My friend Maclyn asked me about the soul and the wad.
The only way I can answer her is by this poem, which I wrote for another friend. The inner Wad is complicated, but the only unifying force, the only one, is the force which leads to the soul: love.
THE CORRIDORS OF YOUR LIFE
Down the corridor of your mind are many doors
Who knows what lies behind them?
Life makes you choose.
In youth, hungry to win, afraid to lose
Not wanting to disappoint, and eager to please
You open them with ease.
Some bring you failure, or its twin, success
Some seem a certainty, others a guess
You find many unimportant
Or only means to ends
Behind some lie enemies,
A precious few hide friends.
The trip down this corridor is a test
To prove to yourself you have what it takes
Focusing on your goal, ignoring the rest
Savouring your victories, exposing mistakes
You press on to be best.
At some point down this corridor, far from the start
When you least expect
A new door opens to a journey apart
You meet someone and suddenly connect
And are led down the corridor of the heart.
This new corridor is different though,
Its journey lifelong
Behind each door lessons are learned
New emotions you couldn’t know
Right and wrong the hard way earned
Daily paid as feelings grow.
These emotions conflict as inside you change
You feel joy and doubt,
Contentment and pain,
The bitterness of loss and the sweetness of gain
As solutions somehow work themselves out
In this corridor decisions count
Both when taken and later
As consequences mount
There are no victories, no defeats
No false starts, no repeats
Only the experience of life made greater.
In this corridor you go forward and remember back
Old scars heal
When new feelings take their place
Showing little behind a public face
While inside you alone can know
That like your inner thoughts, each scar is real.
The corridor of the heart leads to love
But there is a price to be paid
For its end is the sum of all decisions made
Of the anger you have felt
Or the hurt you’ve been dealt
Of all words good and bad you’ve said.
But whatever the price this corridor exacts
Through what is in your grasp
Or beyond your control
Without the sum of all its acts
Your human life would not be whole
For the corridor of the heart leads to your soul.
People like to think they have a personality, and that this personality is what defines them. This is highly simplistic, and oftentimes just not true. Everything depends on one's point of view, and as someone said, we do not see things as they are, we see things as we are. We are all the stars in our own film, and we all (especially when young) embark on a lifelong quest to find ourselves.
This is a quest which will ultimately prove fruitless.
The fact is, we all have two personalities. At least.
We have an outer self, which is on show, and an inner self, which is what I would call the thought balloon self. This is the self that has a running commentary which, if made public, would result in carnage, certainly the end of marriage as an institution, and a drastic drop in life expectancy. There would be no questions of guns being made freely available if thought balloons were made visible.
This inner self is also the repository of doubts, fears, jealousy, envy (the two are different), random cynicism, killing boredom, and most base desires (lust, gluttony,etc.). It also the source of beauty, poetry, a sadness which knows no bounds, contentment, and love.
This inner self is the sanctum of the Wad.
Good old Sigmund Freud divvied the human sentient being into the Ego, the Id, and the Superego. Waddism is a little more succinct. There is the Ego (the outer self) and the Wad.
And that is pretty much it.
Growing up and maturing is not so much a question of finding one's self, for indeed one of Waddism's tenets is that "From life's great trials we do not change; we only emerge as who we are."
The Wad is there. It is sort of a governor on the top speed we reach. It makes us fly, and brings us crashing back to earth. The Wad is our humanity.
The crucible of life is enough to temper the steel of one's character, and it is the hard times which will really define who we are. There is no need to look or discover yourself. The more you try, the more you will be frustrated. Forget about yourself. Think about the world around you and try to open up to the varied experiences, people, and worldviews available in it.
As the Mighty Wad says: Think of others. Be yourself.
Life, as a process, is the mastery (or indeed acceptance) of the Wad which is present in all of us, which can only be discovery by living, and following the singular path which is our destiny. The world will eventually tell us all we need to know about ourselves.
Waddism is the realization finally that we are all egotists, that we are bred and raised to be egotists, but that au fond, as the french say-at the heart of it all, this comes to nothing. Those who do blow their own horn all the time will eventually end up playing solo.
Nonetheless, society demands that we try to be egotistical. This is necessary in many respects just to keep your head above water. Behind every charitable action, admirable though it may be, is some tiny bit of egotism that yes, I have made a difference. You don't get to be the head of anything without valuing your opinion, or at least your ability to make a judgement about other people's opinions, above those of your fellow man.
Waddism is the embracing of this fact too. Not all wadhead traits come from being inept. Some actually come from being ept, if there is such a word (now there is), or perhaps apt. Waddism is listening to others, and listening to yourself, and when either voice gets a bit too loud, throttling it back a little.
We aren't even the center of our own universes, as incredibly limited those may be, though we like to think we are. You can be damn sure that somewhere out there there is another Wad who has thought the same thought, felt the same feeling, and done the same wadhead move in his/her own way.
It's okay to think of yourself, indeed you would be lying if you uttered otherwise. Just remember this Waddism though: Aim for perfect, get good. Start small, think big. Think of others; be yourself.
