There are smart things we do—like math. I don’t do much math—I have a calculator and math-minded friends for such things—but I do remember solving all sorts of equations when forced to in high school, and always being made to feel smart when doing so.
But there are also things we do that are not smart. Sometimes these things are accidental, like when we fail to yield at the roundabout and nearly hit an Asian woman on a bicycle with our automobile. But some things are not smart and we do them full-well knowing they aren’t.
Today I drank half a water bottle of water. On the surface of the thing, this looks pretty smart. Water is good for you, necessary even. Often, though, a seemingly smart decision may not be smart at all once all the facts are considered. For instance, the water bottle had been sitting out for three weeks without a lid on it. No one knew whose it was. It is flu season. Suddenly, this seems suspect. And yet, on a dare, I drank the water anyway. I knew this was not a smart decision, but I did it anyway—promised some nonsensical award in an equally nonsensical competition I’m in with a nonsensical friend.
Oh, and added to that unsmart decision (and the possibly tainted water) was the full-on breakfast burrito I ate moments prior to chugging down the typhoid water. This could be a disastrous combination, and based on the noises echoing forth from my gut, I’d say the outlook is grim.
When I stack up my life’s activities, I end up with a couple piles: the smart ones (like doing math and such) and the unsmart ones (like the water thing). I’m sure later when I’m sick in the bathroom I will rue the decision to drink the water. I will wish for a life void of one stack, and wish instead for a Babel-esque tower of smart activities.
But as I walk away from the consequences of this day, what I’ll realize is I won’t soon forget drinking that tainted water. I’ll laugh about it and explain my shoddy thinking to my wife, who will roll her eyes and lovingly call me a fool. And so it is with most of my unsmart decisions—they remain embedded in my memory, and fodder for tomorrow’s action. I learn from them, I grow for them, and mostly, I laugh at them.
What I don’t remember? A single math problem I ever completed.
So I’m not sure if the answer is to go around drinking out of any old container and rushing into stupidity. But I certainly know it is not living with such fearful timidity that disallows me from stepping out of the realm of the word problem and into the real, messy world. So bottoms up to both our good decisions and our less stellar ones, and may our focus be less on figuring out the equation of life and showing all our work, and more on living, learning, and loving. And with that, I’m off to the restroom. Godspeed.