Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Old Familiars



We are two old warriors sitting on a bench. Our long lives have been rich, multifaceted. Now, people pass us by with nary a glance. We may choke and nobody may be there to rescue us. We may expire and there might be no record of our having been. How very many other unknown souls have also come into and gone from this world, their loves unheralded, their very existence unfelt? History is full of such as these. A small group of nomads, a little village of survivors, a lone huntsman. With no writings to mark his passage; no photos that tell a story in her recollection; no great great grandchildren who have a true sense of their precise heritage, how shall the lives of any one Other signify but in the very moment by moment of their having actually been? Who was my great grandfather, really? And before him? But sitting on that bench my friend and I know we have no such obscurity; a host of others have buoyed us along our way and our present isolation is but circumstantial. At our passing the eulogies will be there to sing our praises. It is the persons whose deeds go unheralded, whose life appears in relative indefinableness that intrigues; that such an one be self-actualized, have a sense of worthiness, be content. We are not the sum total of what we've done but of who we are. Right now.

Another old friend from long ago recently contacted me. Almost forty years have passed. Who am I to him now, or he to me but the young men we once were? He has a health service award named after him. His daughter is a lawyer. His son is a doctor. He has lived in the same house since about 1978, or was it 79? And he appears to remain the same, though there is a tone of seriousness in his writing (as is in mine) that might have been more jovial when we were younger. His questions essentially ask, who are you now? What is your passion?

I write to him with words. But my concern is for a catachresis. Misunderstood words might invade the meanings between us and we may go chasing red herrings of assumption. I am not really what I do. Less what I've done. This body is not really me. I am not really attached to my stuff. I cannot continue to claim accolades for the past, though I slew a dragon, climbed a mountain, bellowed into the mouth of the volcano. Hyperbole and metaphor enliven. Truth is so very revealing, but can be bland. Does it matter that I once flew to Montreal? My friend's theological interests might dovetail with yet another old friend I met there. No, we do not go fishing fruitlessly, we rather are distracted by the other's conventions, literary, religious, paradigmatic, or perhaps we just go fancifully by some trail of our own. Thing is, when I look into his eyes and hear his voice it is his spirit that will re-engage me in the moment, and we shall resume that kismet sense of accord that enlivens friendship, or not. What matter that he swam the River Jordan, or fought in the battle of Jericho? But should that chemistry no longer be there we might uncertainly shake hands, and know that a reason, a season, a lifetime is all part of the passage of time. We wend our way to finally shutting our eyes, to letting go.

My new den is taking shape. I unpack boxes and boxes of books. They each are symbols of my interest. Like old friends they each contain my energy in procuring them, leafing through them, somewhat understanding them, and each are worthy of revisiting. It is my trophies and awards that remain unpacked. That was then. This is now. Who shall care for what I did any more than what I do? Right here and now. In this moment.


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