Tis the gift to be simple by Trevor Plumbly
The philosopher’s stoned
Yesterday, I was relaxing in the armchair (the dreamspace), sipping rather a nice single malt, contemplating the vagaries of life and it occurred to me that there’s a degree of comfort about things when you’re approaching 80. Time was I used to think I knew it all, now I’m absolutely sure of it. Over the years I’ve read heaps of stuff by deep thinkers, academics, learned clergy and even educated drunks, but nothing tangible emerged from their musings and I’m now convinced I know a bloody sight more about life than their entire collected thoughts.
When you’re young life’s a bit like a beehive: you can get by OK skirting round it, but giving it the odd kick opens all sorts of doors. Latterly though, I prefer things to be simple; lofty thoughts tend to muddle things up and there’d be a lot less stress in the world if sophisticated thinkers kept their thoughts to themselves. Years ago, they didn’t matter much, communication was limited and the likes of Plato and Co were happy pontificating in their own little gang, whilst the bulk of the population toiled and span, blissfully unaware of the mental torment the cognoscenti were going through to come up with profound little homilies.
As the two fingers I started with evaporate into a smidgeon in the glass, I’m beginning to feel that I may need to delve deeper. I’ve found clichés a bit open ended to be of much practical benefit; if “a little knowledge is dangerous”, then so is too much. Throughout history, evangelists and dictators have tried to cram their particular message down gullible throats instead of leaving folk to get on with life.
These days, they’ve been replaced by new age visionaries and, according to them, it’s not healthy just to have emotions, we need to dissect them, and then air the entrails publicly to show how enlightened we are. If we do that they’ll cease to be problems and become part of our ‘narrative’. Confused? So am I! But, don’t go away; they’ve got lots more piffle where that comes from. The practice of poking around in people’s heads looking for funny stuff’s been around for years and most of us have got a fair bit up there sandwiched between misery and happiness. Happiness shouldn’t matter much; if you’ve got it there’s nothing to worry about, but misery’s a different issue: it lasts longer, lots of folk enjoy it second-hand and courtesy of social media there’s plenty to go round.
In vino verbosity
A skim through Robert Burton’s excellent 17th Century work The Anatomy Of Melancholy will prove there’s not much you can’t get miserable about if you want to; put simply, the old boy totted up human failure, divided it by disappointment and proved beyond any doubt that there’s always room for a bit of misery. The ‘progressives’ don’t see it that way, of course, they’re hell bent on bleaching out the interesting bits, and even free speech has been reduced to thin ice.
Christ, I’m getting angry! (another ill-advised emotion), a top up might indicate alcohol dependency but sod it, I need help to pave the way back to the days when a spade was simply a spade and recognisable as such. What sort of enlightenment have these PC Pollyannas given us? ‘Gender neutrality?’ If we’d been constructed to conform to that, a serious physical reshuffle in the design phase would have been needed and lots of us wouldn’t be here. These guys spend precious time trying to suck life out of life. Can’t have ‘prisoners’ these days it’s too offensive, ‘inmates’ has got a chummier ring to it. ‘Nasty’ is on the way out and next up it’ll be ‘blame’. Who knows, the guilty might be elevated to become victims. Don’t worry if you feel you’ve missed the ‘blandwagon’ you’re not ‘in the shit’, you’re just being ‘challenged’.
If you want to enjoy your autumnal years, get rid of mental excess. Start with literature: when you get past 60 there’s little point in overloading the top shelf, the likes of Tolkien Joyce and Tolstoy aren’t going to add much at that age, try Grisham and Koontz; great truths won’t leap out, but you won’t strain your brain. I find the same applies to music, so I keep it simple. Embracing Wagner, Handel and Co was OK when I felt the need to flaunt more sophistication than I possessed; these days I’m happy to hum along and you can’t really do that with those blokes.
I’ve long been a fan of Country Music, it’s got a blunt honesty about it that you can identify with or feel glad you’re not the poor sucker they’re singing about. As I’ve said before it’s basic reality! Try aligning your emotional experiences with ‘Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ or ‘The Sound of Music’ and you’ll get my drift. If we stopped listening to that sort of lyrical cuddling, I reckon Nashville could become like a Holy City with its own hymnbook, pilgrims would flock to the place because there’s stuff there to live by: “Stand By Your Man” (the anthem of forgiveness), “The Wild Side of Life” (Jezebel revisited), “If Tomorrow Never Comes” (confession), “He Stopped Loving Her Today” (abiding faith). It’s all there, right down to “Go Rest High on That Mountain” (salvation).
The spirit level
I think I’ll stop now, this philosophy stuff’s bloody tiring and questions still remain unanswered: ‘Is the glass half empty or half full?’ Slugging what’s left will solve that one. In the meantime play “Here’s A Quarter! (Call Someone Who Cares)”. After that you’re on your own.
Very, very good, Plum – bordering brilliant. Another dram and who knows where we might have ended up…
I know all that old boy, sometimes I scare myself! I should give the stuff up, but depriving you guys of all that wisdom and contributing to the economy of the Scottish Highlands spurs me on.