mugshotI WAS IN A MEETING a couple of years ago. (This is in itself a rare occurrence. As a freelance illustrator and writer, I attend maybe two or three meetings a year. People marvel at what to them seems like my prolific productivity, and I explain that it’s down almost entirely to a lack of meetings.)

The meeting was in a restaurant in Graz, Austria, where I’d gone to record a series of training videos teaching people how to use Photoshop more effectively. The company was a professional, very intelligently managed outfit, run by a charming and handsome Austrian called Gerhard who bowed when he shook your hand. It seemed like such a Von Trapp type of affectation that I once or twice responded by bowing back while clicking my heels. Fortunately he never noticed, as it was the middle of winter and I was wearing rubber-soled boots that failed to make a truly satisfying click.

The man holding the meeting wasn’t Gerhard but a youngish bearded American by the name of Dan. (I have met a number of Americans, and most of them are called Dan, with the exception of one or two Bobs). Dan was proposing a new model under which videos might be marketed to the public, involving a different order of subscription program. He asked for my opinion, and I remarked upon some trivial point that seemed blindingly obvious to me.

Dan looked deep into my eyes, his bushy brows furrowing slightly. “You’re very wise,” he observed.

I’d been accused of many things in my life, but wisdom had never been one of them. I didn’t think that what I said was wise in the slightest. I thought it was merely the natural conclusion to be drawn from the available facts.

But it dawned on me that what Dan had mistaken for wisdom was merely experience. If you hang around long enough, it seems, wisdom sticks to you like barnacles. The older you get, the more you can relate what’s happening now to what you’ve seen before. It’s never exactly the same, of course. As Mark Twain once pointed out: “History never repeats itself, but it does rhyme.” Mark Twain truly was a very wise man.

Through the simple expedient of having hung around on this planet for over half a century, I’ve picked up some ideas about the right and wrong way to do things. Some of the barnacles that have stuck to my storm-battered hull are of no interest to anyone but myself, but some are, I think, of more general concern.

The point of this website is to include pretty much everything I know that I think is worth passing on. It’s a work in progress, which will probably (hopefully) never be finished. Of course, I’ve missed out the vast quantity of pure facts that you naturally accrue in the course of everyday life: to quote another great thinker, Albert Einstein: “Knowledge is experience. Anything else is just information.”

Everything here is my opinion. You will certainly disagree with some of it, and you’ll be absolutely right to do so. You can’t gain knowledge by reading about someone else’s experiences. But you might just find a couple of shortcuts that make the whole Life thing a little easier to deal with.

Steve Caplin