Nietzsche might have been a sleepy dad and you could be a cactus, if you needed to.
April 19, 2017
It's a Sunday night and I've just noticed one of my headlights is out. As any 23-year-old half-adult would do, I text my dad*.
Me: I have a headlight out. Can we fix or do I need to go somewhere?
Dad: We should be able to install but need to buy bulbs. Good idea to do both when one goes to avoid having the second go out. Be extra careful!
Me: Got it.
Me: Are bulbs pricey?
Dad: Not too bad but you plant in Fall for Spring flowers.
Me: *thinking*what? is that a metaphor? is he telling me to be patient while replacing this light bulb? deep, Dad. too deep.
Me: hahaha what? you mean, like, plan ahead?
Dad: Yea! I've been sitting on daffodil bulbs for 2 years 'cause keep forgetting to plant in fall 🙄😔
Me: I meant for my car.
Me: *thinking* damn, that was almost so philosophical.
Sometimes we find answers in unexpected places. Or, sometimes, dads forget what kind of bulbs you were talking about and drop unintentional truth bombs like "you plant in Fall for Spring flowers" and you create an answer — because apparently you need one. I was so ready to accept my dad's vague maxim and apply it to my life as guide to patience and growth, it's like I was waiting for it. So maybe I still should. I mean, can you blame me? That's some applicable stuff right there. Who is to say where is the right or wrong place to find the guidance we need?
We've become totally comfortable buying self-help books and seeking out spiritual readings in search of answers to life's great questions, which is all totally good and fine and makes capitalism very happy, yet we don't trust ourselves to create any of that knowledge for ourselves. We'd sooner laugh off an attempt at finding meaning in our own lives as "pathetic" or "desperate" than entertain the idea that we might actually be on to something smart. I'm here to tell you that's a mistake...
because what if all great philosophers were really just sleepy dads?**
What if all those Wikipedia entries I just scanned (had to do a quick Google search for "famous philosophers with children?") were built on contrived histories because Kant and Nietzsche didn't want us to know the real truth: that they were dads. They weren't actually making thoughtful arguments, they were just blathering on about whatever came to mind after too many malt whiskies at bath time, praying for sleep to overtake their grumpy toddlers. Maybe none of the greats actually meant to answer any questions or prove any points at all. Maybe they just, you know, said stuff.
And then we made it philosophy because people needed it.
Sometimes we have to make the universe work for us, rather than sit around hoping for the big "everything will be okay!" sign fall from the sky. I recently went through one of those when-rains-it-pours phases (in a good way) where it seemed like everything I had been working and waiting for was finally happening at an almost frustrating rate; a rate where I couldn't accept or even acknowledge a good deal of what was being placed at my feet. It felt, for a brief period of time, like I was on top.
And such is life. Sometimes when it rains, it does indeed pour. But what about during the dry season? What about those times where our mental health just feels like too much to manage or like that project we've been killing ourself over just isn't happening. What do we do when there is no rain, when we've found ourselves on a Griswold-style vacation to the desert? Do we just shrivel up into sad, frustrated lumps of dehydrated human-fruit cursing the universe for not sending us what we need?
No. We become cacti.
We plant ourselves in the fall and wait for spring, just like dad said. We find some unintentional piece of inspiration and we latch onto it, using it as a reason to keep on living and eventually evolve into a totally bad-ass, water retaining plant that can withstand up to two years without water.
...I just mixed a lot of metaphors. You still with me? Good. It's like metaphor paella up in here, eat up.
All of the answers might not be right in front of us, and while sometimes that might be the call for patience, it might also mean we're just going to have to make the answer for ourselves. The things we need, the things we're missing, will come when there is room for them. And after enough time passes and there still isn't room for them, that's when we make it. We find the room by tossing out old boxes and start finding life lessons in misconstrued text messages.
Because you need to.
*If your parents do nice things for you, this is a reminder to thank them. Maybe with booze, or food, or just words. Thanks, Dad.
**or moms. there are female philosophers, too. DUH.