I had a long talk with my doctor today about taking responsibility for myself and for my health, kind of the medical version of the song “Why Don’t You Do Right?” And so I have given this some thought.
Now usually when I pound out a blog it’s like “…the kid that handles the music box…” I’m hitting a jag-time tune. Typing to hear my head rattle. But this time I would appreciate some feedback.
The first “modern” television show ever to enrapture me was “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis” based on stories by Max Schulman and starring Dwayne Hickman and Bob Denver. In this case I am going to assume that memory serves me correctly and if it doesn’t, well, it’s close enough to make my point.
I seem to recall some 50 years ago or so, an episode of Dobie Gillis wherein the quintessential teacher, Mr. Leander Pomfritt played by William Schallert, assigns a paper to his students, giving them the title “Wither Goest I?”
And the plot of that episode revolved around Dobie Gillis and his good buddy Maynard G. Krebs (the “G” stood for “Walter”) and perhaps the brainy Zelda Gilroy, (she scrunches up her nose, Dobie responds reflexively, he can’t help himself, and then he shouts at Zelda “Now cut that out!”) trying to figure out where they were going in life. Only for Maynard was it easy. He would listen to Thelonius Monk and keep going back to the movie theatre to see, again and again, “The Monster Who Devoured Cleveland.”
It seems a bit of a stretch to be asking the same question at age 60, but so be it. And the real question is plural. Wither goest I? Wither goest thou? I guess it comes back around to raison d’etre. Why am I here and what am I supposed to do? How do I know when to applaud and when to get up and go home?
These questions or perhaps reiterations of the same basic question, scare me. But just a little. I also find it difficult taking it too seriously.
If a colony of ants were to produce an animated film about homo sapiens, called, maybe, “Humanz” the voice over would still have to be Woody Allen.
Humanz are inherently ridiculous. We carry on in the most asinine way, killing each other and putting up buildings, flying through the air in big tin cans, and eating stuff called Twinkies and Gogurt. Well, how can one take any of this seriously? That grain of salt better be pretty damned big.
So I ask you, what is my purpose here on this little bit of god-forsaken dirt? For that matter, what is yours? Let us leave out the “god” part though. It will just make you crazy.
Well then, procreation comes to mind. No matter what else we do, the urge to procreate is up there near the top. Huh, I have no children and will have no children. I guess the closest I ever got was either the Chinese orphans I send money to, or my various tai chi students over the years. Ha, I suppose the very, very closest would be my retired lady students. So all of my children are at least twenty years older than me. Oy, technically, I have failed to procreate.
Then how about the old saw, “Leave something to posterity?” Naw, that doesn’t work so good. One hundred years from now anything I left would be gone. Besides, I’ll be gone, so what do I care?
“Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow you will die.” Okay, I kind of like that as a rationale. I certainly like to eat, I definitely love to drink, and the two together makes me kind of merry. Only problem is, go back to sentence one, nu? I was talking to my DOCTOR! Already I am eating and drinking and making merry enough to kill me sooner than later. So that’s-a-no-good.
There is a certain appeal to asceticism, the lean old monk makes his way down the street, begging bowl in hand, hoping for a handful of rice…no, wait, he sits on top of the mountain communing with nature or you-know-who whilst thinking monkly thoughts or even better, not thinking at all, just being, one with the universe. Ai-ya, methinks this would get old pretty quick.
All right, let us assume that yours truly will live at least to the age of 80. If I find some golden mean between eating and drinking and that making merry stuff, and sitting on a mountain contemplating my navel, what else do I do? Why am I here?
Ha, I told my doctor I would like to take up ballroom dancing, but I didn’t have the fifty bucks for a pair of shoes and I wasn’t sure my car would make it to North Seattle. Is that some great ethereal goal, learning to tango?
A great deal of my cultural background comes from Puritanism. Our ancestors all loaded onto a ship and sailed across the second biggest ocean in the world fleeing religious persecution so they could find a new land and persecute each other for not being ascetic enough and while they were at it, do their best to wipe out a bunch of natives who had been happily killing one another until we came along and gave them new diseases to worry about.
And guilt, the Puritans brought along enough guilt to choke a dozen Jewish grandmothers and all that pent up everything built like winding an enormous clock which produced so much guilty energy we unwound our way across the face of the earth spreading our beliefs like mayonnaise on white bread and doing our best to make everyone else feel as guilty and miserable as us. Ha! No wonder we drink. And right, sex is just for procreation. If it didn’t feel good we wouldn’t do it and there would be no new generations for us to nudge.
I remember from English History class, I had a wonderful professor, Wendell Knox. He told us a little story about an English saint, I think he was another St. Augustine, who was a hermit and he kept having visions of naked women, so he would throw himself into thorn bushes. Well, it kept him busy, and idle hands ARE the devil’s playground.
So, back to the original question. Wither goest I? Do I eat drink and make merry like crazy until I die? Do I sit up on a mountain thinking of nothing and being eaten by ferocious little bugs and maybe big brown bears? Do I exercise and restrict my diet and get all healthy so I can be fit as a fiddle when I drop over dead at the age of 88 or 130?
I truly want to know what you think and I cannot answer Mr. Pomfritt’s question all by myself. Why are we here and what do we do until bedtime?