I have, of late, become something of a fan of Keanu Reeves, not the actor so much as the human being. Every story I’ve heard about him. Every. Single. One. Demonstrates that he’s just a kind and compassionate human being.
Well, as a result of that I finally (finally) watched Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. I didn’t watch it when it first came out because, well, I had a stick up my ass when I was younger. I didn’t care for the kind of music that was being used to promote it (this was before my “musical awakening” so it’s no great surprise). And, well, it just did not look interesting to me.
That was then. I just finished watching it (yesterday evening as this posts) and it. was. awesome.
No, let me rephrase that. It was excellent.
But I had a thought about it. In their future world, as “silly” as it might seem, the “philosophy” they took from Bill & Ted was summed up in two things:
- Be Excellent to Each Other
- Party on, Dudes.
It seems like silly, 80’s corn but if you think about it a moment and interpret “Party on, dudes” as something like “Enjoy life as it comes” and, well, that’s not a bad philosophy for life. Be excellent to each other. Treat each other well. And while you’re doing that, focus on the good. Take the time to enjoy what you have. Life, to a large extent, is what you make it. And while some ascetics will object to the whole idea of taking pleasure in things, believing that life must be full of suffering and angst if it’s to be “moral”, I do not think that there’s any shame, any crime, any sin in taking joy in life, provided that you don’t do harm to others in the process. That, however, is covered in “be excellent to each other.”
Indeed, when looked at that way it, frankly, is a better philosophy of life than has come from the pens of many people considered great philosophers and moral thinkers. Mind you, there is a great veil of uncertainty in what truly constitutes being “excellent” to someone else. Aiding someone in pursuit of self-destructive behaviors may be what they want, but is it what they need? Feeding into someone’s addiction, say, is that truly being “excellent” to them?
And yet, is it any better to let a man starve because the root of his inability to procure food is because of an addiction? By refusing to “help” them from belief that it just encourages them in self-destructive behaviors. And sometimes that is the truth. It can be hard to determine what “be excellent to each other” truly means in a given situation.
All we can do is do our best. Make the best choices we can and hope that, somehow, our best will be good enough.
Several times in the past I saw someone with a sign “will work for food.” I had offered them work in which I would feed them, allow them access to my washer and dryer (so they could clean their clothes), access to a shower. And a few bucks of cash on top of it.
Every time, I was turned down.
They didn’t want to “work for food.” That was just words on a sign. What they wanted was a handout.
For a long time, I simply would not give any money to such people because I was so jaded about folk asking for money or other help. But then one day it occured to me: it wasn’t about them. It was about me. What kind of a person am I. Am I a person who sees somebody in need, is able to help, and just walks away, or not?
Mostly, I prefer to donate to charities where I know the resources will go to people who truly need it, and who will put it to good use. But sometimes, when I see one of those streetcorner beggers, sometimes I’ll have an extra dollar or two and I’ll kick it in. Maybe they’ll use it to buy booze or drugs. Maybe they’re a “professional beggar” pulling down more than I make in a year. And maybe not.
In any case I’m following the dictate, to the best of my ability, to be excellent to each other. The risk, I think, is worth it for my own clarity of spirit.
And so, my friends, be excellent to each other. And take what joy you can in life as it comes to you. In other words, “Party on, dudes.”
3 thoughts on “Be Excellent to Each Other”
Good philosophy can be found in the oddest places, or in the oddest statements (I did watch Bill & Ted when it came out, and still do from time to time. But then, I rather enjoy that sort of music, and I can get the philosophy.)
One of the wisest things said to me in my (misspent) youth was when my uncle Chuck told me “Don’t f*** around. F*** up & down.” It took me a few more years to see the truth in that (I think I was about ten when he told me,) but it’s a lot simpler than all the thought I put into it would indicate – “Do whatever it is you are doing. Finish it. Then, you can do something else.”
Wise words indeed. I passed them along to my wife’s two boys a few years after the age I got them – and it took them a bit to see the truth in them, just like I did, but I didn’t explain them. It’s not a revelation if it’s handed to you. Just as, when tutoring, I’ll never spoon-feed you the answers. I’ll give you what you need to FIGURE OUT the answer on your own, then it’s up to you. I’ll give you the tools. I’ll help you figure out how to use them. But I will NEVER hand you a finished product – else, what have you learned?
“Don’t f*** around. F*** up & down.”
I watched the video, and now my tear ducts are thoroughly flushed.
It is good advice, and I think that the reward is the act of doing good.