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[Don't] Be Sensible

Posted Jan 11 2009 5:42pm
Dad showing Superpounce how not to be sensible.

I'm a sensible person. To a fault. And I come from a long line of sensible people

Often times, that's good. We act like grownups. We're responsible. We live within our means. We are the ones carrying zero credit card balances in the worst credit crisis in history. We are the ones driving 10 year old cars on which we researched the safety rating and reviews in consumer reports. Convertibles need not apply.

But is there too much of a good thing? People like us were born old. We forgot how to play or played only carefully. We avoided some of the tragedies that befell our contemporaries in college, but we also never howled at the moon.

And somewhere along the line you wake up realizing that you didn't dream all night, or all day the day before. And you're a sensible taxpayer with a sensible job in a sensible suburb with a sensible sedan. No fault in that. But . . .

But what child lies on his or her back, looks up into the night sky, and dreams of being a dentist? Or an accountant? Or a lawyer? Not that there's anything wrong with that. But when do we give up being firemen or astronauts or race car drivers or ballerinas or princesses? And why do we have to? Because they're not sensible.

At one point in my life, I was a musician. I studied with the finest teachers, played with the finest conductors, gave concerts in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Miami. I had, at one time, dreamed of being in the Chicago Symphony, the orchestra my heroes. Then, I got sensible. The odds were against it. It was a long shot. The more likely outcome was working in a non-living-wage orchestra and getting locked out by a labor dispute and selling insurance instead. So, I got sensible, and went to law school, did well, got a good job . . . . all in the family tradition.

Not a family tradition of practicing law, but a tradition of sensibility, of dreams deferred. I am the offspring of a sensible girl from Oklahoma who, after soloing with the Oklahoma City Symphony in the 1950s, turned down the opportunity, offered by the guest conductor, to study at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia. Sensible girls did not do such things in the 1950s. They went to college, if at all, close to home, where they could find a husband and raise families. And she did. And it was good and sensible.

But was it great?

Sometimes, sensible people explode. They wake up in the suburbs and start dreaming again. Potentially those crazy dreams are destructive and you see sensible people "overcompensating" with expensive red convertibles or betraying the ones who depend upon them. Thankfully, not here. By God's grace alone, I'm still more sensible than that. I haven't exploded, and hope that I don't.

Other times, we simply shrug off the heavy load under which we were sagging. We find ourselves running in the dark, cool breeze before sunup while the sensible people are still asleep. While they sleep, we are dreaming of what might be, hours and minutes and seconds and distances, of limits and whether they are real. We think crazy thoughts about just how fast we might run for three hours, about swimming and biking and running all day. And this from lawyers and accountants and fully grown dentists "competing for the ultimate prize." Crazy. But sometimes good crazy.

Because life can't be caged. Because life needs a certain amount of craziness and creativity. It is conquest. It is adventure. Otherwise, it's not really life. It's just a couch. And it's beige.

I was thinking on these things Monday morning as I ran, and I thought about Superpounce, and I smiled. Her dolls and stuffed animals are turning up with new outfits that she designed and sewed herself. She made them on the sewing machine she just acquired, the one on which she is to begin sewing lessons on which she insisted (because neither I nor Mrs. Greyhound can sew). She is taking sewing lessons because she wants to be a fashion designer, and we told her she would have to learn how to sew. So she is. And a couple of weeks ago, at age 11, she was searching out colleges on the internet at which she could study fashion design. And she wants to take French. And she wants to go to Paris. And the colors in her world are alive.

It reminded me of these lines (from an old commercial, no less) that I heard on a fantastic fitness podcast:

Here’s to the crazy ones.

The misfits.
The rebels.
The troublemakers.
The round pegs in the square holes.
The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules.
And they have no respect for the status quo. You can praise them, disagree with them, quote them,
disbelieve them, glorify or vilify them.
About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them.
Because they change things.

They invent. They imagine. They heal.
They explore. They create. They inspire.
They push the human race forward.

Maybe they have to be crazy.
How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art?
Or sit in silence and hear a song that’s never been written?


Superpounce dreams big. God forbid that I ever conciously or unconciously communicate to her that she ought to be sensible. I'd rather catch her in my arms after she flies too close to the sun.
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