Fools and Wise Men

Finally the sun is out for more than a day and the ocean reflects the blue sky above, framed by the snow capped coastal mountains rising straight up from the waters edge. There is no more dramatic scenery, no better awe inspiring vista than this spectacular view from ‘Grandma’s Pub’ over the rim of a pint of Persephone’s Golden Goddess. Camp and I drank a toast to the glorious summer ahead.

Campbell was in an expansive mood having just been able to swing a tied vote in council his way, about the expansion of the yacht club. “We need more mooring to accommodate a waiting list which is as long as my arm. The breakwater was always in the wrong place and should have been out by the cliff which is what we now propose to do.”

“How did you sway Muriel, plied her with wine and promises?”

Camp actually turned a shade of red, which was not like him at all, always stoic and in control of his demeanor except for his wild and unruly shock of curly gray hair.

“I see, the intricate twists and turns and wily power shuffles of local politics,” I said, enjoying his obvious discomfort.

“It’s not what you think?” Camp said with a dismissive wave of his hand, “I simply convinced her that a vote for the breakwater is a vote for a better future of the harbor, the yacht club and the town as a whole.”

“Congrats Camp, here is to more yachts and boats. You do know what BOAT stands for?” Camp raised an expectant eyebrow. “Bring On Another Thousand.”

We drank to that and then Camp wanted to get something off his chest.

“There are a lot more fools then wise man on this earth. The fools are usually found in a crowd while the wise man sits by himself enjoying the big joke. You want to know what the big joke is? It’s the difference between what we think we are and what we are or as Albert Einstein pointed out, planet earth is really the insane asylum of the universe.”

“Yes and the patients are running the shop and nobody is in charge.”

“Considering this planet contains upward of six billion people, half of whom are simply too preoccupied with food and shelter to care about anything else, it is a miracle that as a species we have made it this far. Most of the time we scramble through life blindly, from day to day, from one thought to another, from memories to ideas, from dreams to action, not necessarily in that order. If life turns out OK we say we’re lucky and if things go wrong then it’s never our fault and is just plain bad luck. We pay lip service to the ‘live and learn from your mistakes’ theory but do we actually practice it?”

“Some of us try, Camp. Not everybody can be a success, especially measured in material wealth. There have to be failures, otherwise how do we measure success? Better to be a failure who tried his or her best then be a success due to the place of birth, which is totally arbitrary, life’s great lottery.”

“Not sure about that,” Camp mused. “I’m happy to be born in Canada and I try to do something worthwhile with that privilege. Anyway, my point is that fools stumble along, following the herd over the cliff and thus never find out what their potential could have been,” Camp paused, staring into his empty glass. “I’ve been a fool most of my life but luckily the herd I was running with didn’t actually go over the cliff, they just sort of dispersed in the wilderness and left me wandering in the wild. I finally found my own way.”

“I guess what saved me from myself is my better half Clare,” I said, “she always points the way to worthwhile goals on the horizon, to a positive outlook, to better self-esteem. I never really see anything that far ahead, maybe to the next pint and possibly the one after that.  I’m usually still trying to figure out what I’m doing at the moment.”

As Vicky the waitress set another couple of cool pints in front of us I added: “As a loyal fool and self-respecting member or the working class I limit myself to a philosophy of simplicity, which is just another euphemism for laziness.” I looked out at the breathtaking view, not really seeing the beauty, being pre-occupied with our beer-philosophical musings. “Instead of following the herd I took some chances Camp, and rather then follow my dreams I chose the easy route and opted for the job that paid the most money,” I admitted.

“You’re not alone buddy,” Camp said, not showing too much sympathy, “you’re lucky to have Clare as your compass in life.”

The fear of failure always loomed larger then the vision of success and I wasn’t about to tell anybody about my hidden fantasy life because it kept changing.

“Don’t I know it,” I said. “Clare is wiser than a tree full of owls. She doesn’t question reality, she lives it. She has no illusions about herself and accepts the person she is, the body she inhabits and the people she encounters. Whatever made her fall in love with me is one of the great, unsolved mysteries of life.”

“Love is a great mystery,” Camp said, nodding his wild unruly head of hair.

“You always know where you’re at with her. And honesty and compassion aren’t cultivated virtues, she’s born with them,” I said.

“Honesty is one of those ambiguous qualities in politics,” Camp said, “sometimes the truth hides in silence and honesty is admitting fault.”

We sipped our beers, enjoying the sunny vista and blue sky.

“Do you remember Clare’s old aunt Dorothy?”

“She had that old gnarly walking stick and always wore gloves, even in the summer.”

“Yeah, that was her. She had eczema on her hands. She was an avid reader and could quote history books and she regularly read her newspaper, didn’t trust the TV but on the other hand she was unable to look after herself. All her life Dorothy was dependent on her former husband to cook, to pay the bills and to manage. Widowed for the last ten years, she just went on living as if nothing had changed and ended up in a complete mess, physically, emotionally and environmentally. She didn’t pay her hydro or phone bill but instead gave away her money to charities of every description. When we saw the list of her benefactors at the bank we were flabbergasted.”

“She was swindled out of her money by telemarketers and cyber criminals masquerading as charities,” Camp said. “It’s a massive industry, stealing from the elderly. Depraved lowlifes and bottom feeders, the dregs of humanity.”

“Well, Clare put me in charge of her aunt’s finances since Dorothy would only listen to a man but not to a woman, no matter how wise. But I was put in charge of figuring things out after they happened which meant that I was basically like the Dutch boy with the finger in the dyke, unable to stop the outflow of her money until it was all but gone. Dorothy would never believe that she’d been taken for a ride. She didn’t want to acknowledge that there was a seedy side of life and firmly believed in the good of humanity and her donations, even if she was blatantly ripped off. She led a good life, mostly inconsequential, average, but dignified and I just couldn’t take that away from her and so refrained from telling her the ugly truth. After all it’s dignity that is the most important human quality, for fools and wise men alike.”

“You’re right there,” Camp acknowledged. “You could have saved her some money but she would have lost not only her dignity but her faith in humanity and that in itself was priceless.”

We drank to that. “Now, having myself arrived at certain mature age I consider myself to be a combination of both: a dignified fool.”

“That, I suppose, makes you a wise guy,” Camp said, toasting me with his empty mug and a wink. “Until next week.”

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