Monday, March 11, 2013

Party On, Dudes!

One of my favorite pieces of pop culture from childhood is the immortal saga of Bill S. Preston, Esq. and Ted "Theodore" Logan - the founding members of the rock band "Wild Stallions" and (at some point in the future) saviors of civilization. You might, possibly, if you grew up in the 90's and didn't have much of a life, know them simply as "Bill and Ted."

There was a great movie, Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, followed by a sequel, which is better than you remember, but certainly not epic. There was also, briefly, an animated series, which I only remember because we attempted to play "Bill and Ted" on the playground a recess in 4th grade and there's no way my parents would have let me see the movie at that age.

Anyway, these two knuckle-headed California teens are destined to produce music so transcendent future civilization is based upon it and lives in perfect peace and harmony. However, none of this would be possible if they fail history. So the future sends George Carlin back with a time-traveling phone booth to help them and save the world. (Note: don't try to parse the timeline here, you end up in an infinite loop somewhere along the line, let's just say "logic" doesn't play a huge part in the plot.) Bill and Ted then use the time machine/phone booth to kidnap various historical figures who basically give their history presentation for them.

All of this, of course, is preamble to my jumping off point: At the very end of the presentation Abraham Lincoln (not the Vampire Hunter) sums up the wisdom of human history in what turns out to be a stoner paraphrase of the Apostle Paul - "Be excellent to each other..."

For a long time I thought of it as relatively good advice, given the source. Nothing wrong with being excellent to each other and having a good time. But ultimately it fell short of a higher, Christian standard of love.

I'm less and less sure of that each day.

Now I won't go trying to argue that Bill and Ted are intentionally making some profound statement or that there was any consideration made for the deeper relational necessities of such a life philosophy; I will say that it makes a lot of sense.

On the surface it could appear that this is just another version of the 60's free love, hyper-individualistic, generic golden rule kind of mantra. Love people, man - just treat people well. (And George Carlin, the ultimate optimist, personifies this beautifully in the movie). Something we laugh at for it's ignorance or naivete. After all, loving other people isn't going to be that fun when you discover how much work it entails and how unworthy people are of that love.

We live in a society where to "be excellent" to one another really means being permissive. You do what you want, don't let me stand in the way. That might be the persona adopted by Bill and Ted, but even those morons understood it's not very excellent to let someone walk blindly (or with full vision) towards their own doom.

So if being excellent to each other means looking out for the good of others, even if they don't see things the same way, well, life isn't always going to be a party - which is precisely why we must continue to celebrate.

Being serious all the time sucks (take it from me), but it's even worse when it's the high point of your life. Life can be difficult. Things don't go your way. Try as you might to be excellent to everyone, they don't always appreciate it and they seldom return the favor. Being sure to celebrate life, all of it, anytime, anywhere, just for the heck of it, can help us to loosen up and learn to enjoy the moment now and then.

Life isn't always easy and it isn't always happy, but that's not reason to forget the beauty and joy when they come around.

Who knows, maybe being excellent to each other and enjoying life really will lead to doing something that changes the world for the better.

One can only hope.

No comments: