Life is strange. We are each truly alone more than we realize, to craft and direct our lives in the ways it shall lead us.
We form friendships, adopt partners and other alliances largely by chance. Whether we admit it or not, as we plan for some opportunities, we are unknowingly thrust into others. At least most of us are like a leaf in a breeze, buffeted from one condition to another with little actual control or purpose of our own. Many of the choices we carefully make do not turn out as we plan at all. Other things that we may see at first as disasters to our plans, end up as the best thing that could have happened.
I don't know about you, but that is how my life has been, and as far as I can tell, it has been thus also with most of my acquaintances through life. Many times my plans were thwarted in what I thought to be a catastrophe, only to turn out to be the best thing that could have happened. It brings me to think that perhaps the best philosophy is to play life like a basketball player. You dribble down the court and take a shot at the basket. You miss. You don't hang your head in disappointment or bemoan your failure. You stay alert and wait for your next opportunity.
We all actually have so little control ourselves that the best we do is to take things as they come and do the best we can. As the old cowboy philosopher says, "You must play the hand you are dealt."
That does not mean we shouldn't try for what we desire. Only when we give up, or think something is impossible to us, or that the odds are too great to be overcome, do we become failures. It is beyond our imaginations to understand all the forces that are actually controlling our pursuits. I was stopped by a policeman just the other day for driving 55 mph in a 40 mile speed zone. After he examined my license and registration he handed them back to me and said, "Slow down a bit will you?" I thanked him and went on my way. I cannot say why he was so generous with me. That's just my point. You never know the influences that affect the people around you or even yourself half the time, but it never hurts to be polite and considerate of others.
I don't know why it meant so much to me that I never forgot it, but as a young boy in my early teens, I saw the movie "Tortilla Flats." It was based on a story of that name by John Steinbeck. It was about these poor uneducated Mexican peasants in a place called Tortilla Flats. I don't remember the story, or much else about the movie, but my memory of one scene I believe is accurate. There was this old sort of worthless, cast off tramp who was always accompanied by a group of dogs. At one point in the movie this old guy has a vision in the forest where beams of light come down through the trees as a presence of God. As the old tramp stood there spellbound, his eyes looking up to the light, a voice apparently from heaven says to him, "Be good to little dogs, you dirty man."
That doesn't sound like much of a message from God, but somehow it imprinted on my mind, and stayed with me all my life. It now strikes me as a decent basis for a good life, a simple message promoting the idea of compassion. It's not, however, as simple as it may appear. Besides all that, little dogs need all the help they can get. May God bless and keep America.
Richard Westlund is a Collins resident. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org