I wasn’t always so mellow.
I know that sounds funny, even to myself when I say it, but it’s true.
This IS the mellow Steve. I tell people that all the time.
But I’m not here to talk about how I became mellower over the centuries, but to talk about a time when I was mostly a pissed off young man, and how asking troublesome questions leads to a fulfilling life, but one with much angst.
A long time ago, in a place far, far away from where I live now, in both geography and philosophy, I had a little daughter. Her name was Samantha, or Sammy, or Sam–as she’s called now. I still have her, mind you, but she’s no longer little; she’s a grown woman of 28, with a master’s degree in classical studies, and a Latin, History, and World Studies teacher.
But in that time, long ago, she was 3.
The fall when she was 3, I guess that would have been 1991, I took her to the county fair.
I was on my best behavior that day, which was a struggle, because I was a very angry young man at the time–as I mentioned. But that day, I was holding it together and trying to be present–as best I could–and enjoy being there with Sam.
We were actually having a very good time, eating popcorn, ice cream, and riding rides, when we came to the Ferris wheel.
There was a pretty long line, but I chalked that up to the nature of the ride–it’s a group ride, and it takes a while to load each car, then time to run the ride for everyone on it, etc, etc.
When we lined up the ride was in full swing, and I noticed–as I do, because I’m an uber critical bastard–that the wheel was only half full of fair-goers. I reasoned that maybe when they loaded the last group, there were no more people in line, so they spread them out to balance out the wheel–which was a perfectly logical thing to do, and safer–and that when they loaded it the next time, they would load it full, which would have diminished the length of the line considerably, though probably still leaving us waiting for the next time round.
No biggie. I took a deep breath and enjoyed being there with Sam, holding her little hand, waiting our turn.
Well, the ride stopped, and they began to unload and load it again. But, instead of loading it full–as I had reasoned–they repeated the procedure from the last go-round, and loaded it half full again. And the wheel went round and round, half empty, while a line of people, probably some 40 or so, stood and watched.
My blood began to boil, as it did in those pre-mellow days.
What the fuck was going on? This was illogical, and stupid, and wasting my time. On any given day, back then, I would have marched to the front of the line and demanded a logical explanation for such stupidity. But I didn’t. I took a deep breath, and tried to remain calm so as not to spoil the fun that Sam and I had been experiencing up to that point.
I said to myself, “Steve, you’ve been doing pretty well so far. Don’t fuck it up now. Just enjoy the moment, and let it go.” This was pretty Zen for someone who had had no more experience or knowledge of Zen-y ways than what he had picked up watching Kung Fu back in the 70s.
So there I stood, breathing.
A few moments later, Sam spoke up, in her cute, tiny little voice,
“How come the ride is only half full of people when there are still a lot of people still standing in line?”
I was dumbstruck, at least for several seconds, though it felt like a minute or more.
Here I was, trying not to say such a thing out loud, while my 3 year old daughter was there analyzing the situation, EXACTLY as I had, and had managed to articulate it in basically the same way that I was thinking it–sans some very colorful words and phrases, mind you–though she has mastered those as well these days, along with her Latin and Greek.
After several moments, I answered her very logical question.
“I don’t know, sweetie. Don’t make much sense, does it?”
“Nope” is all she said in return, and looked up at the half-full, spinning wheel with a perplexed look on her cute little face.
“Well,” I said, “Get used to it, because this ain’t the last time you’re gonna ask such a question. Trust me on that one.”
I knew then that my little girl was gonna be trouble, mostly for herself. She had caught the ‘logic’ bug, and that’s a tough one to cure, in fact, I don’t believe you can. I knew then that she was gonna struggle in life. And she does, much like her old man, living in a world supposedly run on logical thinking, mostly based on flawed premises.
But given a choice–and I never was, nor was my daughter–I’d never choose to go through life in utter ignorance, never questioning the status quo, and accepting the answers given to me. I don’t reckon Sam would, either. If there’s one thing about her I’m most proud of, it’s her resistance to bullshit, and her continuing effort to ask the right questions, especially the hard ones.
It ain’t an easy way to go through life, but I think that in the end, it’s the most fulfilling path. Thanks to those hard questions, I eventually found the mellow me, though it was a rocky path to get here.