What About Bob: The Solution to Life’s Problems

I’ve been in a contemplative frame of mind for the last few days, so you’re stuck with a bit of philosophy today. I realized as I was writing this that I already touched on some of it in an earlier post. Deal with it. This one has What About Bob, so it’s automagically more awesome. In any case–on we go.

One thing I’ve noticed as I follow the daily lives of some 500 or so friends on Facebook and other social media sites is how quickly our lives can change. Jobs lost. Sickness. Death. Crappy things happen to great people, and there’s rarely any real “heads up” that crappy is on the way.

As with most things in life, when faced with deep philosophical dilemmas, I turn to pop culture for my answers. (Well, maybe not my answers. But to explain my answers in a way that other people will understand them? Pop culture works for me. As long as the people I’m explaining those answers to are cool enough to have watched the same awesome things I have. But surely every single person in the world has seen What About Bob, right? RIGHT?)

So let’s put this in context. There are times when I see what’s happening around me, and I totally feel like Siggy, the boy in the movie. Here’s the relevant scene (sorry for the bad quality at the beginning–finding good clips can be hard sometimes. Oh woe is me.)

It can be overwhelming. The knowledge that any moment, tragedy may strike us. Knowing that we’re helpless to avoid it. I think it’s the helplessness that upsets me the most. I like to think that I’m in control of my life. That the choices I make matter, and that if I make good choices, my life will be better for it. And while that’s often true, the sad fact is that all of us are swimming on top of a deep, deep ocean. We can choose where we want to swim and how. We can make sure we’re the best swimmers possible. Heck–we can even build boats and stock up on food and supplies so that we feel like we’re ready for anything.

Why is that a sad fact? Because at any moment, this might happen:

(Sorry. There are no good Kraken scenes in What About Bob.) Yeah. All the good swimming, all the boat building, all the anything–it all just gives us a thin veneer of control. There are monsters in those deep oceans. Tragedies waiting to happen. And when you’re there in that moment, and you see the enormity of the problem that has just risen from the depths, and there’s nothing. you. can. do? How can you not feel helpless and hopeless?

You can’t. Yes, you can turn to God or to meditation or to other ways you may have found to deal with difficulties. But there’s still that unavoidable deer-in-the-headlights moment of sheer panic, and that might last for a day or a week or a month. So how do we deal with this?

We deal with it by building the best boat we can, spending time with the people we love, doing the things that bring us joy, and basically patterning our lives after Bob. Case in point:

Bob is living in the moment. He’s enjoying that chicken to the point where you start to wonder if he’s breaking a few laws in the process. Just because the Kraken totally rips that boat apart doesn’t mean that boat was worthless up until that point, ya know? But Bob doesn’t just stop there. Bob shows us other ways to deal with tragedy and life, as well.

Sometimes we have to acknowledge our fears, but live with them anyway. This is me every time I have to get on a plane. I really truly deeply loathe flying. But I do it anyway, because it’s the pathway I need to take to get to other things that I really truly deeply enjoy. Sometimes we have to let ourselves be strapped to a mast so that we can live life and get over our fears.

Bob starts out the movie afraid of everything. Literally. And by the end of the film, he has conquered those fears and become a better human. Here’s a lovely scene that both is hilarious and true at the same time. (It’s from the end, so I guess I’m spoiling the movie for you, but if you haven’t seen this movie yet, you really should have.)

Compare that Bob to the one from earlier in the film:

And how does he get there? He takes all these different things I’ve discussed so far, and he boils them all down to baby steps, one of my favorite clips from all time.

Yes, there are monsters in that ocean. And yes, we could spend our lives worrying about them surging up from the depths to swallow us whole at any moment. But that won’t help us at all. Not to be happy. We’ve got a thin veneer of control, it’s true–but we if we use that veneer well, we can get by just fine. More than fine.

Have bad things happened to me in my life? Yes they have. Will they continue to come? Yes they will. But even monsters give up eventually. They move on. You might be scarred from the encounter, but you pull the pieces back together, and you move on, too.

And that’s all the philosophy I’ve got in me today, folks.

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