"Standing on Level Ground"
For the past 30 years or so, my Saturday morning ritual involved turning on a local NPR station and listening to Car Talk. For an hour every Saturday, two Boston-area brothers would engage in conversation with folks from across the country who would call in to the show seeking advice about how to fix their cars. But in reality this popular NPR radio program wasn't actually about car repair.
Every Saturday, over 4 million people from across the nation tune into Car Talk not for advice about how to fix their automobiles, but rather they listen to the show every week because the Car Talk guys were witty and funny; they were two brothers who quite obviously enjoyed each other's company. Their infectious laughter would always get me laughing out loud. And while they would banter back and forth with callers about their car problems, they would also pepper the conversation with chats about life- the everyday routine of living every day - relationships, family life, raising kids.
A few days ago, Tom Magliozzi, the older of the two brothers died. I was overwhelmed at the amount of news' stories, tributes, and testimonials in the social media that followed the announcement of his death. The Car Talk guys, Tom and Ray (affectionately known as "Click and Clack") had made a powerful impact upon the national psyche. Saturday mornings just won't be the same any more for a whole lot of people.
Yesterday, the producer of the Car Talk show was asked why he thought Tom and Ray had become so enormously popular over the years. He thought for a second and answered, "They were two 'down to earth' guys who never took themselves too seriously - people listened to them and were touched by them because they were so refreshingly different." I have been thinking quite a lot about that producer's observation.
The word "humility" sometimes carries negative baggage - a humble person is someone who puts himself down, sees herself as being less than others; but that's not at all what it means to be humble. "Humus," "earth" is at the root of the word "humility" - a humble person is someone who is "down to earth." He or she sees themselves standing on equal footing along with every other human being, everyone standing together on the level ground of equal dignity.
"Down to earth" people aren't always trying to prove themselves to others, always performing as if everyone was watching their every move so as to be held in others' high esteem, always climbing up the ladder of success so as to be a step higher than people on the lower rungs. And so probably it's quite true that "down to earth" people don't take themselves too seriously. And when you don't take yourself too seriously, you are on the road to happiness and the path to deeper peace. When you don't take yourself too seriously, you can laugh in a way that gets others laughing out loud with you.
The more I think about it, that's exactly why I would faithfully tune in to listen to "Click and Clack" every Saturday morning. In reality these two Car Talk brothers were chemical engineers with degrees from MIT; and yet when I listened to that show I heard just a couple of "down to earth" regular guys who could have a good laugh, enjoy living everyday life - no pontificating, no pomposity, just some occasional advice as from time to time they shared some wisdom with others along the way.
How refreshingly different from life in the fast lane of a "dog-eat-dog"world" where so many self-important ambitious people are always out to prove themselves. It's no wonder to me that so many people listened to the show.
When I die I hope people might be able to say of me "He was a "down to earth" guy who didn't take himself too seriously.