It goes without saying that the opinions expressed in my columns do not reflect (and if they do, it's pure chance) those of the newspaper owners, the editor, the cleaning lady, my sister, my old Auntie Em, my neighbors or my boss. Just so you know.
I have, and have had, the honor of knowing some really good people, and have come across, not only in books, but in human form, fine examples of lives well-lived, upon which I could (if I so desired and were so capable) pattern my own. I know it is good, in life as in archery, to aim high, but I have to confess that the whole WWJD ("What Would Jesus Do?") movement leaves me a little cold.
"What would Jesus do." "What would Jesus do"?? You gotta' be kidding me, Jack. Jesus is cool, but I'd settle for "What would my old Auntie Em do?" Let's set the bar a little lower, shall we? Something more within reach, say, than hanging on a cross and dying for everyone's sins, you know?
I can barely hold myself to my own relatives' standards of good behavior, much less those of God's own son. To quote Ashleigh Brilliant's caption under a drawing of the Leaning Tower of Pisa: "Don't expect me to straighten up, when it's all I can do to keep from falling over."
Thank God we've got so many good people running around this town. You know, there's a Jewish belief which holds that in any given generation, there are 36 "hidden saints" - the tzaddikim - holding the universe together. I love this idea. It helps explain why we haven't blown ourselves to bits as a species yet. I swear I've met a couple of them in my life, and I bet you have too.
If "What Would Jesus Do" is just not for you, try to remember the kindest person you ever met, and maybe you'll stand half a chance of following in their footsteps. Maybe not every day, maybe not even on a regular basis, but maybe at the right time, and in the right place, you'll be ready to do a kindness for somebody who needs it. I like to think of it as a non-fraudulent chain letter.
We don't need to look too far for examples of bravery or kindness: I think the story of Ms. Rausch and Ms. Lansing (see the front page of the Feb. 28, Decorah Newspaper) can inspire all of us.
P.S. Allow me to say that I am totally in favor of anything that helps people be better human beings, be it philosophy, Bill Cosby routines, AA, chocolate or religion, and that includes "WWJD."
My smart mouth notwithstanding, I have the utmost respect for religion in general, and Jesus in particular; indeed, some of my best friends are cloistered nuns. So if I kid around a little, it's only because I know for a fact that God has a great - make that infinite - sense of humor, and can certainly take a little ribbing from me. People, on the other hand, can be more easily offended, so I hope any WWJD folk will chuckle along with the Almighty on this one, and understand that I am poking fun at myself.
Semper paratus? Not I
You know, not only are most people not prepared for death, but personally, I'm not even prepared for sickness.
I got a flu bug so nasty, all I could manage for a few days was to get as close to doing absolutely nothing as I possibly could and yet still be classified under the heading of "carbon-based life-form." When you ask someone, "What did you do all weekend?" and they say, "Nothing," they don't really mean "nothing." Trust me, you haven't seen "nothing" until you've seen a flu-induced "nothing."
As I was sinking slowly into the depths of flu-hell, I cast about for something to ease the descent. Did I have any cans of chicken soup in the house? No. Did I have any pudding to soothe my throat, which was raw and practically bleeding from hacking? No. Did I have any non-expired Advil? Nope. How about enough Kleenex to get me through the week? No.
So the poor cashier at the grocery store had to put up with seeing a zombie in a scarf stagger up to her, fumble out the change for a few items and stagger out. If the store had had human brains at the deli, I would have happily bought some, being - as all zombies are - grossly deficient in that regard, and being in no condition to chase, catch or snatch any "on the hoof," as it were. (You've reached a new low when you're a disgrace to the zombie race.)
However, there was one bit of unpreparedness that was not my fault. What's this nonsense about no more mercury thermometers? I got out the fancy digital thermometer I bought the last time I was sick (having lost my 15-year-old mercury thermometer a few years before that), and I pop it in my mouth and it reads - nothing.
Nothing? Gosh, I really am a zombie. Oh, wait. It has a battery. A battery? Yes, but it's not even a zombie battery. It's a totally non-resurrectable, kaput battery. So Miss Zombie had to get in the car, drive to the store and find a live one.
Well, apparently my fancy digital thermometer itself expired in the cabinet from lack of use, because it still doesn't work, even with a new battery.
What good is high tech if it doesn't work when you need it most? If I don't have the foresight to keep a can of chicken soup on the shelf, what are the odds that I'm actually going to keep a spare dinky battery someplace where I'll remember to find it when I'm sicker than a dog? It would probably be out of juice by the time I needed it anyway.
So I have decided to live dangerously. I'm going totally thermometer-less. Thermometers? We don't need no stinking thermometers. Stand back, folks, I'm walking on the wild side. (But I do have a few extra cans of chicken soup on the shelf, now.)