Mort Mather's Philosophy

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Mort Mather's Garden Spot

If you doubt that your life is, indeed, yours, that you control it; try this exercise.

It seems like it has snowed just about every other day in March. I just finished shoveling the second snow since the first day of spring. That is a fact. I have no control over the weather. I can't make it rain when I want it to nor make the sun come out.

However, I can influence if not control my reaction to the fact of the weather. I could have looked out my window Saturday morning and said, "Oh, God, more snow to shovel. When is this going to end? I am sick and tired of winter." Or I could have looked out the window and seen a winter wonderland with white fluffy snow gracing every bough and bending birch trees toward the ground. Since I have trouble doing exercises just for the sake of getting my body in shape I could have thought, "Ah, snow to shovel. That will help me get in shape for turning the garden. Thinking of the garden, I had better find some other ways to exercise because I will be planting the peas within the next three weeks. Another good thing about this snow is that it won't last long enough to get dirty. It was really just a spring shower that fell to ground softly."

I am not always so philosophically blessed though I do seem to be able to put myself on the pleasant side of the fence more often now that I used to be able to do. Perhaps I am getting wiser.

Here's another one to think about at this time of year, paying taxes. As a freelance writer and consultant taxes are not withheld from my income so I have to send the IRS a check quarterly. And then social security takes another big bite. Paying taxes this year has been particularly painful.

The choices here are: 1. Pay them while venting anger at government, taxes and corrupt politicians, 2. Spend a lot of time trying to figure out ways to beat the system, 3. Not pay them, 4. Pay them cheerfully. There may be some other choices but those are the only ones I can see. I rule out number 3 right away because the likely consequences would definitely not be pleasant. Even if I didn't get caught, knowing myself I would not feel good. At the very least I would be worrying about getting caught.

I have chosen number 1 many times. While I do sometimes enjoy ranting about the government somehow it is not as much fun when tied to narrow self interest. "Don't be taking money out of my pocket to pay the military or to help people who can't help themselves." Ranting is more fun when done for a more altruistic or broader self-interest. "Why don't you politicians understand the polls that say we hate both parties when either wastes time trying to drag down the other."

For a freelance person or anyone earning income other than wages it is fairly easy to "forget" or hide some of the income. It is a temptation that I have struggled with some years. I have take legal deduction that were interesting enough to draw the attention of the IRS two different years. Both times I came out clean. It made me so nervous that one year I claimed more income than I actually had. That year my income was below the poverty level and I was afraid they would believe me. Interestingly enough I am proudest of that year.

So that leaves option 4 which I highly recommend. By and large the government does a lot of good things. I am proud to be a citizen of this country and I am more proud when I am contributing my fair share. There are problems with my government but I feel much better when I direct my energies toward some positive solution rather than trying to justify not paying taxes. Hey, I bet I feel a whole lot better at this time of the year than Steve Forbes. That poor fellow probably has to pay millions of dollars in taxes not to mention the hundreds of thousands he pays accountants and lawyers to keep from paying even more. You've got to wonder how he gets by on the few millions of dollars that are left over after paying taxes.

İMarch 22, 1997

Mort Mather's Philosophy Essays

Mort is a husband and father. He authored a book, Gardening For Independence and was named Environmentalist of the Year by Down East Magazine in 1987. He is a consultant for organizations. His address is 802 Bald Hill Road, Wells, ME 04090.

Mort retains all rights to his columns. Anyone interested in using them can get the rights at a very reasonable rate.

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