By Patrick Blau
Back in late 2006, during a weekend with both of my kids, we heard a song on the radio that I found really enjoyable. Being the disc jockey wannabe that I was and still am, I found the song online and played it about 100 times in a row. My kids were used to and tolerant of this sort of behavior from me. My son, Kevin, was going through a bit of a rough patch in his young life, and the message of the song spoke to us both, helping us to forge a stronger bond. Even today, years afterwards, we bring the lyrics up to one another now and then and it makes me smile, inside and out. With the pitfalls and disappointments everyone has to deal with at certain points in their lives, it’s good to know there are people who have gone through some of these moments with us. One of them, for me, is Kevin. One of them, for him, is me. That will be a definite thing, for the rest of our lives.
Occasionally it’s a good idea to step back from our lives, to take stock of where we are and where we’re going. During our busy American lifestyles we should all stop at one time or another and
ask ourselves questions. It’s a good thing to do in a country where we are taught that the reason for existing is to get stuff, to have things, and to have more of them than everyone else. We sometimes ask ourselves, “Where’s the purpose in all this? What’s the reason for the world, anyway?“ Your answers can reveal things about you as a person; you may be appreciative of where you are, how you got there, and where you’re going. Or you may be unsatisfied and feeling the sting of ambition swirling around inside of you. It’s all in your personal perception. The whole half-full/half-empty thing could help you recognize how much water is in your own life’s glass, and if it’s clear enough to see the level inside it.
Using your imagination, pretend you live in a 400-square-foot house or apartment. ou own one car that is barely bigger than a Yugo. Your shower is a 3-foot-by-3-foot curtain-enclosed piece of floor that has a drain in it. You have no grass surrounding your little 20’ x 20’ residence, not really any dirt to even plant a flower in, and one of the busier streets is directly outside your living room window. Half of the nearby houses are empty for most of the year. ccasionally during the summer there’s the scent of cows who are no longer constipated wafting on the air. There are flies, lots of them in the summer, and you have to buy fly paper just to control the little buggers. Imagine that 90 percent of the residents where you live have a dog, some more than one dog, and they talk to each other often. Quite often. One of the neighborhood dogs has a pattern of barking three times, rather loudly, followed by a long and drawn out howl, and the creature performs that routine almost every afternoon. Even better, this particular dog lives right next to you.
Now, with this exercise in imagination over, let’s take a look at your personal life glass. If yours is half empty, a little dirty or clouded, the mental exercise we just went through would present a pretty bleak picture to your imagination. A tiny house, a tinier car, a shower that is tinier still; claustrophobia looms. Perhaps you had visions of sterile blacktop and cement everywhere. Those who are more imaginative, did you think of boarded up windows on the surrounding empty houses, here and there a bit of graffiti, yards unkempt and overgrown from neglect? Perhaps visions of backed up sewers creating the cow waste aroma, flies hovering on and around all of it? You might have been able to hear those dogs barking in your mind, grating on your nerves enough to form visions of mayhem against your neighbors who failed to train and don’t control their animals. This is one way to mentally view the scenes I described to you.
Maybe your glass is half-full, clear, and you saw in your mind these scenes another way. You would have imagined a cozy place, albeit small by American standards, clean and bright inside with a smallish wooden mezzanine that reminds you of lofts inside A-frame cabins in the forest. A tiny car at least gets great gas mileage, and maybe you envisioned it in black, shiny, and still relatively new.Did you imagine the small shower space to be what is called a douche italian (Italian shower), aving colorful, smooth, and irregularly cut stones mortared into the gently sloping floor? While mentally creating the scene of the busier street right outside your living room window, maybe you saw friendly farmers waving from tractors as they drove by on their way to their nearby fields, where healthy cows wait for the roll of hay he’s bringing to them on the forks in front of the tractor. The occasional smell from the healthy cows is okay; it just means you’re super close to the country. Maybe you didn’t mind the flies in your imaginings, either. They are messengers from the country too, and thank God that we invented fly paper to make them only a minor nuisance. And the dogs barking. Well, could be that you figured they really only bark when someone walks by because they want to say hello to everyone who passes them. They don’t snarl or drip drool at you; they just wag their tails and run towards you hoping that you care enough to reach through the fence and scratch their heads or necks, or give them a gentle thump on their sides or backs. That dog next door to you who howls? Maybe she only does that to attract your attention because you usually respond to that pattern of barks by walking over to see her run to her gate when she recognizes the sounds of your approaching steps. She gets some good head and neck scratching along with a few side and back thumps to reward her howling effort. Could be. Maybe. Perhaps.
Our house here in Septfonds, France is only 400-square-feet, and we love it. It’s our first home together, so it’s special to us. Our one somewhat tiny car is a black Renault Clio, and it’s comfortable and clean, while getting right around 50 miles to the gallon. I’d never seen a one square meter Italian shower before in my life, but I have come to really appreciate it’s convenience. It’s kind of fancy, in a European sort of way.
Both Sarah and I sometimes wave to the farmers when they rumble by our living room window and down our street, and it always makes me smile and think of the country song about taking a ride on a big green tractor. During the warmer months, when the winter-empty homes in our neighborhood are filled with families that like to vacation in quiet French villages, Septfonds is alive with the sounds of playing children and the sights of couples walking the streets into the dark hours of the evening, comfortable in the security of small town life. The dog next door is named Kaiya. She’s a big, slightly overfed yellow lab who barks three times and then howls, calling for me to come outside and reach through the fenced gate to reward her song with scratches and back rubs. My English words to her would be understood by dogs in America; she doesn’t comprehend them at all. She doesn’t care about the words, though. She just wants the attention. Her own personal glass if clean and half full. She has asked herself questions about life, and found a good answer.
There’s a reason for the world, believe it or not. It’s quite simple, really. In His wisdom, God created all of these things for just one reason. It doesn’t need to be complicated, and it shouldn’t be over thought. God knew the reason for the world before time began, and it hasn’t changed since then. Kaiya knows the reason when she howls for me, as she almost throws her back out wagging her tail when I approach her gate. The farmer knows the reason when he waves at smiling people he’s never met before. Sarah and I know the reason when we go on walks hand in hand during the warmer evenings, and give a head-nodding “Bonsoir“ (good evening) to everyone we pass. My son Kevin knows the reason, the answer. He’s known it for years, ever since we heard a song about 100 times back in late 2006, and I asked him one question for the first time. He knew exactly how to reply. His answer is there inside of you, too, if your glass is clear enough for you to see how full it truly is.
It’s easy to answer, this thing we could call the riddle, the reason for the world. Say it with me, Kevin, “You and I.”
Patrick Blau was born and raised in northeast Ohio. He recently moved to France and married his wife, Sarah. Patrick and Sarah currently live in Septfonds, a Burton-like village in southern France.”