【Where do the lessons of life reside?】

Where do the lessons of life reside?

I am always reminded that often the real lessons of life lie in chance encounters or in simple situations. These occurrences present golden nuggets of wisdom that are dangled before our eyes. They must simply be grasped. We sadly often miss them, or at least I do. The great philosophers and sages do have eminent parables to relate and clever treatises to promulgate. The thoughts of the individuals “just getting through life” are often as profound, however.

I was on a series of public buses on a recent trip and, as always, I took the opportunity to speak to the bus drivers. I find them to be a fascinating group of personages for they have “none-stop” social interaction. These souls are more occupied, from a work-time related perspective, than any profession I can think of with perhaps the exception of the doctor, dentist, or teacher.

They come in all shapes and sizes, ethnicities — and are equally balanced between men and women. I think they are extremists, as well. They either hate people or love all of humanity, including the grubby, the unwashed, and the downright rude.

On my sojourn, I had two interesting conversations: “So, do you enjoy driving?” I inquired. “What! You mean for work?” was the riposte. “Yes,” I acknowledged, “for work.” “I hate work. Anyone who thought up this concept of work is full of b*** s***.” Now that is an “eye-opener” at 6:00 in the morning, especially when on your way to said employment, I am sure. “What if you enjoyed your work,” I probed. “Then, it wouldn’t be work, would it?” the “El stupido” being silently uttered with his eyes.

I then got on a bus with a female driver who had the stature of an opera star. A real presence: full, wavy hair; a stout, voluptuous body and fiery and intense eyes. She commanded her vehicle like the conductor of an orchestra – a real show! I positioned myself near the front seat and at the right moment began my inquiry. “So, do you like your profession?” “This? I love driving bus!” “Say what!” I thought to myself – please tell me more. “So how long have you been driving bus?” “For eighteen years,” was her response: “eighteen good and interesting years. When we came from Uganda we had nothing, so we had to start again. This was my first job, so I kept it to always have an income for our family.” 

Searching way back in my memory bank, I recalled that, in 1972, the dictator of Uganda, Idi Amin, had stripped all the Asian community of their wealth and assets, and deported them en masse – penniless. (1) Canada took in 6,000 refugees and this woman was one of them. In English, we call it “breeding.” It means basic family education and social upbringing. “You can take the boy out of the country, but you can never take the country out of the boy.”(2)

I surmise that the woman and her family had never rebuilt their fortune, but they remained true to their values: honesty, integrity, hard work, and a high ethical and moral standard. The liberal values — everyone is to be treated equally and with dignity regardless of their station and financial level in society –, were embodied in her ethos as a bus driver. This should be a lesson to all of us in this hedonistic and consumptive age. I was reminded, once again of the words of Dr. Frankl, (3) to paraphrase: “As long as there is hope, all is possible.” 

The model: an education + experience = expertise, is iconic and should always be adhered to. Financial wealth, though it fills our images — is ephemeral — as the example of our bus driver so shows. The moral of the story: it is a long life. Don’t hate your job! Remember our driver, “Then, it wouldn’t be work, would it?” 

The composer and record producer, David Foster (b. 1949), leaves us with a thought: I probably wouldn’t do anything differently if I had to do it again. Every little thing that happens to you, good and bad, becomes a little piece of the puzzle of who you become. Every successful person you read about – Warren Buffett, Bill Gates – they all say pretty much the same thing. ‘Do what you love.’ I know I did. (Parts of this essay were first published in 2019)

A closing thought: I am at an age where I am truly thankful each morning I open my eyes. I am finding that I am becoming more sensitive to the world around me, as well. Reality is truly wonderful and inviting. It is, despite this, deeply perplexing. If I see the world as bright and hopeful, and filled with excitement and opportunity — it is! If I see it as dark and fatalistic, and replete with a sense of foreboding – it also is. My best advice – given to me when I was sixteen – be thankful for your gift of life and get to work to do something with it. It has only been given to you once, in this reality.  

To sum up: This week we spoke about the lessons that all have to give. We must be open to all individuals though they may initially look uneducated and unattractive.

To be noted: From Desiderata by Max Ehrmann (4) — Go placidly amid the noise and the haste and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.

Just for fun – Gus Arnheim and the Ambassadors — 

For reflection: 

This week, please take some time to study your surroundings. The world is a much more interesting place than you think.

Every day look for something magical and beautiful.

Don’t be a wage slave – critical thinking is great!


Quote: Live your life in a state of wonder and imagination.


1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Expulsion_of_Asians_from_Uganda

2) The Rotarian Magazine: August 1935

3) https://www.viktorfrankl.org/biography.html

4) https://allpoetry.com/Max-Ehrmann

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