by Bryon Turcotte
July 27, 2009, 5:30 pm:
I have come to a conclusion.
Millions of human beings are convinced that they were placed on earth to share their divine wisdom with poor, unruly, ignorant, slugs like me and lead them away from their pitiful life right into a perfect utopia.
I agree, it is wonderful to receive guidance from someone who is a true mentor or be educated by teachings that are of an obvious higher mind. I know, for anyone who knows me, it is a miracle that I can actually wake up, swing my feet to the floor, and start my day without smashing my toe on the coffee table. I think I've got the logistics of being a human being down to a science. I may not be a wise man, but I'm smart enough to dodge the slings and arrows of my outrageous, but fortunate life without needing a map, a cigarette or a backseat driver.
There are many people out there in the vapor who actually think that the whole world depends their constant words of intelligence blowing into the face of humankind during every waking moment. I'm not referring to the sharing of intelligent dialog, melding creative ideas or even debating political or religious viewpoints. Nope, that is not my point. I speak of the those who constantly state the obvious, preach to the converted or feel that there is no future without their keen way of thinking or earth shattering ideas. Truthfully, I think the amount of people in the world who can actually serve in this capacity could fit in the frozen food section of your neighborhood market OR be stacked like cord wood in the women's restroom at your local J.C Penny's. Simply speaking, there are not too many. I believe those who are truly wise and who honestly qualify to save the world, are the last to proclaim their wisdom and offer it to every mouth breather who has a pulse. These people do not own a soap box, have a TV show, run for public office, preach a Sunday sermon or have a designed social agenda. They have bigger and better ways to spend their time. In truth, there are not as many wise and logical people left in the world as we think, but we sure could use their help.
So, are smart people becoming extinct? No, not at all, but I'm not talking about smart. We have plenty of them. Smart investors, smart voters, smart shoppers, smart dressers and smart asses. They are everywhere. The smart are the ones that are flushing the little intelligence left in the world right down the toilet. Being smart and being wise are two totally different things if you have a true grasp of their meanings. They are as different as apples and oranges. Both are fruit but each have a different flavor and texture. Smart has a very temporary connotation. Doesn't it feel better to be referred to as a wise investor than just a smart investor? Hmmm?
Wise decisions give the impression that all the pros and cons were considered over long periods of time, thought of carefully, and established after much experience and computation was leveraged. The wise don't need to remind you of their wisdom or submit their resume. Unfortunately for the rest of us, the smart ones have inherited the earth. If you don't feel that this is true, just take a look around at many of the decision makers, movers and shakers of the time. Experiencing some of their rules, regulations and guidelines should quickly confirm that a new standard of brilliance is at the helm of modern day society and we're heading for an iceberg. The proof can be seen in the simplest of every day scenarios.
A wave of extreme hot weather has been torturing our region of the country for the past few weeks. When it is too hot to play outside because of the dangers of heat related hallucinations and stroke, all kids want to do is swim and swim.
One day my wife decided to take the youngest child and visit one of the many public swimming pools in our community. These pools are generally well maintained, supervised and managed by the neighborhood association who is responsible for the subdivision where the pool is located. It was a Monday morning and the pool was not very busy. The collection of people who were actually in attendance consisted of about eight children and six adults including my wife and the "teen dream" life guard on duty. On arrival, my wife quickly noticed an exhausted young mother with three kids sun bathing on a lounge chair while her children quietly and surprisingly swam and splashed in the shallow water. An overly enthused and chipper grandfather played at the far end with his two middle-school-aged grandkids while a young dad sat reading the newest Stephen King novel while his two boys shot at each other with small plastic squirt guns. Also, unclear from her perspective at that time, another couple sat side by side on the far end of the pool. She was unable to see their faces but just assumed that they were enjoying the day, and possibly half asleep. Evidently, the pool was mostly being enjoyed by the children in attendance and not really seen as a place for relaxation by the adults. From her experience a community pool is not an easy substitute for the Kaman Islands, Cancun or the deep blue surf of the Bahamas. It is a place where you can silence your whining kids for a couple of hours with chlorine and city water and briefly escape into a good book, a quick bath in the sun, or thoughts of the night's schedule of prime time TV. On this day the children ruled this wet, fun world.
