“It’s funny how you just answer any question people ask you.”
“So… Zamboni is you right?”
“Aren’t you worried you’ll give someone the wrong advice?”
Yes. Not really. Yes.
I’m not a total idiot.* I see that the subtext behind these questions, which have all come from close friends, is “who the hell are you to give people advice?” I have no advanced degrees in Philosophy or Psychology, and I’ve not weathered war or the thousand natural shocks that could earn for someone the gravitas from which they could offer wisdom. But remember, I didn’t ask to be Zamboni.
On the other hand, I have loved. I have lost. I’ve had moments where I felt I could die quite happily now, thanks, and others where I wanted to die, or at least thought it might not be the worst idea. Don’t know that I’d really trust someone who got to 40 without visiting both places and a lot in between. I have read a bunch of philosophy, from Aristotle to Xenophon, and I’ve noticed that Ecclesiastes is right, there aint a whole lotta new under the sun. So many wise folk seem to be pointing in the same direction, toward a destination that the Stoics call “tranquility” and the Buddhists call Nirvana.
Montaigne said, “All I’m sure of is that I know nothing, and I’m not even sure of that.” We all know it’s a hell of a lot easier to give people advice than it is to take your own. As a high school teacher I’ve dispensed lots of advice, both explicity and implicity, but I know all the time that kids are paying a lot more attention to how I’m saying it, and what I actually do in my interactions with them. Words are cheap, and yes, opinions are a bit like assholes.
I don’t ask Zambonesman a question because, as his alter ego, I know what he’ll say. Zambonesman is harsh, a tough love sort of character. He doesn’t suffer fools and focuses people on actions, not feelings or words. If I ask him why I don’t have this or that, he’s just gonna say, “because you don’t want it enough…you want? Then take!” Then again, I might be short changing him. Many a time has he surprised me, and the questioner, with something a little absurd but profound as well.
When I give advice to you as Zambonesman, I’m also giving it to me. The way when you encourage your friend to desperately try to keep that messed up relationship together it may be more about what went wrong in your own. It’s true, the next time you are giving advice, ask really who is it you’re talking to, him or you?
Then again, it’s not like I’m charging 140.00$ an hour.
*And yes, I realize I can’t be sure about the, “not a total idiot” thing.