Grasshopper Soup: When in doubt, use your brain

Bob Sweigert
Special to the Sun

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. – It’s too bad an instruction manual didn’t come with the brains God gave us human beings. It would have been simple enough to write. It could have been done very cheaply. It would have required no expense at all. All God had to do was stick a little white warning sticker on everyone’s head with red letters saying, “This won’t work no matter what the manufacturer says.”

But work it does, at least where some things are concerned.

Still, it’s easy to miss the fine print on your brain. It says, “Limited warranty.” Or does it say, “To start brain, just add water”?

We can all identify with the teenager in the scenario where mom asks her teen son to get the sugar from the cupboard. Junior is too busy eating and does not want to get up. His mom, accustomed to her children’s laziness and moodiness, has to ask him more than once. Mom is, and has been, very busy with other things. Overcome with grumpiness, her son complains, “I don’t know where it is!”

Mom says, “Yes you do, it’s right where it always is, on the second shelf in the cupboard next to the refrigerator.”

He opens the cupboard door, looks around and says, “There isn’t any!”

Mom says, “It’s right in front of you. If it were a snake it would have bit you by now!”

“Oh”, he says, angrier than ever because he’s not sure what just happened, grabs the sugar and slams it down on the table as he sits down and shovels a glob of mashed potatoes into his mouth with a fork, having learned nothing from his sour experience with the sugar.

Teenagers are not the only ones whose minds can be blind to what is right before their very eyes. Problems with real time awareness, knowledge and perception become more complex with adulthood. We can get so obsessed with ourselves we can’t even live happily and peacefully with others in real time. Self-centeredness can be so incapacitating we can’t function positively in the present moment.

Just the opposite can happen too. Instead of not seeing things that are there, sometimes we see or hear things that are not there, except maybe in our minds, like the coyotes I saw while traveling with a friend in eastern Oregon last month that turned out to be wolves.

When I told another friend what a great little town Hood River, Oregon is, where I spent a night during my travels, he said, “Are there a lot of retired people there?”

But, like, I was so into myself, dude, what I heard him say was, “Were there a lot of guitar people there?”, which there was. I found free live music Friday night in Hood River at The Naked Winery, and I found a guitar in the lounge area of a coffee shop the next morning. I sat down with my mocha, picked up the guitar and sang Somewhere Over The Rainbow and Puff the Magic Dragon for a young couple from Portland and their two little kids.

I am usually horrified at the idea of singing Somewhere Over The Rainbow, but not this time. Nobody knew who the heck I was so my voice was as mellifluous as my mocha. I hit all the right notes, including the high ones, and all the girls behind the counter sang along as they waited on customers, and the rain outside sparkled like silver and everyone’s troubles melted away like lemon drops. Nobody even noticed the guitar was out of tune.

Sometimes getting totally involved in yourself is a good thing.

Of course, hearing guitar people instead of retired people was only due to bad ears. My brain works just fine, which is what we all say.

Our brains were working in the voting booth yesterday. We voted for people we’ve never met and don’t even know, including the human being with a brain just like ours who is now president of the United States. Time alone will tell if he will be able to find the sugar when his mother needs it. (Written Nov. 2, 2012).

Bob Sweigert is a Sierra Sun columnist, published poet, former college instructor and ski instructor. He has a B.A. and an M.A.T. from Gonzaga University. He has lived at Lake Tahoe for 30 years.

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