Living the Sweet Life: One of 12 Virtues, the Second of Which is Wit

By Alisa Murray
Nationally recognized
portrait artist and
award-winning columnist.

This year marks my 15th anniversary writing my column Living the Sweet Life. This year also marks my 50th birthday.  As a way of reflection and remembrance, this year’s Sweet Life will be a continuous study of Aristotle’s 12 Virtues and how they are applied to my life.

This month I will celebrate that dreaded birthday, and the funny thing is, I am grateful for getting to have it. Many of my friends go through their lives worried about getting older, but I have taken it all in stride. Life works out much better when you can find a sense of humor to help cope with the inevitable.

Amongst Aristotle’s virtues, wit is without a doubt one that we should all master, for it is in having wit we can brush off life’s challenges and see them for what they are – simply a part of living. Wit, as defined by Webster, is “to be able to relate seemingly disparate things so as to illuminate or amuse.” I have indeed mastered this one, and I have a story for you to prove it.

Many of you know, and for those of you who keep pretending it’s not happening, please be advised we are all going to die. It is also a fact that with medical technology, it’s even pretty much a predictable circumstance as to how you will eventually find yourself dead. Genetics and medical advances have given us the ability to become intimately aware of what predispositions we have towards getting cancer or heart disease, thereby giving us good ideas of life expectancy.

For some, the idea of finding out is scary. Why? I have no idea because I would very much like to know just precisely how much time I have so I can use it even more wisely. As my life would have it, or my genetic precursors, I am going to get heart disease or as I am now aware, I somehow got it or had it all my life. For a long time, I have thought I would probably just be standing there, camera or computer in hand one minute, and poof, gone the next breath. So, when during a routine visit to see my cardiologist at the end of last year he slapped a heart monitor on me and sent me off to get a calcium score, I did not think a thing about it. I gladly obliged, mainly because he is in charge of the plumbing, and I am an agreeable friend and sometimes patient.

When I came in for the follow-up, I was greeted as usual with smiles and hugs, and we sat down to discuss the results.  It was then that I was told I needed to download the shoot schedule, the travel schedule, the writing schedule – heck all of my scheduled life – so as to make way for what he called a non-elective procedure. His brother, a surgeon, was going in with a heart cath and most probably doing some of those stents on me.  Now, stents I am familiar with. A long line of others in my family have had heart attacks, and as I said genetics – some things you cannot get around no matter how much spinach and olives you eat. My doctor said gently, “I would like to do this at Methodist,” and then got real quiet. I leaned into him and said with a smile, “I know why you’d like that too!” He looked at me, and I said “because when Brian and James Edward come running me in with a heart attack, the records will be in one place, and everyone will know what they are doing before they crack open the old chest and save my life…right?”

My doctor smiled right back and nodded and said, “Yep!” Oh, to be right and a straight-shooter at this stage of my life. I’ll call that having some wit. As I prepared my family for the procedure, I told them I was going to write down everything for the funeral – just in case there was a problem. My friends and family were not amused.

When the day of the procedure came, I spoke with the doctor before, during and after. I was awake for the entire thing. After he finished, he came in and said very confidently, “You will live 30 more years.” I replied well, “My Nana did live to 102, so there’s still that.” He looked puzzled and said, “Well.” I then said with a laugh less than twenty minutes from when he had just been playing around in my vessels, “If you’re not careful, your technology will circumvent my natural causes of demise, and I just might be getting me some of that cancer stuff.” I wish you could have seen his face. Ladies and gentlemen that is the pure essence of having yourself some good old-fashioned wit!

Kenny Rodgers once sang a song – “You’ve got to know when to hold em’, know when to fold em’, know when to walk away, and know when to run.  You never count your money, when you’re sitting at the table, they’ll be time enough for counting when the dealing’s done.” I’d say you got to know when to call it for what it is, find the humor in all of it, persevere in the face of the inevitable and let life happen.

Take care of you!