Biff America: If I knew then what I know now
Vail CO, Colorado
“So I say, ‘Hey Lama, hey, how about a little something … you know … for the effort… you know?’
And he says, ‘Oh, uh, there won’t be any money, but when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness.’
So I got that goin’ for me, which is nice.”
So goes one of the funniest dialogues, in what I consider to be one of the funniest movies, “Caddyshack.”
The story line is that the burned-out assistant greens keeper, Carl Spackler (played by Bill Murray) is bragging about when he caddied for the Dalai Lama. According to Spackler, after carrying the holy man’s bag for 18 holes, the Lama stiffed him. But instead of cash the Lama promised Spackler total consciousness/enlightenment at the time of his death.
“So I got that going for me, which is nice.”
I would guess total enlightenment at the time of your death would be handy. But if I were to have a choice I’d prefer it a little earlier in life when I might use the knowledge until the inevitable occurred.
You often hear stories of someone’s life passing before their eyes at the time of a serious accident. There are also stories of near death survivors seeing a bright white light and long-dead family members before they are brought back to the land of the living. In the same vein, there are tales of insightful clarity enjoyed by the dying, which allows them to offer a profound observation just before they head off to the great unknown.
I have spent time with a few friends and family during the last days, hours and even minutes of their lives and I’m sorry to report I witnessed no such consciousness or enlightenment. It is more than possible that the drugs, fear and soul-less efficiency of a hospital is not conducive to death-bed clarity.
But what I have seen in abundance, and have even experienced to some degree, is the simple truth that with age comes wisdom.
I don’t think you necessarily get any smarter as you age, but I do know that with the countless life experiences, trial and error and time-taught wisdom you come closer to grasping what is meaningful and what is not.
“If I knew then what I know now … “
It is easy to look back at choices, decisions and even past relationships with the perspective of the present and wish you had then the knowledge you have now.
(Among other things, I wouldn’t have gotten married while sporting a mullet haircut.)
But more than just the simple truth that hindsight is 20/20 is the truth that hopefully you learn something everyday. After a long life you achieve an outlook that can elude even the best and brightest young people.
“Youth is wasted on the young,” said George Bernard Shaw. He also said, “Everything happens to everybody if they live long enough.”
This to me alludes to the experience and knowledge that time provides.
Here are just a few things I wish I knew as a young man.
No matter how much you think your parents mistreated you, they went into the parenting venture with the best intentions. Most likely they were doing the best they could given their mental, financial or genetic limitations.
Take the biggest jerk in the world and I’ll bet you it is worse to be them than to be around them.
If you’re not friends you can’t be lovers … for long.
Most women want a man who can make them laugh.
Men don’t know this so they do a lot of sit-ups.
Most opinions are based partly on prejudices.
There is no situation which cannot be improved by love or worsened by drugs and alcohol. Except dancing, I dance better on whiskey.
Everyone, even Mother Teresa, can be a jerk. The difference is Mother Teresa would apologize sooner than I would.
Most people who condemn homosexuality are secretly curious.
Many stereotypes do apply. (I’m mostly Irish; my people tend to sing and fight and we have trouble dancing while sober.)
Even the coolest job can get tiresome; if it didn’t, they would not have to pay you to do it. No one ever looked up from their death bed and said, “Damn, I wished I had worked more.”
Don’t be afraid to give compliments; even to people you don’t like.
Don’t lend any more credence to what a pundit, columnist or public figure says than you would to the guy who fixes your car.
Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be seen on RSN TV and read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Biff’s book “Steep, Deep and Dyslexic” is available from local book stores or at Backcountrymagazine.com.