My friend Jeremy doesn’t have a degree in philosophy. There’s no Dr. in front of his name, and there's no Ph.D., Ed.D. or J.D. after it. The Times doesn’t call him when it needs a profound quote on an abstract subject, and he’s not on speed dial for CNN, Fox News, NPR or Oprah.
But he’s a philosopher. Make no mistake about it.
Never mind that his philosophical base is probably closer to “Duck Dynasty” than “All Things Considered.” Jeremy understands life because he’s lived it — not because he’s studied it. So his sincere, unsolicited, impromptu forays into the meaning of life are more homespun than analytical and have more to do with wisdom accumulated experientially rather than academically.
For example, take an incident from a couple of weeks ago. Jeremy is a technician for a satellite television company, and he had been called to the home of a customer whose service had been mysteriously interrupted. When the customer mentioned that his home had just been reroofed, Jeremy nodded knowingly.
“There’s your problem,” he said with his slight Caribbean accent. “The roofers had to move the dish, and they probably didn’t put it back correctly.”
“But they said they put it back exactly as they found it,” the customer said.
Jeremy couldn’t suppress his understanding chuckle.
“I’m sure they did,” he said, smiling. “I have no doubt that they did the very best they could to put it back in the same position as they found it. I used to be a roofer — that’s what I used to do, too.
“But they are roofers,” Jeremy continued. “They don’t understand that an eighth of an inch difference in how the dish is positioned can mean a 600-mile difference out where the satellite is — which means it will miss the satellite by a lot.”
Then he turned philosophical.
“Isn’t that amazing?” he asked. “An eighth of an inch doesn’t seem like much, but it makes a huge difference as the signal travels hundreds of miles through space. With each mile, the distance grows between the correct course and the actual course the signal is traveling. So by the time it gets to where the satellite should be, well, it isn’t even close.”
“And we get no picture,” the customer observed.
“Exactly,” Jeremy said. “It’s just like our lives, you know? You start off heading in one direction, then you get a little off course, and the next thing you know, you’re not even close to where you wanted to be.”
He excused himself and went outside. Soon the customer could hear him climbing his ladder and then moving around on the newly reshingled roof. In just a few minutes, Jeremy was back in the living room, clicking on the remote control. Suddenly, a high-definition picture appeared on the customer’s television screen. Both Jeremy and the customer smiled in delight.
“Tell your roofers they were very close,” Jeremy said, chuckling again. “I just had to make a slight correction. That’s all it took. And now you’re back online — good as new.”
He paused, then grinned.
“That’s like our lives, too,” he said, waxing philosophical again. “Even when we get off track, usually all it takes is a little course correction to get us back online — good as new.”
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, a member of the First Presidency of the LDS Church and a former airline pilot who often puts an aeronautical spin on things, recently made a similar comparison using airplane coordinates. He concluded that “the heavens will not be filled with those who never made mistakes but with those who recognized that they were off course and who corrected their ways to get back in the light.”
And back on course. Good as new.
To read more by Joseph B. Walker, visit josephbwalker.com. Twitter: JoeWalkerSr