Why can’t we fly our freak flag more freely?

Photo - Austin Schmid - unsplash

I was talking with my daughter once about constraints. We talked about how we all feel bound up by them and how we rarely let ourselves "fly our freak flags." I have been thinking a lot over the last few years about why this is. That is for later. Today I just want to talk about three quotes that have worked on me for years and years, one by Thoreau I have had perched on my shoulder since I was 22 or so. In the still quiet hours when I indulge in regret, these quotes are the source of those regrets.

The first is the one by Thoreau I mentioned. You have heard it, I am sure.

"The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation."

When I first heard it, I swore it would never describe me. But the way things are set up, it's only someone as rare as Thoreau who might be able to escape falling prey to this feeling, at least sometimes in their life. Unfortunately, I have found it to be true from time to time, and sometimes more often than not!

I believe that the reasons for this are external, and in future discussions, I might share why I think this is true. But, for now, let me just say that we are all bound by a lot of programming and inertia. Explaining why I think that is and what we can do to get past it is what much of my musing and philosophizing is about.

The second quote is similar to the first. I first heard it when I was in church, back when I still went to church. Oliver Wendell Holmes was born while Thoreau was still alive, and he may have been channeling Thoreau somewhat. But here, he speaks more as if the person is not aware of the situation as the quietly desperate person Thoreau is speaking of obviously is.

"Many people die with their music still in them. Too often it is because they are always getting ready to live. Before they know it time runs out."

Again, I think the reasons for this are external as well. Our attention is one of today's most significant, valuable commodities. Entire industries, our whole economic system, they are all based on getting and keeping our attention. Misdirecting us to look at the latest shiny thing rather than the reality right in front of us.

Finally, the third quote. This isn't really a quote as much as a proverb.

"when an old man dies a library burns."

This one is the latest one to come to me, and it's not a negative sentiment in and of itself. It is just stating a fact. However, it does make me think about how much I have gained over the years through experience working, loving, family and friends, dealing with others, traveling, and life. We all go through lots of the same types of experiences. Yet, for whatever reason, we are too stubborn to listen and learn from others' experiences. Instead, we would rather bang our heads against the wall to learn things the hard way.

I expect that everyone is this way, and we have been this way since time immemorial. I do not expect to change that. But if even one word, thought, or idea helps anyone, that would be awesome. I have been helped by others, dead and alive. I have been helped by things my Grandfather told me, but not until after he was long gone. I have been helped by things philosophers in Ancient Greece and Rome said or wrote millennia ago. I have been helped by things my wife said when she wasn't even trying. I have been helped talking to my kids, friends, co-workers, and complete strangers.

Some of these were just words of kindness, and some were profound. Some were for the moment only, and some were for all time. When I tried to share some of these with others, some got it, and some didn't. None of us know what word or act we may say or do and of which we might be completely unaware might make some profound impact on someone. That is all this is. Read on or not, that is on you. Me, I just want to share.

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scribbler of stories and poems, muser extraordinaire. Refusing to be put in a box, I think what I like and write what I think.


Eddie Merkel: globetrotter, autodidact, and storyteller. Oklahoma to Angola, Switzerland to now settled in NY. Writes on Amazon Vella & emerkel.com. Living a life of adventure with his French Canadian wife Mireille, embracing freedom and curiosity.