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Who Ya Know

I like to think I’ve found the secret to life.

I realize that’s rather arrogant, so bear with me for a while. If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you’ll know that I’m prone to grandious statements and deep subjects. By doing this I’m trying to provoke people to think outside of the constraints their everyday lives have clamped on their thinking.

Most of us live in a mundane world where we are “appliance users” of society – we know everything is complex, so there’s only so much we can understand. They go through life worrying about the details that make up their “job”, and leave the rest alone. I want people to take a “strong half-step back” to see what I call “the obvious”. What I consider obvious is that most of what we worry about are nothing more than details. Deep inside, we’re all people with certain impulses and fears and simple pleasures that make us say, “Mmmmmmm”.

Mostly I hope you can laugh at how simple I make it all sound. There’s a lot of fun in what I’m trying to say, even if you follow my advice carefully. Take that half-step back, and watch it all from some distance. It’s a hoot!

The reason I say we should take a half-step back, rather than a whole one, is that there are great pleasures to be found in simple moments of our lives. My time with my kids is worth more than anything else in the world. Making dinner together, riding bikes, or even just kicking back to watch some Miyazaki anime – or “Futurama”, for that matter – these are what I really care about in life.

That brings me to the secret of life. It’s found in those small moments, and it builds from them to a place where all those little details find ways of taking care of themselves. The sorts of things most people worry about are no trouble at all if you follow one simple rule:

Be a friend to everyone.

The more friends you have, the more skills you have access to. You may not know how to install plumbing or write a novel or raise a puppy to be a relatively sane and loving dog, but if one of these tasks is in front of you it’s merely a matter of asking your friends. If you know enough people, someone is bound to be able to give you good advice. Perhaps they might even help you install the plumbing on a weekend if you’ve been a good enough friend. And, of course, you learn who your real friends are when it’s time to move.

The small moments where you make friends with everyone are the moments that are more than simply details. By staying close to the heartbeat of people, you stay close to the world. That allows you to put some distance on the world and allow the details to work themselves out. Even if your task is as wild as inventing a writing career from scratch, the people you count as your friends are the ones who will get you going – and keep you going. And if you know some people in high places � well, they’re OK, but a lot of “friends in low places”, as Garth Brooks put it, can do even more for you. They’re the ones who watch your back when you need it watched.

I cannot understand philosophies that encourage people to be detached from the world. They seem so sterile and unreasonable. I suppose it is possible to gain some kind of perspective totally apart from everything, but it doesn’t sound like a lot of fun. I like being both in the world and out of it. The best way I’ve found is to concentrate on the only thing that really matters – people. Once you have a lot of friends, the details tend to work themselves out. The great luxury of a little bit of perspective comes naturally once you plug yourself in just the right way.

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