I feel like I’m fortyish. I think like I’m fortyish, as well. But, my driver’s license tattles on me! It tells me that geezer-hood’s gaping precipice yawns before me. And, even though I have all my original parts, I am but a simple slip-of-foot from falling in. I’m not depressed or anything; I’m just a lot more introspective than I used to be. And, while I’m long retired, I’m still an avid scientist.
Not only do I still love discovery through observation, I now have a lot more time to do it. Now that I’m in my seventies, I’ve realized that basic human nature has not changed much since I left the realm of my days of yore.
When I was in parochial school, for instance, the good nuns always taught us that the fundamental difference between humans and animals was the simple fact that God gave humans everlasting souls. He did no such thing for animals, though.
Academically, I’m a long way from where I was then. But, I now question whether humans have souls. But, even if it’s true, it has nothing to do with REAL differences. And, while those real differences between animals and humans are too many to list here, two fundamental attributes set us apart.
Humans become self-aware. At some point, we realize that we were born and that we’re mortal; we’re going to die someday. Animals have no idea about such stuff. But, perhaps even more fundamental is the fact that animals cannot rationalize.
Humans, however, have made it an art form, thereby elevating observing human behavior to a yet-to-be matched degree of utter fascination for members of the science roundtable.
Rationalizations are the lies we tell ourselves to make us feel better about our behavior. It’s how we excuse, and ultimately justify, purely stupid—and often evil—behavior.
And, even when we don’t know what we’re doing, we have no compunctions about pretending that we do and wasting mountains of effort and boatloads of time being precise about the details.
I have a neighbor who is 35-years-old. He holds an MBA from the Wharton School of Finance (University of Pennsylvania). He’s self-employed and financially independent.
But, he complains incessantly about the price of a gallon of gas for his car. Yet, three times a week, he drives that car to a gym located 4-miles from his home in order to ride a bike that goes nowhere. He could ride a real bike to and from the gym FREE.
About ten years ago, a friend’s marriage ended in a bitter divorce. He was a self-employed CPA—still is—and she was a trauma center nurse in a busy metropolitan hospital.
He handled (with her thankful blessings) all the home finances. And, unless mail was addressed to her personally, she never bothered to open any of it. Except for just ONE fateful time!
One afternoon, the phone bill seemed rather bulky, so she opened it out of curiosity. The balance due was $768. But, the amount of the bill didn’t alarm her because they could easily afford it. However, the 15-pages of 900-area code numbers did bother her. They were calls to sex hotlines!
When she confronted him about “cheating” on her, he told her that he didn’t consider it cheating. He honestly did not believe she had sufficient grounds to file for a divorce. And, I’m still not sure he understands.
However, he’s now single again and DOES understand the meaning of irreconcilable differences, not to mention how adept the court is at dividing community property.
A former neighborhood acquaintance had been married SIX times. What’s amazingly lucky about his situation was that through six marriages, for whichever reasons, he managed not having any children. But, unlike the friend I described above, he’s an expert on community property law.
However, what makes his case such a sad one is the fact that he was his own slick con artist. He always managed to convince himself that his marriages failed because he was lousy at picking compatible women.
This is rationalization raised to the power of TWO! Incompatibilities are just as much a part of married realty as compatibilities are. Compatibilities don’t keep couples together; the ability to deal with their incompatibilities DOES! And, below is a prime example.
My wife and I have been married for hundreds of years. Neither of us is what EITHER of us would call a “gem” to live with. Oh, SURE! Others think SHE’S perfect and they let me know it. According to some of THEM, she’s not even going to die; she’s going to ascend directly into heaven!
However, we BOTH know better. We’ve had some monumental arguments over the centuries we’ve been together. But the fact remains that in all that time, we’ve never considered any of our arguments serious enough to warrant a divorce. MURDER, yes; divorce, NO!
And, there’s no secret to it, either. It’s been hard work, but we’ve learned how to live with our incompatibilities… well that and the fact that I stay the hell out of HER part of the house.
Yesterday, we visited my brother-in-law for a family get together. We had a great time, but as we were leaving, I decided to show everyone how agile I am for an old codger.
My brother-in-law’s drive way is close to 500-feet long and slopes at about a 15-degree angle. I noticed a long strip of ice (about 15-feet long and about 20-inches wide). The kid in me screamed, “DO IT!”
I broke into a sprint with the intention of hitting that ice strip and sliding its entire length on my feet… just as I did when I was twenty-five. And, were it not for one stupid, highly rationalized mistake, I would have made it, too.
The mistake? I’m NOT twenty-five; I’m seventy! But, even so, my heart stopped for only about 15-seconds; and, as soon as I was sure I had not ruptured my left kidney and the feeling returned to my lower extremities, I managed to craw to my car (without breaking into loud sobs from the pain).
It’s a good thing my wife can drive! Just the same, she was not at all impressed and she lectured me all the way home. More than once on the drive home… MURDER! It seemed justifiable, but she was driving and I didn’t want to kill myself, too.
But, I did make it to the peaceful solitude of MY part of the house. And, once again, our compatibility in dealing with our incompatibilities has kept me out of prison!
Joe Walther is a freelance writer and publisher of The True Facts. You may comment on his column by clicking here.