...a terrible thing to waste.
In the early 1970’s there was an ad campaign sponsored by the United Negro College Fund and the Ad Council that featured the slogan “A Mind is a Terrible Thing To Waste.” The campaign was initiated to draw attention to the UNCF, whose primary purpose was keeping tuition rates low and ensuring that a college education was available to every young black American who dreamed of attending college.
I wonder if UNCF envisioned, when it kicked off its campaign in 1972, that its slogan would withstand the test of time and become a part of the American vernacular. I can’t tell you how many times through the years I’ve heard the slogan used, not only in the realm of college educations, but also in referring to drug usage, and quite often, in a joking manner when referring to an individual’s mental state.
During my college years, alcohol was my favorite choice of substance abuse. Throughout my twenties, I turned to marijuana. Then there was that period in my thirties when cocaine became the center of my world…
Sadly enough, during each of those periods in my life, I would laughingly tell anyone within earshot that “A mind is a terrible thing to waste” as I got drunk, or high, or ramped-up on coke. The possible long-term consequences of what I was doing paled in comparison to the immediate escape from reality that I was getting at the moment. And from where I was looking, anywhere other than where I was at the moment was a better place for me to be.
That was then…
It’s amazing as to what a change in lifestyle can do to your perspective in life.
About five weeks ago I woke one morning to find three small bumps just above my beltline on the right side of my torso. Suspecting that they were spider or some type of insect bites, I began treating them with an ointment for exactly that.
A few days later, the three bumps had now multiplied to seven or eight. Deciding that I’d been exposed to poison ivy, oak, or sumac while pruning some shrubs at our lake house the previous week, I found an ointment that I’d used last summer after being exposed to the latter of the three, and generously applied it to the infected area.
Several days later, whatever it was that I had wasn’t getting any better. In fact, it was getting worse. It had spread to the right side of my hip, and it was starting to itch; a lot. It was Saturday night, and I’d already made the decision to call my primary care physician on Monday morning. My wife Jackie and I were leaving for a much anticipated and long overdue vacation the following Friday, and I wanted this “I-don’t-know-what-it-is-but-it’s-driving-me-crazy” under control before we left.
I was able to get an appointment with my doctor on Tuesday afternoon, June 22nd. He hooked me up with a steroid shot to curb the itching and halt the progress of this still undefined rash that was getting the best of me. He also gave me an ointment that he was sure “would do the trick.” After I’d informed him that we were leaving for the Northwestern U.S. and Canada on Friday, he also provided me with a steroid dose-pack for just in case.
Today is Wednesday, July 13, 2011. It’s been three weeks and a day since I was in my doctor’s office before leaving for vacation.
The rash that I had made the trip with us, and was with me every day that we were in Oregon, Washington, and Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. In fact, it made the trip back home with us. As soon as we got back, I went for yet another visit to the doctor’s office, where I received yet another steroid shot, another dose pack, and another ointment to try. He also referred me to a local dermatologist to try to pinpoint exactly what it is that I have. Yet another type of ointment and an antihistamine was prescribed to ease the itching, and to cure the rash.
Another week later, and this stuff is still hanging around with me. It has now spread across my body, from hipbone to hipbone. It’s on both of my forearms, and has nestled into the small of my back. To say that I’ve been miserable would be a bit of an understatement.
So at this point are you wondering what an ad slogan could have in common with a rash, or vice versa? What does a wasted mind have to do with an itch?
Well, it turns out that the antihistamine that I was given to relieve the itch is also often prescribed as a sedative, as an anti-anxiety medication, and as a treatment for motion sickness.
The bottom line is that the medicine has knocked me for a loop! The feeling of escape that I’ve spent hundreds, even thousands of dollars on in previous years, has been my constant companion for the last eight days. I’ve been disconnected, lethargic, and unable to comprehend even the simplest of written words. To coin a phrase that’s well known in many circles, I’m wasted.
I’ll say again that it’s amazing how a change in lifestyle shifts your perspective on things.
I can’t stand being “wasted.” I don’t want to be knocked for a loop, and I don’t want to escape from anything, especially reality. At this very moment, I’m fighting the urge to itch because I wanted to have enough clarity to write this post. In fact, as soon as I’m done, it’s back on the drugs.
The things that are most important to me in life have taken a hit, not because of this interminable rash, but the treatment for it. I roll out of bed in the mornings in such a drunken stupor that I can’t get focused during my personal time of worship and prayer. When Jackie joins me for coffee and reading the day’s passages in the One Year Bible, I have trouble reading them, much less attempting to discern what they mean. Several e-mails generated and received through The Seed of Hope have gone unanswered because I don’t have the clarity to compose a response. A huge opportunity to be a part of a team at Highlands College that’s writing a Daily Devotional is on the verge of falling by the wayside because of my inability to concentrate on a given passage from Scripture. Even my time with Jackie has suffered. Aside from going to church and eating, I spent this past weekend sleeping on the couch, and I confided to Jackie that I felt as if I’d lost two days. Come to think of, I feel as though I’ve lost the last week.
Why am I sharing this with you?
Good question. And I’m not really sure that I know the answer.
Perhaps it’s because my attention has been drawn to something that I’ve taken for granted: my mind.
I’ve taken for granted the ability to read, write, and comprehend. I’ve taken for granted the ability to think, and to reason. I’ve taken for granted the ability to pray and meditate. I’ve taken for granted the times that I get to spend with Jackie. I’ve taken for granted the ability to be in control of my faculties.
Look, this rash, or whatever it is, will pass. And with it will the need for me to be on this medicine. I believe that it was part of God’s plan for me to go through this, not only to change my perspective towards my abilities, but to be more considerate of those with special needs who will never have the capabilities of doing what I get to do every day.
A mind is a terrible thing to waste. I’m very grateful for the one that God has given me, and I’ll never again take it, or the gifts that come with it, for granted.