In the age of chivalry a knight wore his coat of arms on his shield as an indicator of who he was and what he stood for. The coat of arms included symbolic graphics, such as a lion, a forest, a stream, a dragon or such. And it had embellishments to make it dramatic. Plus a motto – maybe ‘Mors aut honorabilis vita’ (Death, or life with honor). I suspect if the Fleshman family had a coat of arms it would include a loaded Plymouth station wagon and six of those little white stick figures you see on the back of same. And the motto, maybe, ‘Diversis viribus Unity’ (unity, diversity, strength). In reality, all my kids will tell you what our family motto actually is – ‘Vita sugit et non morietur’ (Life sucks, then you die).
But let me explain.
Everybody that works pays taxes on their income. Even those who don’t work get taxed on purchases, gas for their car, cell phones, utility bills and property ownership. Taxes are ubiquitous – there is no escaping them. Because they are necessary – all the services we take for granted are paid for by us, including the roads, bridges, police, fire department and our military. I just bought an App from the Apple App Store that was $4.99. When I saw the receipt, it was for $5.45 – even my App, which is nothing but computer code, was taxed at 46 cents.
So you can count on taxes. They are a life obligation and there is no way out of them. That’s the ‘sucks’ part of the Fleshman family motto – we are sure to have to experience things we don’t like, don’t enjoy, don’t want any part of. Along with taxes we will face conflict, disease, pain, failure and a myriad of other problems. And all those things, like taxes, are an expected and obligatory part of being alive whether we like it or not.
Which brings us to death. Death, too, is inevitable. We will finish our course, according to the latest statistics, on average at 78.7 years. My Aunt Louise just passed on Thursday after celebrating her 100th birthday last Sunday. But don’t get your hopes up – 78 or 100, we all are going to die. There is no alternative and so, the second part of the Fleshman family motto.
We spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about taxes (according to the IRS it takes us 22 hours to finish a 1040 tax filing) and all the other life problems we face. And fretting over dying. Everyone wants to live, even if we do have to pay taxes, even if life sometimes sucks.
And therein lies the beauty of the Fleshman Family Motto.
Because it turns out that even though you can’t do a thing about the taxes and the dying, you can do a lot about what happens between the two. Life is for living. Problems, pain, sorrow – and taxes – are just the price we pay to be in the land of the living. Our focus should instead be on the life we can have and the way we can take control of the things that we can indeed control. Wasting time worrying about taxes and death is using up your life on processes that cannot be stopped.
Those little stick figures on the Fleshman Coat of Arms include four children that my wife and I are blessed to have. Next weekend our youngest son is getting married. This past week our youngest daughter interviewed for a school where she hopes to earn her graduate degree. This afternoon our oldest daughter will be here for dinner with her husband and our grandson Arthur. And our oldest son is plotting his next career move in a field he loves. That’s life – the part that doesn’t suck. They all pay taxes, and they all will ultimately die, but in between they are living fully, dealing with problems and adversity.
Life sucks, then you die. Death & Taxes. But when they lay your body down there will be a big dash on your grave marker between your birthday and your dying day. In that dash is the beauty and the bounty of life – the things you did, the person you became, the adventures enjoyed, the people you affected. And the love you gave.
Death and taxes – you can’t do a thing about them. But you can live your life on purpose.