The Tao According to Don Knotts
Originally published April 2020
I don’t believe many people look to Don Knott’s for enlightenment. The man lives forever in the impossible to bury world of The Andy Griffith Show as the incompetent deputy Barney Fife. For some, he's the leisure suit wearing Mr. Furley from later seasons of the should have been canceled sooner, Three’s Company. Even though Fife and Furley were not spiritual guides, the expressive comic actor gave us someone who might be able to shed some light on these trying times of cancellations, social restrictions, and senseless hoarding.
In 1964, in the movie, The Incredible Mister Limpet, Knott’s portrayed a meek bookkeeper with a passion for tropical fish. In the course of a mixture of live-action and animation, Knott's character, Henry Limpet, turned into a fish, helped defeat the Nazis in World War II, and left his human wife for a lavender cartoon cod. Like you might expect of all good movies about Nazis and colorful cartoon sea creatures, there were songs. Limpet's desire to escape his humdrum life for the adventures of the sea was captured in, "I wish I were a fish," followed by the melodic warning, "Be careful how you wish." It's in this second toe-tapper where we discover life’s lesson. Just like our parents wagged their fingers when we dreamed of our pain in the ass siblings disappearing from our lives, fate warned Henry that maybe a life breathing through gills wasn't all freshwater and flakey food.
Is the Tao according to Knotts starting to crystallize for you?
Those moments sitting in your cubicle exasperated with your next-door office neighbor's irritating nasal sniff and chip bag crinkling, closing your eyes and wishing you could work from home? How's that fourth week sharing a workspace with someone who is blissfully unaware of what edible paste and glitter can do to a laptop? What are you looking forward to next? Another episode of Paw Patrol or someone repeatedly yelling, “Dammit, why can’t I get this presentation to show? Can anyone hear me?”
College students, how about peering out your dorm room window, regretting that last Vegas Bomb, and praying for some campus-wide power outage to keep you from having to sit next to the weed smelling, mouth breather in Intro to Communications? Now you’re locked between your parents at the dining room table because its the only place their weak Wi-Fi will allow all three of you to get a signal. Are you enjoying your early lesson in the business speak that will haunt you for your entire work life? "What's our timeline for facilitating a disruptive deep-dive look at a scalable mission-critical strategy?" There’s always toggling between Twitter and your business professor reciting generally accepted accounting principles with his webcam pointed at his reindeer slippers.
Remember those sticking doors, dripping faucets, squeaking hinges, aging linoleum floors, and fading walls you wished you had the time to get to? Keys in hand, your spouse pushing you from behind, you demand to know what government official considers Home Depot essential.
Blackhawks fans, how about that night in early March when you sat at the bar drowning another loss in a cold draft, wishing the season would just end? Baseball fans, how's that shorter season you always wanted working out for you? Anyone else want to watch Tiger win his fifth Masters for the fifth time?
How about the neighbor who got a chain saw for Christmas and is finally able to pursue his lifelong dream of carving farm animals out of hardwood stumps? Never wanted to wear makeup again? Then why are you sitting in front of the mirror applying mascara to go to the mailbox? Wish you had the time to finally work through those cookbooks you bought but never cracked open? Sorry, you used the last of the butter and milk on yesterday's breakfast, lunch, and dinner of macaroni and cheese. Didn’t want to attend graduation and sit in the hot auditorium in that stupid hat and gown? Good luck getting through life without the valedictorian's charge to dream big and do great things.
I guess no one could have guessed that everyone’s wish would come true at the same time. That wanting some relief from work or school would isolate families, crater the economy, crush small businesses, and send you lining up for toilet paper like it was a discounted television on Black Friday. Think about this when you clench your teeth and stare at the person who alternates between using The Simpsons and The Avengers as their virtual Zoom background, or someone picks Monopoly as tonight’s game. Consider it when you're thirty-five years old and wake up for the fifth morning in a row after dreaming about Thomas the Tank Engine, the dog runs and hides every time you pick up the leash, and you’re now watching true crime documentaries to learn how to get away with murder. Instead of calming yourself by dreaming of an escape - picture Don Knotts.
Be careful how you wish.