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You may have noticed that Think in the Morning has been absent for a few weeks. We’ve been in Mexico, one of our favorite places to visit, working on another project I hope to share with you at some not too distant point in the future.
When we travel we rely on a friend to pick up mail and pay bills so that we won’t leave our creditors hanging like the man who was once the leader of the free world. Our friend’s Hispanic mother enjoys Spanish reading materials so we try to bring a few pieces home for her whenever we travel below the border. This time we decided to go out on a limb and buy a book, a book we had not read and knew little about. I found the book at the airport and was able to loosely translate the title and the review on the backside. It seemed appropriate. Just to be sure I inquired from a few locals at the airport whose local dialect was Spanish and they gave their approval. The title grabbed me as something she might like (in English): The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared.
Once home I got a bit nervous. I did not want to give my friend’s mother a book that might offend her. I decided to read it myself first so I purchased it in English and read it through before passing on the Spanish version. It turns out I was late to the party. The book, written by Jonas Jonasson, has sold over 5 million copies (as I was able to read on the cover of the Spanish edition) and has been made into a movie. After reading and enjoying the book, I watched the movie just to be sure. As usual, the movie is not (in my opinion) nearly as good as the book but it’s fun too if you can get through the subtitles (much of the movie is in Swedish).
It often turns out that an absurd, silly, serious book (oxymoron or not) offers a bit of wisdom hidden between the lines or in the comments of the characters. For example, regarding Voltaire’s Candide the most famous lines may well be:
All is for the best in the best of all possible worlds Pangloss
Let us cultivate our garden Candide
Pangloss is a stand in for G. W. von Leibniz, the famous Enlightenment thinker Voltaire was parodying. Candide, after traveling the world and seeing/experiencing all the best and worst of life concludes sensibly that we might just as well stay home to cultivate our gardens.
The similarity to Kosiński’s Being There is obvious. The main character, Chance the Gardener, gets caught up in a case of mistaken identity and his simple thoughts on life are accepted as great wisdom, which with the right interpretation they may be.
As long as the roots are not severed, all is well. And all will be well in the garden.
In the garden, growth has it seasons. First comes spring and summer, but then we have fall and winter. And then we get spring and summer again.
Yes! There will be growth in the spring!
The protagonist of The Hundred Year Old Man, Allan Karlsson, has a great deal of quirky wisdom on offer.
Things are what they are, and whatever will be will be. That meant, among other things, that you didn’t make a fuss, especially when there was good reason to do so.
Allan thought it sounded unnecessary for the people in the seventeenth century to kill each other. If they had only been a little patient they would all have died in the end anyway.
Revenge is not a good thing, Allan warned him. Revenge is like politics: one thing always leads to another until bad has become worse, and worse has become worst.
Allan had always reasoned about religion that if you couldn’t know for sure then there was no point in going around guessing.
People could do what they wanted, but Allan considered that in general it was quite unnecessary to be grumpy if you had the chance not to.
Once you’ve reached a certain age, it is easier to sense when everything feels exactly right.
Life worked in such a way that right was not necessarily right, but rather what the person in charge said was right.
What happened happened. There was no point in second-guessing it.
And the more I think about it, the more I think that we should just leave it at that, and you’ll see that things will turn out like they do, because that is what usually happens—almost always, in fact.
As I get further into this blog I’m not at all sure what I’m getting at. I only know that finding Jonasson’s book while searching for a present for a lady I admire led to a bit of serendipity since it encouraged me to read the book myself and watch the movie and those enjoyable diversions dispelled the gloom of arriving back in Trumplandia. I’ll leave you with a couple of lines from some past blogs.
Because there can be no complete map we make connections, metaphors; we are charmed by serendipity and make much of coincidences (fooled by randomness as Nassim Nicholas Taleb writes). I remember a good friend, Hanley Norins, who was in advertising (he wrote the Brylcreem Ad “A Little Dab ‘ill do ya”). He taught me about “brain-storming” sessions where to solve a problem a group of people just throw out wild ideas that are put down on a blackboard. Eventually the ideas coalesce into the solution. Genius. Road Tripping Toward World Peace
What we love about Mexico is the serendipity, stories that move us and restore our faith in the human race. This is especially true in times like today where depression can easily set in if we don’t fight back. A Puerto Vallarta Story