By Mike Leifheit
I think I can be a pretty good person. I aspire to be a really good person. We all have our moments. I am constantly striving to achieve a higher state of being. I think this is what attracted me to the Eastern religions. I first read about other religions at Beloit College. It was in freshman English. I cannot remember my freshman English professor’s name. (To my discredit. He affected my whole life, and I cannot remember his name. Perhaps I’ll do a little work on this and get back to you.)
I really like Buddhism. It’s not a matter of belief, but a matter of philosophy. I like what it stands for. But when you come right down to it, Christianity isn’t all that bad—it is the crazy version of Christianity that people try to make out of it. Jesus wasn’t a prude. Lots of people who advocate for Christianity can’t cut the mustard. They can’t back their attitude with facts or consistency.
I have never claimed to be a Christian. In fact, quite the opposite. I think it was about the age of 14 that I first decided I was an atheist. Yeah, I know, this isn’t one of the things you are supposed to say in the newspaper if you are trying to be successful, but I am getting really tired of all that sort of thing. In fact, when I was 15, I wrote a paper concluding that capitalism and communism were just two competing systems and that, eventually, they would move toward one another and become indistinguishable. I guess I was being too optimistic, but I think and hope you get my drift. I don’t think I was that much off the mark.
Back to the part about trying to be a good person. You get to a certain age, and there really isn’t much more than that. The amount of satisfaction you get out of the things that used to set you crazy just isn’t there anymore. There are bad things about this, but there are good things, too. A man I know (and I hope he reads this) is talking to me as I install a compressor in an old cooler. I am lying on the floor of my old , now closed, restaurant in Rockton. He says he used to let the male member do too much of the talking and thinking. (Or words to that effect. I think he would agree with my assessment.) If you are a man, you remember this time.
It is interesting to get beyond this. Not that the feelings aren’t still there, because they always are. It’s more about gaining judgment. Or we would like to think it is. I would like to think it is. Life starts, it is hoped, to be about something more than yourself. You start to realize that it isn’t about the accumulation of stuff. It isn’t even about recognition of your greatness. It is about whether you enjoy what you are doing on a day-to-day basis.
That’s a big thing to deal with. Confronting the choices you have made. Dealing with the internal consistency of your own personal philosophy. I am the first one to admit that I have a really long way to go with that. I am the epitome of the person who needs a lot of work. I know it, and try to engage it every day, but sometimes (and I know a lot of you will find solace in this) it is more work than I can bear.
New Year’s Eve is a long day. It starts at 5:30 in the morning, and ends at 10 at night. The next morning, I have a dozen peel-and-eat shrimp for breakfast, along with one of the best cups of coffee in the city. I sit in my apartment above the Irish Rose and feel pretty happy. Later that day, I am reading Huffington Post. I read an article about the president’s favorite restaurant in Hawaii. Curious, I look up their Web page. It is really impressive. I decide to Google my own Web page to see how I am doing. I type in Irish Rose Saloon, and hit Google search. Our Web page comes up No. 1. My whole day is made. I walk downstairs and tell all my friends at the bar. It is a really good day.
Now, it is New Year’s Day evening, and again I sit in my apartment above the Irish Rose, and now I write about feelings. It is good to be out of what has gone before and looking forward to what is new. This next year will be formative, and we will as a country seek new things. Things that will cause us to grow and prosper. Or so we hope.
Mike Leifheit’s “Hanging Out In Rockford” reviews locally-owned restaurants, businesses and Rockford life. Leifheit is owner of the Irish Rose restaurant in the downtown River District.
From the Jan. 6-12, 2010 issue