As Thanksgiving – a purely secular holiday – approaches I thought I’d answer a question my old pal Lou had. I’ll paraphrase…
It’s easy to sit in the back of the class and trash the Ten Commandments. What do you offer us unbelievers in the way of rules for living?
Ok, first, let’s dump the word “commandment.” I’m not in the military, and I don’t cotton to being commanded around, especially by anyone I’m not married to. Even “rules” make me squirmy and inclined to rebel. So let’s tone it down a little from the get-go.
These are just suggestions from an average guy with a PhD. in living through dumb mistakes. (So far.)
Why can’t we agree on some behaviors that benefit most people most of the time? That’s probably about as close as we can get to a secular version of the 10 Commandments that doesn’t focus on painfully obvious ethical transgressions (Commandments 6-9) or God’s massive but fragile ego (Commandments 1-4.).
So I give you:
Underdown’s 11 Strong Suggestions
1. Leave a place as good or better than when you got there.
The earth and everything on it is finite. So don’t mess it up… for yourself, for others, for future occupants.
This is common courtesy for the next person to use any space. True, everyone reading this in 2018 will probably be dead in a hundred years, but unless you want future generations lumping you in with the era-who-ruined-the-planet, heed this suggestion.
2. Be nice and Be fair.
This is based on the amended Golden Rule: Treat people as they wish to be treated.
OK, most people can look inward for this standard, but there are those masochists and fetishists out there who might have some warped idea of what a good time is. This isn’t complicated, though.
3. Suck it up and quit whining.
We all have our problems — some more than others. But no one wants to hear about every little problem you have. This is a call to be tough, resilient, and robust.
It is not a call to ignore injustice.
In his book, Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why, Laurence Gonzales writes about the Rule of 3s. He essentially says that REAL problems begin when you go 3 minutes without air, 3 days without water, and 3 weeks without food. Put in that context, most of our daily annoyances pale in comparison.
4. Live within your means.
Don’t let people who sell things tell you what you need to be happy. You don’t need a PlayStation 11, or whatever they’re up to now.
Save a little. And if your means are considerable, think about spreading the wealth around a little to those less fortunate. It is YOUR money, but think about it. Nobody needs a Maserati. (I would like to get one out on a desert highway and punch it, though…)
5. Take responsibility for what you do.
Or don’t do… you lazy bastard. (Sorry, I was talking to myself.)
How inclined are you to blame others for something you had a hand in? This includes saying I’m sorry, and owning up to any damage or unhappiness you cause. I saw you leave that fake note on the windshield of the car you dented!
It isn’t easy sometimes, but doing right pays off in self respect.
6. Stop watching screens so much and live a little!
Sorry if you’re reading this on a screen, but I’m talking about proportion. I recently saw a table full of 20-somethings at a bar on a Friday night and they were ALL looking at their phones! Not talking, laughing, or flirting — staring down at a blue light. Sweet Jesus, why leave the house?
In the Giant Forest in Sequoia National Forest, many people seemed more concerned with their selfies than seeing General Sherman, the largest living tree on earth. Watching a travel show is not traveling. Playing your Wii is not exercising.
Fully present experiences beat video-watching every time.
And while we’re at it, get off my lawn! (Actually, we changed over to stones years ago.)
7. Try to see the other person’s point of view.
Our tribal instincts make it easy to demonize others — whatever kind of “other” that is. But really, most of the world just wants to make a decent living, be warm and safe, and yuck it up every now and then.
Try a little empathy on for size — even for the Presbyterians. They’re people too, you know.
8. Don’t believe everything you hear (or see!)
We live in an age where there is more information available to more people than ever in the history of the world. That’s mostly a good thing. Churches and other institutions have purposely kept people ignorant for much of human history.
But there is an incalculable amount of bullshit out there as well. Any crackpot with a credit card and 2 hours can create a website that is 100% bad information. Exercise those skeptical muscles every now and then. If it sounds crazy, it probably is.
9. Keep your brain and body active.
This is pure quality-of-life here. Strong and fit bodies not only make day-to-day life easier, they keep good blood supplies coursing through your gray matter as well. Reading, exploring, doing things differently– evidence shows all that helps keep the brain fit, too.
10. Tell someone to kiss your ass when appropriate.
I’m not talking about gratuitous expletives. I’m talking about resisting the temptation to sell your ethical soul. There are times in life when an offer comes along to do a wrong that will bring you some profit or even safety.
Do your best to deny another’s attempt to corrupt you.
11. Take a moment every day to be grateful.
No matter how bad it gets, someone out there is worse off or dead. That’s the bottom line, isn’t it?
You, on the other hand (if you’re actually reading this and not merely in a coma), aren’t dead yet.
So there’s that.
It’s just got to be mentally healthy to shift your thinking from what’s wrong with the world (or your life) to what’s right with it — at least once in a while. Hope springs eternal.
I don’t know who the hell this Hope is, but I think she’s got the right idea… springing like she does… whatever that means…