” I look past him to my wife, who leans on the door frame, giving me the unimpressed look again. “I guess she felt bad about not getting it on time, huh?”
Sprout: “Yeah, I guess so. Can I buy some CANDY PLEASE?”
So, as usual, my wife saves the day. Because the other thing I forgot while planning the shattering of my son’s illusions? He’s six, and he’s happy to believe just about anything when plied with toys and candy. The tooth fairy doesn’t fail to exist just because she didn’t show up at the appointed time. She was just running late this morning.
I guess I’ll have to break the tooth to him some other time.
The truth, I mean.
(I’m so, so sorry.)
I had this great metaphor going about the word “rebound”, in the vein of a golf ball rebounding around in a tile bathroom — unpredictably, chaotically, terrifyingly. Of course, that golf ball ultimately goes nowhere — at best it smashes some things up, causes a heck of a lot of havoc, maybe dings and dents if not outright destroys the floors and the walls. But it sure does make a lot of noise while it’s about it.
Why that metaphor? Because that’s what my creativity feels like, of late. (I’ve taken to personifying it as this “other”, this entity that rides along with me; the proverbial angel/devil on my shoulder, whispering inspired idiocy in my ear.) I’m heavy on ideas but light on product. Writing a fair bit but with not much to show for it. Feeling a little, myself, like I’m bouncing off the walls, unable to really get anywhere.
Really got into it. Sat down to write, then rechecked — and the prompt wasn’t “-ound”, like I thought — for which I was pretty proud of the word “rebound”. No, the prompt was “round”.
Guess that’s that.
This post is part of Stream-of-Consciousness Saturday.