To look at me, you wouldn’t think that I was such a thinker. I might look like a meat-head, but there is some depth below the surface. I live so deeply inside my head that sometimes I find the “real” world a very odd place. That is most likely some psychological condition that I accept as normal but a psychologist might find interesting. Whatever, I am happy with my deepness. So pardon my departure into the purely philosophical. I wrote this long ago and found it just recently. After spell checking, I thought I would share it.
One thing I often do and enjoy is the finding of brilliance in the simplest of things. For example: think of the old song we all learned in grade school, or earlier: Row Row Your Boat. Every part of that song imparts wisdom, but in our singing it as children no one ever pointed out that all we needed to know in life was summed up in that one song. I remember our music teacher teaching us the song when I was in kindergarten. I recall thinking more about why one group was supposed to start singing it as another group was finishing, and being so confused by that process. How would it end? Why would anyone sing a song like that? I never thought that maybe it was to slam the lesson of the song into our heads by repetition. But honestly, I don’t know if even Ms. Weingartner “got” this song, way back in 1969, my K year.
As I see it it the song imparts 4 lessons.
Lesson 1. “Row, Row, Row your boat…” Life is not experienced without a little effort. We must work to move forward. We must keep nose to the grindstone. Our lives will only succeed if we work at success and sometimes it may seem like all we do is work. I understand and empathize with that sentiment because I have had many days when I felt that all I was doing was work, work, work. How about you?
Lesson 2. “gently down the stream…” Life is full of struggle, it’s what makes life an wild adventure and enjoyable too; we cannot truly know sunshine until we have been in the rain, right? But the song tells us to keep our efforts “gentle”. To do our work or “rowing” with kindness and without violence. Life may be a series of moments of pain but the suffering from the pain is only optional. When we live with kindness and compassion the suffering is diminished, and to return to our analogy, all that remains is smooth sailing.
Lesson 3. “merrily, merrily merrily merrily”… Abraham Lincoln once said that people are about as happy as they make up their mind to be. That is what the song tells us in lesson #3. Choose to be happy. Now we cannot practically plod from day to day smiling at every stressor and hardship that comes our way, but wouldn’t be refreshing to look at those troubles as blessings? Flip the perspective to see how happy you could truly be. “I am so tired after work” can shift to “I am so happy accomplishing things at work and I am happy to have a job.” There is an old Buddhist teaching on perspective that tells of a farmer who’s neighbor says how badly he feels that the farmer’s horse ran away, but the farmer says when the horse came back it brought 6 new horses along, who knows what is good or bad? When the farmer’s son broke his leg, the neighbor was again sympathetic, but the farmer explains how the army could not draft him to war because of his leg, so who knows what is good or bad? The story goes on and on. Who knows what is good or bad, so isn’t it easier to make up your mind to be happy, regardless?
And lastly; Lesson 4. “life is but a dream.” After all is said and done, our little lives are mere blips on the timeline of this world. All of our worries and cares, problems and stressors as well as our victories and successes are merely illusion. The mark we make, the legacies we leave are remembered for only a short while but overall they are just a little bit longer of a blip. All the things we value and the things we detest are not even real in the greater scheme of things. This whole adventure is just a dream. What truly matters is how we make others happy while we are dreaming, that is what leaves a legacy and extends our blip. If all we can do is work for a longer blip, doesn’t it make sense to be happy while we row?