This entry will make some people downright uncomfortable. Since that is my point, you’re welcome. Sometimes, you just gotta’… Really. Gotta’ what?! Just wind it up and let it fly just to see what happens. You become the experiment and the experimenter.
You don’t know what the outcome is. It’s new. It can’t possibly work. It’s a re-imagined idea. It’s something I’ve been working on for ages and just now have the courage to suggest it. It’s an old family recipe made public. It’s my attempt at doing a blog and registering my opinion for the world (and the trolls) to comment on. It’s sticking your head in the tiger’s mouth. Sheesh.
It’s standing on that glass ledge box at the Willis Tower in Chicago or the glass skyway at the Grand Canyon. It’s the barrel over Niagra Falls. It’s the rather courageous and straightforward idea that we should all be judged on the content of our character instead of by the color of our skin. It’s the shock of the new. It’s the rebirth of the old. It’s the fix of an old and seemingly unsolvable problem. It’s casting your fate to the wind and finding out where your course lies. It’s the clearing of the throat immediately after the first few words spoken in a breaking voice urging and daring yourself to go on with your presentation. It’s daring to pay attention to that man behind the curtain. It’s being a one-man (or woman) band without sheet music.
Oh, and here’s the real kicker for most people: you might wind up looking like an idiot doing it. It happens. That’s progress. No, really, it is! It may not seem like it, but it is.
It’s time. Well past time, in fact, to admit it: you’ve done stupid things before. I’ve done stupid things before. We’ve all done it. Yes, you’ve done it, and, yes, I’ve done it. Quit saying you haven’t been that stupid because you’re both lying and embarrassing yourself. We’re human, after all, and there’s no way to get around that. Unless you’ve perfected the perfect human-android hybrid combination. In which case: I’d like to be one of the first to invest.
Keep in mind, please, that I am not talking about the common stupidity. The one that’s more common than the cold in humanity these days? The one people posthumously win Darwin Awards for? The stupidity that’s usually summed up by the four words preceding the stupidity, ‘Hey Dude! Watch This!” Yeah, THAT stupidity.
But, this entry is not about that. It is not about our incredible ability to screw things up as human beings. (That’s a whole other blog entry.) This entry is about the ability to go beyond the borders of what society expects, or even cares for on occasion, and do what’s necessary to shake things up a bit. Pushing boundaries and getting negative results.
Fear to fail? Never mind that. Afraid to try something different or risky because of the possibility of looking foolish? Talk about a boring life. What if it finally happens? Someone – EEK! – does say something about your attempt at whatever it might be? To heck with them.
My daughter, Emma, now a sophomore in high school on her more concerned days will worry about going with her mom on a shopping junket. The prime concerns will be those of “what will people think about this hair that won’t lay straight” or “what will happen if I run into a cute guy and he sees the not-exactly-noticeable pimple on the back of my arm” type of situations. I tell her, as I remind her mother often, that it is not the clothes that make you look good but – in fact – the other way around, that she is more than just the number on a scale readout. Helping to assuage her fears about the myriad situations she may run into to cause her embarrassment on a teenage level is not easy, and sometimes impossible, as I think she wants more sympathy than solutions, and a reason to complain. (As I said, she’s a teenager.)
Helping her realize that most people, having that five foot or so sphere of noticing nothing but themselves going on, will not bother to notice (or care) beyond their cell phone display, and that the pimple development is nothing to even come close to a crisis that she may think it is. Hopefully that helps from father to daughter, now and in years to come. Part of that is fatherly advice and love. The main idea from me is the experience that it is totally safe to be free in your thoughts in our society and to – barring rising to the level of being annoying – consider yourself able to dance, sing, laugh, watch, sit, observe, doodle, paint, sketch, act, become inert…. whatever you can do to make you better and more happy. The idea that everyone else is on your case is more a situation for the internet and all the greasy, unwashed trolls in their moms’ basements. In real life, out of doors and off the web, you will find that a good deal of people just don’t care what you’re doing.