Waddism isn't a religion, though I suppose because it is universal it is a sort of religion. It is the belief in fallibility, much the same I suppose that Christianity sees everyone as a sinner. The difference is subtle, but Waddism doesn't see everyone as a sinner, because that implies choice. Waddism sees people more as massive screwups. There is no universal redemption in Waddism, because everything is a question of degree. If you are a screwup and don't do anything about it, pretty much you will be dealt with by nature through a brutal selection which will weed you out. However, one of the basic tenets of Waddism is that in life, there are two types of people who rise to the top: cream, and pond scum. Now, of course one hopes that the baddies get their come-uppance in the end, that they will end up in a bunker shooting themselves or being hung upside down in some square with their mistress and their eyes gouged out (see Hitler and Mussolini). However, it appears sometimes that justice, though retributive, is as random as everything else in life. For every lawyer who strikes a blow for justice, truth and redemption, there is some Johhny Cochran type who coins a slogan and gets his scummy client off scot free.
If there is a patron saint for Waddism, it is St. Jude Not Iscariot, as he was subsequently referred to (also known as St. Thaddeus), who eventually was martyred. Imagine having to have your name continuously qualified (like I am Paris, Not Hilton, for instance).
Anyway, St. Jude is the patron saint for lost causes.
Perfect, because one of the central tenets of Waddism is that we are all beset by lost causes. Life is a lost cause.
Franz Kafka, who knew a thing or two about futility, said that life is a series of small scale victories and large scale defeats.
Now, is Waddism negative, if this is the sort of claptrap it espouses?
No, I don't think so. It merely asks the question of yourself and others: How much of a screwup am I or the next person, and what can I do about this?
It is sort of empathy in reverse. You don't seek to understand if and why the other person is acting like a butthead (the guy who pushes past you when you are trying to get off the Tube, the boss who utters plain self-serving nonsense bereft of logic), you just assume it beforehand, and try to deal with it.
Take a look at yourself and try to minimise the Wadhead-ness in yourself, and assume it in others without being negative. Don't let it get you down, but don't pretend that just because you sign off on some it-makes-me-feel-better belief system this will change much about others.
A good friend of mine once said: I am sick of going deep-sea diving for good; if it is not on the surface I am not interested.
Waddism is about realising that the good might lie just below the surface, just as below the surface of what appears to be good may lurk some very nasty stuff indeed.
So don't be disappointed by yourself or others. Espouse forgiveness, but mete it out carefully.
Waddism is the postulate that behind every person there is a lummox, a klutz,a nebbish who does stupid bonehead things, who forgets to tie his shoelace, who slyly hides away from himself vital administrative things which need to be dealt with (taxes, insurance etc.); who fights a constant battle to keep things afloat whilst appearing externally to be in control. Waddism is the open admission that the public , put-together persona is in fact an illusion, carefully crafted perhaps, but an illusion nonetheless, done for the benefit of society and also to keep a job.
Waddism is not the same as angst or insecurity, however. It is not an admission of weakness; it is the embracing of weakness. It is the ability to really appreciate the deep down incompetence of us all, the failures, the petty jealousy, the forgetfulness, the faux-pas, the inappropriate comments, the unplumbed depths of human's capacity to bore, the sheer nearly-but-not-quite nature of the human condition. In sum, the wadhead moves we are all capable of.
The first time I was dubbed (much as a knight is dubbed) a wadhead was by my roommates when I was in grad school. I was in a house in Washington, a house I was admitted into in spite of myself, as they informed me afterwards , after an interview during which I sported a newly grown (giving myself more credit than was due) Fu Manchu moustache, done because the carpenters I was working with at the time both had one. To call it a Fu Manchu was actually above its station. My hair is (was) blondish, and the only part that was really visible were the two reddish side flaps going down either side, sort of like "two caterpillars crawling down either side of your mouth," as my friend Joel, later to become a lawyer put it. He said he had difficulty concentrating on what I was saying, thinking all the while "Why did he do that? He looks like an idiot."
But I got into the house anyway, a confirmation of one of the guiding features of Waddism, namely the ability to be GIVEN THE BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT. We could not, as humans, survive without this basic ability. On either side. I suppose it is a form of do unto others philosophy, but it is more the appreciation that Yes, that person is as big a screwup as I am, but I am ok with that. I also shaved off the Fu monstrosity the day after the interview. Unprompted, a casual admission that that particular peak was too steep to climb.
Waddism,and wadheads, can be endearing, if sometimes exasperating.
The investiture ceremony, if we can call it that....the moment that the Wadhead was enshrined, came at Joel's birthday, when his girlfriend at the time, Meryl Rose, penned the following limerick:
I can tell that it is no fluke
One thing about Joel makes me puke
It's bad that he studies
But worse that he's buddies
With Eric, the Wadhead from Duke.
And there it was. The birth of the Wadhead.
Waddism, the discovery that this was not, in fact, an isolated particular event, but indeed a universal event applicable to all, came later.
My roommates in grad school christened me Wadhead for some of the bonehead moves I used to do (such as leaving a ham hock lying around the kitchen for six weeks, which eventually ended up greeting me one morning in my shower).
However, even wadheads have their moments. Herewith the first in many installments of The Mighty Wad.
Living well is the best revenge, but having the last word ain't bad.
If you are reading Your Old Man Says for the first time, start at the beginning, and go back and read Five Stages. Chew that over for a while, and then you will have a better idea (or perhaps interest) in that fundamental question: Why? Click on the graphic above THANKS, ERIC
THE MIDLIFE CANOE CLUB
Click on the picture to read about a journey up to the Hudson Bay