The Meaning of Life
A week or so ago, I had a conversation with a sophomore from the University of Iowa. He was looking forward to a course he'd be taking next semester having to do with "the meaning of life.” I was encouraged by his enthusiasm, and am looking forward to hearing from him as he gets into the subject matter. Events of the past week or two have done much to contribute to my own view of this heady question. I'd like to share a bit of wisdom gleaned from some recent, local stories of interest.
On Nov. 17, the Daily Reporter ran a front page story on the United States Postal Service (our local post office). The gist of things was that they'll be holding mail for pick up in person when one of their carriers encounters an unsecured dog on the patron's property. Photos in the article showed what carnage was inflicted on carriers when they encountered one of the dogs in question this past year. Some pretty nasty wounds were inflicted! I'm left wondering about repercussions to the owners of said creatures: were they charged with any crime? was any money forthcoming for the medical bills, lost work time, or pain and suffering inflicted? The point is not to exact a "pound of flesh" in retaliation, but to determine if any consequence has been imposed, other than the loss of mail delivered to the owner's home until he/she gets a sufficient restraint, or keeps said offending pooch safely indoors at the time of the carrier making their appointed rounds.
Then there are the mug shots in the "Sirens" portion of the newspaper. Is it my imagination, or are there more domestic violence reports? It is men abusing women as well as women being the abusers. There are folks charged with shooting at others, attacking law enforcement officers, and in general behaving badly. Some of the offenses are related to methamphetamine use and some aren't. Are we getting more out of hand, under more stress, acting with fewer and fewer personal control mechanisms in place? What's to be done? Can't we do better?
Don't get me wrong, I didn't let these negative events spoil my Thanksgiving or the build up to the feast. I was privileged to attend the 71st Annual Iowa All-State Festival Concert at Hilton Coliseum last Saturday. What an awesome display of musical talent, featuring the state's best high school musicians and singers! Then there was the story I heard of the year long project at Spencer Middle School emphasizing values we should all be displaying. Just think T I G E R S, as in Treat others with respect; use your Intelligence; display a Great attitude; show Empathy; be Responsible; and Strive for excellence. Good advice for all of us! Almost makes me want to repeat middle school to get in on the good stuff!
It all boils down to a few tried and true bromides/principles, or platitudes — this business of why we are here, and what is expected of us. We need an infusion of respect (both for ourselves as individuals, and for others in general). There must be accountability. Actions do have consequences. And as that great old hymn proclaims, "Trust and obey, for there's no other way!” Keep these guidelines in mind, act on them, and I bet we will become a more civil people. I'm sure hopeful, how about you?
— Bill Kersting, Spencer