The Meaning of Life

Epiphanies usually come at the oddest times. Strange moments birth ideas that blossom into either absolutely nothing… or a golden opportunity. They often materialize when performing a mundane task or in that twilight between sleep and almost awake when we don’t yet have the cognitive ability to scribble them down.

“That idea was so great I’ll remember it,” we think before we doze back to sleep.

When morning actually comes, all we remember is that we had an idea and it was a great one. But the actual content is long gone.

I had one this weekend, though – and I was awake. I knew it was the mother of all epiphanies the minute it popped into my brain. It is:

The meaning of life

I kid you not! It’s time to buy the robes, find my mountaintop, and plop down. I figured it out – the big idea! And it is simpler than any philosopher ever tried to reason.

It started thusly.

My children love having pets. We have two dogs, three cats, and they have always begged for more. My issue with the pets we have and the pets they want is that I seem to be the only one qualified to clean up the poo. With three cats, this is a daily requirement. I think my kids are recreational pet lovers; they like the fun stuff, but not the dirty obligations that are a companion to pet ownership.

I have lived my life on the premise that there is nothing I can get on my skin that I can’t wash off. When I relayed that to my daughter, she just said, “Ewwwww!!”

So I clean the litterbox daily and every Saturday I pick up three to five pounds of poop in the yard. I don’t love it, but I like having pets and understand the responsibilities involved. It hit me Saturday while I had the scooper in hand, that this is it.

The meaning of life is cleaning up crap. Wiping the backside. Picking up piles. Scooping the poopy.

You laugh, but(t) think about life in stages.

  1. Someone else selflessly wipes your backside.
  2. Through the joy of education and experiment, you learn to wipe your own.
  3. With experience, you get better at it and refine the skill until it is automatic.
  4. If you’re lucky enough, something comes into your life (animal or tiny human) that you deem worthy of wiping or cleaning up their crap. And you do.
  5. You are no longer able to reach your backside and must depend on another. If you’ve loved well, someone is willing. If not, you’d better have cash.

 

It’s the circle of poop. And it moves us all.

 

Think of the parallel to life as we know it. We move from a selfish human who needs someone else to a self-sufficient master of our domain to eventually selflessly doing something dirty and disgusting for others. This is a tangible metaphor for what a life well-lived becomes: from selfish to selfless – served to servant.

 

There are some tiny humans whose diapers I changed many years ago, much to my chagrin. I admit that I did not wipe nearly as many shiny hinys as my wife and I was rarely gleeful about it. But I did it. And while they moved to stage 3, I cleaned up after all of their beloved pets. And hopefully… hopefully… when I revert to stage five, those children will realize that the circle of poop must continue. Because I’ve got some surprises in store for them.

The Dumbest Blond

We all have that crazy uncle we’re afraid to invite to dinner for fear of who he’ll bring, what he’ll say, or what table he will dance upon. For my extended family, I fear that is me. Invitations to family outings have waned since the bath robe debacle. In my defense, I didn’t know Easter lunch would be so formal that I was expected to wear pants.

But in my house, that crazy uncle lives with us in the form of a hundred-pound yellow lab. Oh, he’s beautiful on the outside, but he is undoubtedly the dumbest blond you’ll ever meet. And as he’s gotten older, the cobwebs of his mind have gotten stringier and stringier.

In his golden years, Winston has lost faculties and gained phobias. He is terrified of thunder, heating vents, and hardwood floors. We didn’t know about his anxiety until we had our carpeting removed and replaced with, you guessed it, hardwood floors. You see, he loves to play in mud and had ruined our carpets beyond repair. Over the years, our carpets went from the nice camel color we purchased to an undesirable shade of Georgia red clay. The last time we called the carpet cleaner he took one look, packed up his hose and ran.

We love our hardwood floors, but they came at a cost: Winston’s remaining sanity.

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In his daily barreling, he found that he lacks traction and slides on hardwood floors. Instead of slowing down to gain his footing, he refused to budge like an overtaxed mule. We actually had to string little carpet remnants around the room as a passage system for the poor boy.

It also appears that carpet was all that stood between him and the evil floor vents. So now, he can’t barrel through the house like he should be able to without those darn vents following him everywhere.

One such vent is positioned in the entrance to the kitchen, which is an important pathway to a dog. This is the magic portal from the den, where he sleeps all day, to the place where his water and food reside. The problem with this latest phobia is that he can’t get food and I refuse to make the dog bowl the centerpiece of our den. So we have a standoff.

Winston will stand at the entrance to the kitchen and whine, shaking his head because he wants food, but not at the cost of nearing a vent. He will rarely build up enough courage to challenge the evil vent empire. The system he developed is either the height of madness or genius we can’t understand. That dumb dog will move to the back door and shake his head until one of us lets him out. Then he will make a beeline to the kitchen door and wait to be let back in, thus bypassing the problem areas by travelling through the safety of the outdoors – even if there is thunder!

This has gone on so long that we’ve learned his signal for letting him around. My wife and girls indulge his eccentricity gently while I grumble and complain… but I still succumb to it eventually.

After I had played his game a few times the other night, a question dawned on me: who’s the real dumb one? Is it the dog with irrational fears or the people he has trained to bend at his will?

I would love to discuss this with Pavlov, but he’s long-dead. Besides, I’ve gotta go because the dumbest blond is waiting for the even dumber blond to let him out and back in.

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