“The meaning of life is that it stops.” Franz Kafka
This is one of the stars of Aaron and Jessica’s Buggy Rides in Bird-In-Hand Pennsylvania. He pulls tourists around at a blistering speed of 5 miles per hour several times a day, day after day, month after month, and year after year.
It’s not a bad job compared to the work other horses do on farms but he hates every second of it. He feels that he’s wasting his life, that he could be doing something better, more important. At times he considerers faking a leg injury but worries he might end up as glue.
Eventually they will throw him a retirement party and give him a gold shoe for his years of faithful service, and let him live out the rest of his life doing whatever old horses do. He’ll stand in the middle of a field and stare into space, wondering what to do now, and what it all meant.
And he might realize that his job wasn’t so bad after all. He was good at it and he was needed, he had friends that liked him although he bitched and moaned all the time. He might realize that he could have made the best of it and even enjoyed it.
Alan W. Watts once said: “This is the real secret of life – to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play.” Even if you do the same thing for the same people in the same place over and over again.
So I’m driving around early this morning thinking about the big questions in life: Is a pumpkin a gourd, and just how do you spell gourd? Between that and the meaning of the new Taylor Swift song my mind was reeling.
Then I saw two Amish kids setting up a farm stand. They had some big Turk’s Turbans which look like pumpkins but are actually squash, and all kinds of gourds for sale. I stopped to take a quick photo while these kids talked my ear off about everything from corn to camel’s milk.
It turns out that pumpkins, squash and gourds are members of the same family but they are actually all squash. As for the correct spelling, the Amish seem to think that gourds are spelled ghourds, unless this only applies to mini ghourds.
Later I read more about Taylor’s new song and decided I couldn’t care less, but the important thing is that fall is coming and these mini gourds (ghourds) are only five for a dollar. The turbans were $3 each so I passed, but I may go back because I could be the first kid on my block to have one.
According to Ernest Becker in The Denial of Death, unlike the average person standing in a foggy field, horses think about nothing all day long. For example he writes this about the lower animals:
“They merely act and move reflexively as they are driven by their instincts. If they pause at all, it is only a physical pause; inside they are anonymous, and even their faces have no name. They live in a world without time, pulsating, as it were, in a state of dumb being.”
Tom Dorrance, who has been referred to as the horse’s lawyer wrote a book called True Unity: Willing Communication Between Horse & Human. In it he says: “When I hear somebody talk about a horse or cow being stupid; I figure it’s a sure sign that the animal has somehow outfoxed them.”
So you have to ask yourself one question, and its not do I feel lucky. How much does a lawyer charge a horse or a cow, and if they go to trial together can they get a group rate? From my experience with horses and cows, that’s gonna be one messy courtroom.
I passed by a field today that was covered with beautiful sunflowers last summer. I met the owner and she told me they only plant them every other year, this year they planted corn. But I thought I saw some on the edge growing in between wheat and wildflowers.
I stopped to take a closer look and as sure as birth and death there they were. They weren’t planted but must have come from last years stray seeds, for all practical purposes they were reincarnated.
So I asked myself if they were reincarnated, what were their plans for this summer? Were they going to try to be better flowers, were they going to do things differently this time, were they going to savor every minute they were alive and just be themselves?
And my self answered that it wanted more coffee. Then it answered that it didn’t matter because once again they would stand there and be beautiful for a while, and eventually die and start all over again.
The Buddha (allegedly) said: “Every morning we are born again. What we do today is what matters most.” So I took a few photos, got more coffee, and remembered the most important thing I’ve ever read by Charles Bukowski: “What matters most is how well you walk through the fire.” Yes.
“Enjoy the little things in life because one day you’ll look back and realize they were the big things.” Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
Being and Nothingness by Jean-Paul Sartre has been called the bible of existentialism. It’s a long, difficult book to read, and depending on who you ask, it’s either a work of pure genius, complete nonsense or both.
It might be worthwhile to look at some other things that Jean-Paul Sartre wrote in order to understand existentialism and his perspective in general.
For example, he said: “All I really want to do is go to the book store, drink coffee and read.” Back in his day book stores didn’t even have Wi-Fi, so you know he was serious.
Another thing that’s crucial to understanding the man and his philosophy is this: “I do not think therefore I am a mustache.” Well, obviously.
And possibly the most important thing he ever said is: “Three o’clock is always too late or too early for anything you want to do.”
This is especially true of most outdoor photography unless you plan to shoot wide open, convert to black and white, and call it something obscure like being and nothingness.
Although I’m not officially retired, I haven’t worked in about nine years other than a very small online business. I get up every morning and ask myself the same question; now what? There are plenty of ways to fill your time but not all are equally satisfying.
Terri Guillemets once said that “Sometimes it’s hard to tell if retirement is a reward for a lifetime of hard work or a punishment.” I’m sure many people feel that way, especially if they’re struggling financially like myself, but it’s not only about the money.
I used to work for a guy that owned one of the largest restoration companies on Eastern Long Island. When he was well into his seventies he tried to retire and failed many times, preferring to work until he died.
I have a friend in Strasburg who is 78 years old and the best motorcycle mechanic in Pennsylvania. Until very recently, he worked six days a week, sometimes 12 hours a day by choice. The last time I saw him he told me he was retiring for good, but I have a feeling he’s back in his shop with a garage full of bikes and a smile on his face.
Both of these people had more money than they needed, but neither was the type to sit around and do nothing. When you retire you need a reason to get up in the morning, something to not only fill your time but to fill your life.
As hard as it may be to believe, especially if you’re nowhere near retirement age, doing nothing all day is not easy. Even Eckhart Tolle got tired of sitting around after a couple of years.
In Pooh’s Little Instruction Book, Pooh says: “Don’t underestimate the value of doing nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.”
When you’re three years old that may be great advice, but unless you drink heavily (not recommended) it’s not so great when you no longer have a job to go to and complain about for eight hours. Ah, those were the days…