There’s a great episode of M*A*S*H in the early seasons where Dr. B.F. “Hawkeye” Pierce is so bored, and convinced that everyone else is the same way, that he challenges fellow Swamp-mate, Dr. John Macintyre, that he can walk across the camp compound completely naked (minus the hat) without anyone noticing. He makes it to the mess tent before the jig is up.
“You owe me fifty bucks!”
“I left my pants back in The Swamp!”
While I don’t recommend going starkers to liven up the joint, the lesson here is decently obvious (without being indecent). He, at least, gave it a shot. He failed, being noticed, and owed Trapper John money losing the bet, but he tried anyway.
When Topeka West High opened up the position of male yell leaders (along with the female cheerleaders), I tried out for the opportunity, underestimating the strength and stamina involved in lifting some of your fellow students over your head and on your shoulders. I gave it my best shot a few times before common sense (and gravity) took over, reminding me that I was better off doing my best as athletic trainer for the Charger team sports.
(By the way, if cheerleader Karen Gregg is reading this, I really do apologize for that last drop. Hopefully, I didn’t cause too much damage to the elbow.)
I failed. I really blew it. Couldn’t even keep myself from dropping the cheerleader fail. But, I tried, at the very least. I gave it a shot. Was a bit afraid when it happened, but – over time – I have had a chance to look back on the situation and was glad that I gave it a shot. Very glad, in fact. A coward dies a thousand deaths, it is said. I’ve been a coward at times and it has taught me a lot. Sometimes enough to goad me into bold and straightforward action. And I’ve never (mostly) regretted it.
The title of this rule/entry is, as some of you who know me well enough will spot, is the title for one of “Weird Al” Yankovic’s albums of several years ago.
It’s a great album. Al was never one for subtlety (although he can write/perform some incredible works), but he also turned the title track into a theme for people to give greatness (through dumbness) a shot.
Talk with your mouth full! Bite the hand that feeds you! Bite off more than you chew!
What can you do?
You can dare to be stupid!
Take some wooden nickles! Look for Mr. Goodbar! Get your mojo working now!
I’ll show you how!
You can dare to be stupid!
Burn your candle at both ends!
Look a gift horse in the mouth!
Mashed potatoes can be your friends!
You can be a coffee achiever! You can sit around the house and watch Leave It To Beaver!
The future’s up to you! So what you gonna do?
Dare to be stupid! Dare to be stupid!
You need to accept that you are human, and therefore – by extension – an idiot.
Shouldn’t stop you from trying, though. I know some people that are so incredibly and intensely afraid of failure they won’t try anything ever, period. Diving board? New and funky pizza recipe? Different sort of beer? Actually making eye contact with that gorgeous person and striking up a conversation?
“There is no great genius without a touch of madness.” – Seneca The Younger
My eighth grade teacher, Vernon Hass, a stern crow if ever there was one in the classrooms of the world, had a very simple policy about book reports: if you didn’t want to get up in front of the class to report on what you had read, you weren’t required to do so. You could easily take the zero instead. Saving yourself three minutes of redbarefacedness by creating a gigantic cratering goose egg on your report card was an acceptable risk by some students. Being a gregarious (when need be) type of person, I have never been able to really understand those who can take this approach. Making your life more difficult, engaging in pointless make-up work (if and when the teacher in question ever offers it) just because you couldn’t stand in front of your peers for .01% of your day just seems silly to me. I’m not trying to be berating or unfeeling; the idea of public speaking for some is less enjoyable than the actual act of dying, and I feel for those people.
Life will offer you chances that will never come again. I’ve had those regrets. But, I’ve also done my best to keep that to a bare minimum if possible. There is a time for caution, but then, there is also time for pushing your limits and finding out what can be instead of forever wondering what might have been. We owe it to ourselves to try. And, sometimes – quite uncomfortably – it means dancing or singing when there is music that only we can feel or hear. Take the leap of faith and (figuratively) step off the cliff’s edge.
Go for it. Just dance/sing/whatever, and feel better about it for trying it. Fight the fear and make your stand. Sometimes, you just gotta’…