Not Grabbing the Horse by the Tail

“Things are in the saddle and ride mankind.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson


“We are all just grabbing the horse by the tail right now,” laments Mark, taking another swig from is IPA. He sets it down carefully onto the bar. He eyes that cute bar girl with her gentle smile and long ponytail sticking out the back of her baseball cap.

Mark has been through a ton. He’s had four jobs and two careers since college graduation. Mark is also his own worst enemy. He makes decisions on gut instinct and whim.

“Oh, I don’t know,” I answer. “I’m much more connected with people these days. It’s just that everything is faster and it feels like more. Just do what you can to slow it down. Yes?” I throw the answer back at him.

Mark’s eyes roll to the ceiling, “Pffff! Life was much easier once. Simpler. We didn’t have these modern problems in the horse ‘n buggy days.” He takes another large swallow of beer and picks up his phone to scroll through his messages.

Well, it has been 200 years or so since the Industrial Revolution.  It was expected to free humanity from all unnecessary bondage in human lives.  But, in fact, those constraints superseded themselves with others. Same pattern. Repeat.

Granted, the Industrial Revolution created growth and wealth. It was an awe-inspiring movement. There was the push for steam engines and the development of more significant infrastructures. It spawned the creation of capitalism. Factories became more prolific with new and innovative products emerging regularly. Increased innovation necessitated higher levels of education which led to technology breakthroughs like the X-ray, light bulb, anesthesia, refrigeration, and, yes, the telephone.

But, the Industrial Revolution had its history learning pitfalls, too. Farmers left to pursue higher wages in the cities. There were food shortages. With the goal of increasing profits, people suffered under deteriorating working conditions. Long hours were the norm. Health issues were common. The Industrial Revolution had a dramatic, albeit negative, effect on cultural, social, and economic conditions.

Sound familiar?

The pattern of the Industrial Revolution and the process it fostered has replicated itself in all the modern conditions ever since. In California, available land is scarce, at least in the areas the communities choose to live. We have no water. This state was never meant to provide H2O to 40 million people. And still, the population is slated to grow. Health insurance is cost prohibitive. Technology has allowed people to work 24/7. We talk at each other, not through an old-school telephone, by texting on a cell phone. Silicon Valley is a love/hate thing.

Mark finishes his messages and flips his phone over on the bar countertop. He tries hard not to watch for a reply. He lasts about one minute and flips it over. Nothing. He plants it back, face down again and downs the last bit of IPA in his glass. Mark glances around for the bar girl with a smile.

“Mark,” I call for his attention, “I don’t think it is important what you and your future-self do in life. I don’t even judge your value system or your politics. But, you do have to make choices. And, I hope you make good ones for yourself.”

“Whoa, Dude! That is a bit heavy, no?!” He catches the eye of the bar girl and taps his pint glass.

“My philosophy is pretty simple, my friend!” I reply. “The freedom of choice is critical. I’m not spouting politics here. I’m talking personal principles. It is simple freedom to choose. Your choice!” I poke him in the shoulder lightly. “Just make conscious and good choices.”

Mark looks me in the eyes. He never does that. I smile back at him. The friendly bar girl with the long, black braid brings him his beer and winks at him. His attention shifts. The conversation changes and I finish my glass, too.

I decide to pay my bill and go home now before the after-dinner crowd hits the bar. I make my rounds to say my ‘Good Evenings’ and ‘See you laters’. Mark and I make plans for another beer at another time.

We all have options. The freedom of choice and opportunity is ours to make without the needless handicap of the world upon us. Good decisions make humankind free of the cerebral, spiritual, material, and maybe even economic bondage. But, it is wise to be alert and conscious of those forces which in deceptive ways strive to deny us of our ultimate well being.

I choose not to grab a horse by the tail. Because, I don’t like where it will take me.