(I think half my synapses got overloaded last week. My mind has felt curiously numb. Sort of a brain encased in feather pillows feeling. If that makes any kind of sense at all. )
I’m a logger’s daughter. That might have something to do with a lot of my basic attitudes. If my dad had been a farmer, a miner, a trucker, or a sailor the result would probably be the same. They’re all people whose jobs depend just as much on environment as skill. You can plan all you want but you can’t beat the weather. Fire, flood, storm, lightning, or hail. You can’t beat ‘em. You can only try to work around them. People who work in nice safe offices can afford to hang on to the illusion that they can control their destiny for a little longer than some of the rest of us. At least they could until their jobs started getting outsourced or mechanized too. Or the stock market tanks and takes some if not all of their retirement savings with it.
I had a pretty happy childhood but we never had three good years in a row. It’s kind of like the joke about the farmer who wins the lottery. When somebody asks him what he’s going to do with the money it’s “farm until it’s gone. ”Heck, dad never worked a full year in all the years I can remember. If it the woods weren’t closed down because the winter weather made it impossible to get the timber out, they got closed down for a stretch in the summer when it was too dry to run the equipment. And when the forest ranger came by and said “closer ‘er down.” You turned off the machinery and headed for the landing. Yeah, if things were closed down too long, the guys qualified for unemployment, but it was nowhere near what they brought home from working. And every three or four years there was chunk of wood with dad’s name on it. In a lot of ways it’s a miracle that he managed to last almost twenty five years working in the logging industry. At least he walked away, even if he was limping pretty badly.
Until dad was disabled, mom was a stay at home mom. And she was a busy stay at home mom. Three kids, canning in the summer, sewing all year round, three meals a day, laundry. There were times in the winter when they had to hang dad’s wet weather gear and pants on the clothes line and hose them down before they could be brought in the house. Oh, and we didn’t get a dryer until after kid number two was out of diapers. Heck, I think I was in senior high when we finally swung an automatic washer. But, there was always time to go to thepark in the summer. There was time to make cookies for Christmas.
I’m not telling this story to make anybody feel sorry for us. It’s just the way it was. Since Oakridge was pretty much a timber town, that’s how it was for most folks. We had a roof over our heads, food on the table, warm coats when we needed them, warm beds, a car, you get the picture. And when you look at most of the world you realize now that we were rich beyond the dreams of a lot of people. When I look back, we were about as happy as anybody else in town. There were good days, there were not so good days, and there were a few down right crappy days. The only clothes that came with labels on the outside were Levi’s jeans. We hadn’t gotten to the stage where you’re sold the idea that you should pay for the privilege of being a walking, talking billboard for some designer or store. We hadn’t bought into the idea that wearing clothes with no writing on them made you less of a person.
In the last couple of years my company has been heavily involved with one of these motivational gurus. You know the kind, visualize it happening, believe it’s going to happen and it will types. Folks like these always seem to have specials during the PBS begathons. To say nothing of Dr. Phil and his clones. Since it’s up to you to believe hard enough to make it happen if it doesn’t it’s your fault. You didn’t try hard enough. Never mind that the deck favors the house and makes you happy may be totally unique to you. What you recognize as success may not work for any of the other six billion people on the planet.
I’m starting to wonder if that’s part of the problem with this administration and some of its policies. Especially the war in Iraq. It’s certainly the tenor of the president’s statements. Just keep believing it will work and you’ll reach your goal. Maybe it’s no accident that a lot of these guru’s started out as salesmen. And no accident that the president’s degree is in business not the law or political science. Only now they’re trying to sell “happiness,” “teamwork,” or “democracy” as if these things came in little tins with labels. Happiness by the ounce. Democracy by the pound.
If you’ll recall the opening statement of the Declaration of Independence, while we have the right to “pursue” happiness, there is no guaranty that we’ll actually achieve it. Or that we’ll have the wisdom to recognize it when we do find it.