One of my favorite poems is “The Walrus and the Carpenter” by Lewis Carroll. What that has to do with anything is a mystery to me. But then so is the poem. It tells a story about two characters who take some oysters for a walk promising a good time but delivering a very bad time. Sheer selfishness disguised as altruism. In case you have never read the poem you can enlighten yourself here. And shame on you for not having read it before. Some things in life enrich your soul at no real cost to you. Try and take advantage of those things. While you’re at it, read the entire book, “Through the Looking Glass”. It’s a sequel to “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”.
The Walrus and the Carpenter have no mission in life. They just live and take what they can without a care in the world. Unlike me, I’ve lived my life trying to police everyone and everything around me. Some sort of personal control over the uncontrollable, I suspect. So far, it hasn’t done any good. Not for those in my life and certainly not for me. Being the sheriff of anything is a thankless, pointless job, especially a self-appointed sheriff. In the days of the Western Frontier, the town sheriff or territory marshal was paid little to nothing for being the one who led a demanding, near perfect life, morally speaking, of protecting the average person from the lawless scoundrels who took advantage of the weak or, more accurately, the not-in-my-yard settlers.
I pick up trash discarded by my neighbors even though I can never hold them accountable for what they purposely do to the common living space. Those who toss fast food plastics and paper don’t recognize the fact that those acts are destroying the harmony of the universe. They just don’t get it. Someone in my building thinks nothing of leaving a soda cup or a chip bag in the stairwell. But I think much more than nothing about that. In fact, I can’t ignore that garbage anymore than I could ignore my hair being on fire. So I pick it up and properly dispose of it, cursing the unknown perpetrator for sullying up the environment.
Then there is my job. My job is nothing special. I do what I can to make sure the things I am responsible for get done so no one else has to pick up the slack. Isn’t that what a job really is all about? Isn’t that what we get paid for?
But, just like picking up other peoples’ trash, I find myself constantly trying to keep everyone around me doing what they should be doing…keeping the slack in some kind of orderly chaos. The thing is this: doing all this slack-tightening is hard work. And stressful. There is no end to it and no logical sequence. As soon as slack over here is tightened, slack over there is so loose it almost touches the floor. I don’t know why some people actually take on the responsibility of managing projects.
All this is quite tiring. I beginning to think sheltering in place is not such a bad idea after all. All I need to do is stop working for the day and get off the computer. No rush hour traffic to contend with; no hurrying to get home before my poor dog has an accident on the carpet. Suddenly there are walls that do a nice job of containing the space I live in, limiting slack to what’s in front of me. And no surgical mask to fog up my glasses. Quite peaceful, don’t you think?