As mentioned, community swimming holes are generally managed by group of smart people who develop a set of rules that they feel essential to maintain the ultimate in safety and enjoyment at their facility. One rule may read "No belly flops or canon balls permitted". Another may dictate that "No one under the age of sixteen shall be allowed to swim without an adult guardian present". Some may be more specific and read clearly: "Urinating in pool is strictly prohibited." What ever the rule, guideline, or policy may be, we assume that much thought was invested by the brain-trust of smart individuals who have chiseled them in stone. Most of the rules contain a flavor of "child safety" and "child awareness" since most of the pools do not meet International Olympic standards. They are shallow and not something an adult would enjoy. It's all about the kids and a day of cool fun. At this pool, someone felt it important to include another rule that would only amplify the level of enjoyment and make swimming here fun for the entire family.
After an hour into their stay, roughly at 11am, the young David Hasselhoff stationed atop the tall, authoritative, lifeguard chair, stands proudly and blows his whistle. "Adult Swim!" he bellows as he continues to instruct the children in attendance to remove themselves quickly from the pool. "Adult Swim for the next fifteen minutes!" he says again as he carefully monitors the mass exodus of the now six little bodies that were actually swimming. Like a retirement home during "Wheel of Fortune", the small population of adults stuck to their programs of "one eye on junior the other on my watch", not giving much attention to the special time put aside for the adults today. My wife, the only adult who seemed to question the reasoning behind this decree, waited patiently to see who would take the offer.
As many of the children danced restlessly after the first minute of landfall, our boy asked the expected question. "Can I go back in the pool now?" he said with a hint of desperation. My wife thought, with normal logic, that since no adults were taking advantage of this privilege, the young guard would surely let those children return to the happiness of the pool. "Well, why don't you ask the lifeguard if you can get back in the pool, ok?" she asked. He quickly trots across the hot cement surface to the base of the tall tower and quietly poses his question. Mouthing some words in his native, aquatic tongue causes our boy to return in disappointment. "We have to wait fifteen minutes. That's the rule." he whimpered.
My wife looked at the empty pool then looked at the life guard. She looked again and back again. She repeated this several times as if she was watching the world championships at Wimbledon. With disbelief and a huge degree of confusion concerning the logic behind the seriousness of the rule, she walked the perimeter to see if anyone had moved toward or showed interest in the pool. No one stirred. True, in the lifeguard's defense, a large tour bus of hot, exhausted, city workers could arrive at any minute, so it is extremely urgent to adhere to this rule and it's placement in time. I mean a rule like this, if broken, could unravel the very fabric of the entire community pool system. Then comes anarchy, revolt, and finally utter chaos. It would be the end of the civilized world as we know it today.
As she scanned the outer edges of the pool, the mysterious couple that she was unable to view earlier, came into clear focus. Laying lifeless, they both seemed to be half asleep as she suspected. As she looked harder, she noticed that each were actually in a drunken haze, each cradling their own can of America's cheapest alcoholic beverage, Miller Light. What? Beer? At a public pool? Again, my wife looked at the empty pool, now at the beer, then at the life guard. She looked back and forth, again and back again. She repeated this several times as she began to wonder if Homer Simpson, Larry the Cable Guy, and the marketing team from Hooters were the actual smart people behind the neighborhood association that governs the rules behind this community pool. Have they set additional guidelines with the adult swimmers in mind? As the day passes, will the lifeguard-boy give his whistle another blow and announce "Open Bar!", "20 minutes until the Hawaiian Tropic Bikini Contest!" or "Nude Bathing starts in 10 minutes!" Maybe to show their solidarity with children and family, they will declare: "Children under the age of ten may now shit in the pool!" No compromise on the swimming time for the kids, but by golly, Richard Burton and Liz Taylor can have all the vodka and tonic they want.
You see my friends, the Smart people of the world attempt to make decisions, set rules, give advice, and direct the course of society based on where they went to college, who they play golf with on a Sunday afternoon, and who they know at city hall. Wise people make their choices based on what is best for all involved, their experience with the actual subject matter, and an accurate knowledge of the people their decision will effect. It is easy to tell who sets rules by the way they are written, administered and enforced. Whether it be letting adults drink or not letting kids swim at a community kiddie pool, the folks in charge will always be the smartest people they know and in turn the most qualified. Between motorcycle riders without helmets, twenty year prison terms for first time pot smokers, and probation for child rapists, there seems to be real wisdom and nothing but balanced thinking left in the world. Hell, it can be as funny or disturbing as you choose, but I choose to strive to be wisest one on my block. If I just settle for being smart, I may be doomed to a future in politics, religious leadership, law enforcement, education, middle management, customer service or the justice system.
Honestly, I would much rather continue to just be a wise ass. Just being smart is over rated. - BT