UNPACKING THE BACKPACK – Thoughts, quips, & comments

“Sometimes I just think funny things.”

That line is one of my favorites from the classic Dudley Moore film Arthur from 1981. And I always think about it when random thoughts, quips, and comments pop into my head or come at me from a friend in a casual conversation. We all have those random instances of a wise or profound or thoughtful or silly or poignant or just interesting thought. And a few years ago I started collecting a list of mine. So, for this week’s column, I thought I’d list a few favorites.

Before you can have a good week, you can have a good day. And before a good day, you can have a good hour. And before a good hour, you can have a good moment. So, here’s to more good moments.

The Dalai Lama once said something to the effect of, you suffer because you want something that doesn’t belong to you. And while I’ve understood the Buddhist beliefs around suffering and attachment, the simplicity of his words provides clarity for me.

Years ago during a moment of ennui and melancholy, I voiced a worry that I had perhaps lost my faith. A young but wise and spiritual man told me that, on the contrary, faith is what remains when all else seems hopeless. Faith is not something you lose – it’s what you turn to when feeling lost.

I no longer double check the mailbox slot to make sure the letter went all the way down, and I think that’s a sign I’m finally growing up.

Growing up in the Midwest means a natural balance of maintaining a hopeful idealism in “the way things ought to be” while also holding onto an honest pragmatism about “the way things actually are.”

From a physiological standpoint considering the rules of physics and what we know about human reaction time, it should be impossible to hit a 95-mph fastball from 60 feet 6 inches away. According to the laws of physics and aerodynamics, bumblebees should not be able to fly. Neither professional baseball players nor bees know this. And no one should ever tell them.

The Presidency is kind of like being head cheerleader, tasked with inspiring us to believe in ourselves and win the big game. The best presidents have always lifted us up reminding us that “We have nothing to fear but fear itself” as we “Ask not what our country can do for you but what you can do for your country” because “It’s morning again in America” and no matter what challenges confront us, we know that “Yes, we can.”

I think the key to artists is they never stop noticing the world. When they create art, it is to remind us of the fascinating brilliance of everything. Picasso said every child is an artist. The key is to not forget that when we grow up. Look around and notice the infinite complexity and simple beauty of the world.

A primary tenet of the Hippocratic Oath for doctors is to first, do no harm. I think that’s a pretty good tenet for all professions and really everyone in their personal lives. It’s part of my daily quest to the kinder, gentler Michael.

One of the best bits of advice a colleague ever gave me as a teacher was “Don’t become a caricature of yourself.”

Arguably, the greatest day, week, month, and year of your life is the current one. It’s always the current one. For it’s the only one that truly exists, and it is here to be embraced for all it’s worth.

My dad was the eternal optimist. He was always looking for and reminding me of the positives in any situation. Often he had a wonderful anecdote to illustrate his point. One of his favorite stories was about two brothers – a pessimist and an optimist – who were tasked with cleaning up a huge pile of horse manure. As the pessimist whined and complained about the work and the mess, the other brother just started digging through the pile. When the first brother asked what he was doing, the optimist simply looked up to say, “With all this horse s–t around, there has to be a pony in here somewhere.”

Look for the pony, my friends. Always look for the pony.

Michael P. Mazenko is a writer, educator, & school administrator in Greenwood Village. He blogs at A Teacher’s View and can be found on Twitter @mmazenko. You can email him at mmazenko@gmail.com