Daniel (Danny) Lance Wright, Author

Friday, April 12, 2013


It's starting out as one of those days that I seem to be overthinking everything and worrying incessantly. I don't want to bore anyone with the array of family health issues I suddenly find myself thinking about. But, it did serve to catapult my mind into a philosophical mode. It happens. I can't avoid it. Watching an early morning newscast thinking about the sick and ailing people in my life, I remembered a piece I wrote some years back for a creative non-fiction writing contest. I found the file and read it again. I thought I'd share it here. Enjoy:


Where do profound thoughts come from? Why are they random and infrequent? If we ever have even one then, clearly, we have the capacity for more. So, how do we make them happen and keep them coming?

These are certainly tough questions, and to my way of thinking, no ready answers; maybe even unanswerable altogether. What is it about an otherwise run-of-the-mill brainstorm that elevates it to such status? Could it be life’s upheavals; or, simply one of those rare occasions when over-thinking suddenly, and inexplicably, takes a backseat to universal wisdom? Why is it that we must wait like a drooling Homer Simpson for electrical blips in the brain to jump synaptic ends in some particular order?

These questions I'll leave for others to ponder for now. But, there are a few things I’ve learned along the way worth sharing. Enlightenment can begin with an event no more complicated than watching seagulls, or, so I’ve come to believe.

Before we get to the gulls, there have been two occasions when seemingly benign comments created circumstances sending my outlook on life sailing off in new directions, like a pinball hitting that hundred-point bumper and lighting up the machine.

Through my teens and twenties, life was a rather steep uphill battle. At the time, a serious concern was on the order of wondering whether my last ten dollars, three days before payday, would buy gasoline, groceries, or split between the two. Those were the good old days. At the time, I was ecstatic to have that ten-dollar-bill so there was a choice to be made.

When the thirties came along, income increased and money worries leveled out, even disappeared to a great extent. Life was good.

It’s easy to see in retrospect. We spend our young lives climbing ladders of success but once there and step off onto a plateau of accomplishment, it is only comfortable as long as no one pushes us from it – funny thing about plateaus, no down escalator, only lethal drops.

Working in the television business in a small Texas market in the seventies and early eighties was a joy. But, a day came that the station sold and management changed. Suddenly, I didn’t fit. Fear of losing an investment of many years pressed my Chicken Little button. Everyday, it seemed calamity lurked just out of sight. Twice the time and thrice the effort were spent to simply remain employed. No matter. Goals had been raised to unreasonable limits, support systems removed. They wanted me gone.

Sitting at the kitchen table one Saturday when my parents had come for a weekend visit, the oh-woe-is-me poured out like self-indulgent vomit. Mother tried to be supportive but eventually tired of hearing it. “Nothing lasts forever,” she said abruptly, “Stop worrying about it.”

Comments don’t get more basic, benign or non-threatening than that. But, for me, at that time, it was a life-altering revelation – a bullet between the eyes exploding a sacred myth that that job should be till death do us part. What the heck was I thinking?

Then came profundity number two. Near the end of that situation, dealing with inevitability wasn’t exactly second nature but manageable.Years of honing a craft of selling television advertising could not be lightly set aside. It was still an obligation to find suitable promotional vehicles for my clients. Admittedly, some of that was to impress superiors, to show them what they would be missing when the ax finally fell.

Agonizing over a proposal and worrying aloud about it distracted a coworker sitting at a nearby desk. He said, “It’s just fucking television, not brain surgery. Not a single life will be lost if it doesn’t work. Stop worrying about it.”

I discovered lightning could strike twice, and did. That comment, made in passing, and in jest, scars my psyche to this day. It’s an amusing little blemish. Its one of those guiding forces referred to often, substituting the word “television” with the problem of the month. The profanity never changes. It fits all situations nicely. I had become a lightning rod, arms fanned wide looking to the skies waiting for the next bolt of wisdom from the blue. Incidentally, that former coworker holds a special place in my memory. He’ll likely never know that he provided a springboard for a life’s change. All he wanted was a laugh, and that he did, ad nauseam.

Both pivotal episodes shined a harsh light on a simple truth; profound statements are not necessarily profoundly substantive.When the mind is open, wisdom flows in. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Well, it’s not. It only changes the focus on the same question. Where do profound thoughts come from and what is it that makes them so?

So, now the query is: How does one go about opening a mind? It’s certainly not like flipping a light switch. Answers have to be as varied as personalities.

The sixties brought on various chemical hallucinogens. Part of the hippy movement was an effort to tap cosmic intelligence to garner secrets of the universe. The Dalai Llama and his followers believe meditation is the key, while indigenous Americans felt that chanting mantras while sapped of energy and sleep deprived to be the portal to universal secrets. All good and, maybe, true. But, sometime, a simple summer vacation and a day at the beach can do the trick.

It was daybreak. With a steaming coffee mug in one hand and a folding chair in the other, I walked to the beach, no other plan in mind than to greet the day while listening to the music that was surf crashing on the beach, ready to get a vacation underway.

After settling in, the rhythmic sound of surf and the stiff steady breeze worked its magic. Troubles drained away – ah, sweet peace of mind. It felt good. Nothing to think about and no problems to solve, just let sounds of relentless crashing waves have their rapturous way.

And then an odd sight; a number of seagulls gathered at the water’s edge, all looking into the rising sun, unmoving, even against the stiff breeze blowing parallel to the pulsing water coming up to cover their feet, threatening to blow them over. Strong gusts pushed the birds sideways, but they seemed to be refusing to relinquish the rigid stance. It was as if those birds saw something worth holding their place on the beach for.

It was reminiscent of a movie where angels gathered on a beach, all facing east into the rising sun, just as these birds were doing. Is it possible the director of that movie was influenced by the same sight, seagulls watching a sunrise?

As a reason was sought for the phenomenon, a cloud drifted across the still-rising sun, shooting streamers of God’s light in all directions.

The gulls stood against the wind, virtually motionless though feathers ruffled. How easy it would have been, at any other time, to pass lightly over the sight and dismiss what those creatures must have seen as reverent. In their way, they appeared to be giving thanks for surviving long enough to see another sunrise?

The squeal of a small child startled me.

In the opposite direction, some distance away, stood a child that seemed to demand attention. So excited by the view of the waves, he refused to contain pent up enthusiasm any longer.

People began coming out to enjoy this tiny slice of what the world has to offer. In both directions, as far as could be seen, people walked to the beach, as if the hand of the director of that movie had cued them to do so at the same time.

The gulls, the eternal pounding of the surf, and all those people electrified my then receptive mind. The temporal nature of life coupled with the roll and crash of waves served as a strong reminder. A hundred years from that snapshot in time no one on the beach would likely be alive, very few on the entire planet, yet the gulls would still greet each new day and the surf would still pound the beach, just as it was doing at that very moment.

I shuddered.

When life’s drudgery drags us down, and it will, someone close will certainly crack wise, “In a hundred years from now, who’s going to care?”

Now, that’s wisdom, and profound, too.

Enjoy this day. Life’s short.

No comments:

Post a Comment