Column by Jim Bishop
“You can’t always get what you want
“And if you try sometime you find
“You get what you need …”
– Rolling Stones (1969)
There’s something out of kilter, if I stop and think long enough (always a scary prospect), if we only give thanks on one designated day in late November.
I was lost in reverie – cruising through the ‘Burg over a brisk, sunny noon hour and not paying adequate attention to traffic signals – when this realization smacked upside my thick skull. It helped to be wrapping my telescope tongue around a Kline’s raspberry cone while a Lee Andrews and the Hearts street corner harmony classic emanated from the car speakers – in anticipation of recording this week’s “Friday Night Jukebox” show on WEMC-FM.
While easier said than achieved, we should strive for a Thanksgiving state of mind every day of the year.
Ditto for Christmas. Didn’t Elvis once croon a rhetorical tune, “What if Everyday Was Like Christmas?” If anyone should have experienced such an idyllic state, it was The King, who could have anything he wanted but fell from Graceland at too young an age (42).
Admittedly, striving to maintain this constant attitude of gratitude when having a bad day – often for reasons beyond my control. I find I too readily sink into a grand funk over minutia.
Are our efforts to break forth into elation and praise being impeded by the pressures of our ever more complex society?
For almost 20 years, I hosted a weekly half-hour public-affairs program on WEMC radio called “Focal Point.” Early on, I broke with the usual public-affairs interview format on the Thursday closest to Thanksgiving to play special music selections of praise and thankfulness.
Between music numbers, I offered brief reflections on being grateful, whatever the season or circumstances.
In looking back at a listing compiled some years ago, I was struck how many of these sentiments might be affected, even altered, by the many changes that swirl about our being.
Here’s that list again, with qualifiers added in parenthesis:
– Compiling a scrapbook (do many people know what these are?).
– Reminiscing over photo albums (gather ’round the computer and gaze upon digital images).
– Quaffing ice water on a sultry day (if it ain’t bottled, forget it).
– Sipping hot chocolate while ice skating on a frosty night (when was the last time any area ponds were safe for skating? Global warming, perhaps?).
– Receiving an unexpected a phone call or letter (today, one might add an e-mail message) from an old friend (replaced today by e-mail or text messages).
– Hearing a song that speaks to you (over the discord of the hip-hop cacophony pulsing from the vehicle next to you at the stop light).
– Taking a getaway weekend or well-deserved vacation (with regular gas over three dollars a gallon).
– Receiving a compliment (i.e., “you meant well”).
– Finishing a difficult task (who can we blame for this project?).
– Giving a warm smile and reassuring touch (possible sexual harassment?).
– A stimulating conversation (but keep it politically correct).
– Hearing the laughter of children (they’re probably making fun of me).
– The love and care of family (when did we last sit down for a leisurely meal together?).
– Celebrating good health and mental alertness (while nursing lower back pain and another attack of senioritus).
– Worshiping and joining in harmony with fellow believers (must we sing these repetitive, off-the-wall choruses?).
Get the idea? So many good experiences that I should continually be thankful for so easily become tainted by ongoing struggles with envy, doubt, cynicism, even outright despair.
A meditation that I filed away more than 40 years ago by Jack Leax – no idea who he is – still speaks volumes to me in this regard:
“Though I seek to want no more than I need and turn my back on the blandishments of desire, wholeness is not mine.
“Rumors of war disturb my sleep, and fears of the end of life gnaw my joy.
“I live by moments of vision clearing in the dailiness of toil.
“This morning, when I came in wet with good sweat from splitting wood, thanksgiving played in the laughter of mother, wife and daughter.”
The late Southern comedian Brother Dave Gardner said, “Happiness isn’t getting what you want. It’s wanting what you get.”
Separating needs from wants is a lifelong journey. Along the way, I want to ask for less, strive to give more and in the process, to simply enjoy and to celebrate life daily.
Now thank we all our God …
Jim Bishop is a regular contributor to The Augusta Free Press.