I’m going to let the late, great novelist Walker Percy open the editorial this week, in large part because I’m tired, but in larger part, because I generally defer to age and wisdom. Even if that wisdom was dispensed in 1987 by a then 71-year old man who would die three years later.
From his final novel, The Thanatos Syndrome, where the main character is a psychiatrist:
“According to my private classification, people are either bluebirds or jaybirds. Most women, it turns out, are bluebirds. Most men, by no means all, are jaybirds.
It is a question of being or doing. Most of the women patients I saw were unhappy and wanted to be happy. They never doubted there was such a creature as the bluebird of happiness. Most men wanted to do this or that, take this or that, beat so-and-so out of a promotion, seduce Miss Smith, beat the Steelers, meet their quota, win the trip to Oahu, win an argument – just like a noisy jaybird.
The trouble is, once you’ve set put to be a jaybird, there’s nothing more pitiful than an unsuccessful jaybird. In my experience, that is, with people who are not actually crazy (and even with some who are), people generally make themselves miserable for one of two reasons: They have either failed to find the bluebird of happiness or they’re failed jaybirds.
It is not for me to say whether one should try to be happy – though it has always struck me as an odd pursuit, like trying to be blue-eyed – or whether one should try to beat all the other jaybirds on the block. But it is my observation that neither pursuit succeeds very well. I only know that people who set their hearts on either usually end up seeing me or somebody like me, or having heart attacks, or climbing into a bottle.
Take a woman – and some men – who think thus: If only I could be with that person, or away from this person, or be in another job, or be free, or be in the South of France or on the Outer Banks or be an artist or God knows what – then I’ll be happy. Such a person is a bluebird in my book.
Or consider this person: What am I going to do with my no-good son, who is driving me crazy – what i want to do is knock him in the head. Or, what is the best way to take on that son of a bitch who is my boss or get even with that other son of a bitch who slighted me? Wasn’t it President Kennedy who said, don’t get mad, get even?
… B.F. Skinner, the jaybird of psychologists, put it this way: The object of life is to gratify yourself without getting arrested. Not exactly the noblest sentiment expressed in 2,000 years of western civilization, but it has a certain elementary validity. True jaybird wisdom.”
Perhaps I lead off with Percy given the column I read in the May 29 Economist entitled “The dangers of decision fatigue.” The basic premise: As you get tired, you get mentally lazy, and have a tendency to revert to whatever choice involves relatively little mental effort.
The example they give, backed by research of Tobias Baer and Simone Schnall, involves credit decisions of loan officers.
“Researchers found that the approval rate declined significantly between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., as lunch approached, then picked up again after 3 p.m. before declining in the last two hours of work.”
Seeing as the editorial is always the last thing I write each week, I am left to ponder what state of mind I have been operating under all these years during its conception.
Maybe the beer counteracts the laziness and makes me sharper. Yeah, let’s go with that.
Headline from the Vail Daily this week: Vail to launch new plan to combine tourism with sustainability efforts
In the story, reporter Scott Miller interviews Mammoth Lakes Tourism Executive Director John Urdi. That section of the story reads as follows:
“If you think Vail is close to a big city, the folks in Mammoth Lakes, California, would like a word.
John Urdi, Executive Director of Mammoth Lakes Tourism, noted 38 million people live within a six-hour drive of the resort. The tourism bureau has spent a lot of money on a series of videos encouraging people to “hug” the resort by observing Leave No Trace rules. But a $6,000 song got people fired up.
The song, “Don’t be a (Bleephole),” tells people they’re welcome, unless they act like jerks.
“Don’t be a (jerk) and we’ll all get along just fine,” the song concludes.
Urdi said that campaign was quickly pulled due to an uproar from locals — many of whom had been loudly complaining about bad behavior in the backcountry and elsewhere.
The song could apply to just about any resort in a nice place.
“The funny thing is that in most destinations, people think (these problems) are unique to them,” Urdi said, adding he’s heard a lot of positive feedback from the “Don’t be a (Bleephole)” campaign.
“People have said, ‘I wish we had the (courage) to do it,’” Urdi said.
The song campaign resonated because it takes a more flinty-edged approach to a perhaps too-familiar message, Urdi said. After awhile, nice messages just become background noise, he added.”
I think the most fascinating part of the interview involves Urdi grasping tightly to his $6,000 narrative – like a Little Leaguer telling you he hit an inside-the-park homer when it was actually a slow roller to second compounded by three throwing errors.
As I wrote last week, whack-a-mole …
The other interesting part is the suggestion that it wasn’t the campaign that was misdirected so much as the community’s “lack of courage” in embracing it.
Perhaps thay’s why he took the interview. Because he feels the sophisticates in Vail will better understand him and give him the credit he feels he deserves.
The Sheet asked MLT Board Chairman Jeremy Goico about the Urdi interview on Thursday.
Goico said yes, a bunch of locals expressed concern about the message, but that there was also a lot of positive feedback. In the end, however, MLT serves as a voice of the community and Goico said the board preferred to go with a more universally acceptable message.
He did not think Urdi’s interview put the board in a difficult position and Goico said the board did not take offense to the statements Urdi made to the Vail Daily.