There’s a scene in the movie City Slickers, where Curly (acted by Jack Palance) asks Mitch (Billy Crystal) if he knows what the secret of life is. Answering his own question, Curly then holds up his pointer finger and says, “This one thing.” Mitch, puzzled, asks Curly “But what’s the one thing?” “That,” says Curly cryptically, “is what you have to find out.”
Late in 2003, I was told that I was dying of cancer. I’d always thought being told you had cancer would be the worst part, but it wasn’t like that for me. What worried me the most was the realisation I hadn’t worked out what it was, not by a long shot.
Now, almost ten years later, I’m still working on it. I like to believe I’m closer than I was. My current operating theory runs like this: in order to work out what’s really important – what it is – it helps to know what isn’t really important.
Here are a few things I’ve worked out are not really important to me -
Having a dust free house.
Being right every time, and making sure everyone knows it.
Knowing for certain whether there is a God or not, and whose side He or She is on.
Creating art or writing other people think is good.
Singing songs that other people think are good.
Having perky l’il breasts.
Remembering who wronged me when, and why.
Forgetting to apologise to those you’ve wronged.
Our parents mistakes.
Our children’s mistakes.
Our own mistakes.
Succeeding at making others happy by failing to ever start trying to do what you suspect you were created to do.
Thinking the price for others’ happiness is your own misery.
Thinking the price for your own happiness is others’ misery.
Worrying about looking young.
Worrying about growing old.
Worrying what others think of you.
Winning. (I know I already said that but it’s really not important. Unless there’s a gold medal at stake, and there usually isn’t.)
Adapting your efforts to the opinions of critics.
Ignoring the advice of true friends, and very wise people.
Getting what you want.
Getting what you think you have coming to you.
And there’s more.
Isn’t there, friend?
Could well be you’ll work out what it is, by clarifying what it is not. Time is short. We only have the rest of our lives to work it out, remember?
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