It is rare that I ever find myself searching for meaning anymore. That is not to say that I always know what it’s all about – that is a rare occurrence indeed. It’s just that on some level, I don’t feel as though I am on this futile quest for meaning. Does this mean that I have found it? I don’t know, however, the sense of purpose that was until recently missing in my life is now present most of the time.
It is not always a pleasant feeling. As the cliché goes, ignorance is bliss. At least it can be. There are situations that life presents me with that demand some action – I not only know that, but usually I know what that action is. Sometimes it is doing nothing. Sometimes it is doing what I genuinely don’t want to do… I know the short-term effect may not be pretty and the long-term outcome is never guaranteed. Alas, enlightenment is not always all it’s cracked up to be.
So it is today that I am presented with a problem that demands action. There will be a showdown with my unemployed, 18 year-old, high school dropout son. I have been encouraging, nudging, coercing, even bribing him to do something. I have led him to water, but I can’t make him drink. There are overtones of my own aimlessness at his age and it is my sincerest desire that he not go through what I did. However, he inherited much from his father and there may be little I can do.
He had a bad day yesterday. He let yet another golden opportunity slip through his fingers and we had words about that. He was involved in an accident that caved in the left side his 1969 Chevy Impala. His car was one of a very few things he really cared about. He and I spent many hours and a lot of dollars making it a much more than an automobile. It is probably going to be totaled and fault has yet to be determined. Even if he is not found to be at fault, the car cannot be replaced and the pay off will not equal the money invested, never mind the blood.
He is not one to believe in… well, let’s just call them “signs.” I wasn’t either at his age. I just thought I had bad luck. The point here is that if he had spent his day doing what he had agreed to do – take the GED test in preparation to enter an auto tech school – that’s where he would have been, not on the road. Because he couldn’t bring himself to put forth the effort required to do it – for whatever reason – he found himself in a situation I assume he could have done without. Cause and effect? Crime and punishment? No, but in the realm of reality and what if, the outcome would have been different.
It took me a very, very long time to realize that I was the master of my fate. When I finally accepted this and learned to work with it, things in my life took a dramatic turn for the better. My hope is that perhaps my boy might be able to see this at 18 rather than 38 or 40… that through my experience he can gain some wisdom. In the meantime, he has some very big hurdles to cross and so do I. Today I will be making some new rules and demands that neither one of us will like.
He called me moments after the wreck happened; he had not even driven off the road yet. He was confused and a little freaked out and he needed his dad. Despite our conflict that morning, there was no question as to my response. I arrived just as the information was being exchanged. Judging by the damage, it’s amazing no one was hurt. As the moment was coming to an end and everyone was going their separate ways, I asked him if he was ready to hear what he did not want to. He turned to me with a forlorn look and nodded. I told him if he were doing what he was "supposed" to be doing, he wouldn’t have been there.
This is where the “what ifs” start. I don’t want to hear it. Here’s the thing: I fully concede that the outcome could have ranged anywhere from the moon falling out of the sky to him striking gold in my driveway had he or anyone else been somewhere else. It’s the butterfly effect argument. “If a butterfly flaps his wings at a specific time in a specific place, the chain reaction resulting from the disturbed air of that flap will radically alter the future.” There is only one fact. If he had been taking the test, he would not have been in that intersection. Fact! Anything else is nothing but pure speculation.
One doesn’t have to believe in anything beyond the here and now to accept the fact that there would have been a different outcome. I hope that maybe whatever was obstructing his motivation to do something positive now pales in comparison to the actual outcome of that decision. It was, once upon a time, nearly impossible for me to make that link. Today, the evidence is overwhelming.