Monday, July 30, 2012

F) Gods of Seniority

To be 'senior' in High School may be understood as false. Focus on what one is going to be takes precedence over who one actually is. At any age. A future, how to develop one's potential, to best the interview, to get ahead, and how to prove one's worth predominates. Yet while in Grades Ten, Eleven and Twelve (that freeing grade that declares the end of the dependence plateau from which we, in a formal ceremony, leap into the insecurities of self-reliance) there is a generalized gelling of the fundamentals of being one's 'self' that gets firmed by comparisons, judgements, and one's habituations.

Some Senior Highs have Grade Nine through Thirteen. We are apportioned according to the culture. We are grouped according to age. We are ranked according to ability. We are graded accorded to product. We are befriended according to circumstance or the chance of similarities observed, stated, or implied. And we are supported most unfairly based on the opinions and grades given by parents, family, teachers, friends. Penelope hates Miss X and Mr. Y, but Percy likes both of them. Penelope loves Percy, she thinks, but Percy is sure he doesn't like her. And as such, adults or still youngsters, we Gods in Senior High, at any age, keep extending and retracting and advancing and withholding the many gradations of our concepts, our intentions, our values and morals and ethics. Accretion of our accomplishments or of awards or of wealth or even of focus and purpose and direction entrenches our growing resume of character, serves to augment our personality, and sets us up to be autonomously accountable, though we may continue to reach perpetually for our support systems. It is judgement and grades that easily continues to divide us. How else can Penelope vie for Medical School? How else does Percy hope to get into Oxford? And commercialism, that necessary commodity of the commune between all sentient creatures, becomes the altar to which most of us are drawn, albeit ineluctably or not, since we deem those with 'more' to have more value as a human being, more power, more prestige, more worth; despicable of character or royal by pronouncement. Attitudes predominate. We are clearly conscious of variables, and rather than integration and compassion and acceptance and tolerance and inclusion, generally and collectively, we are concerned with ensuring that we ourselves get ahead. Even as a Group, whether with grades or on the sports field, we hope to kick butt. Or the individual does not care, and the apathetic, the iconoclast, the rebel, the underachiever, the non-complaint, the selfish, the arrogant, the... The differentiation becomes more marked. One develops or experiments with fields of sameness; the school has clubs for the gays (nowadays), the smokers, the Mormons, the Jews. And we even may accept or rejoice or grumble that no longer do we say the Lords' Prayer. Groups will parade and promulgate and litter the walls with posters of their contentions. Many individuals will sublimate and hide and work alone and think what they think, but being in the school's Collective Memes, albeit unwittingly, is hardly one's own fault. The grades of our apportionment prior to graduating toward true autonomy (into a yet more complex society,) is due to our enculturation and others' legal and societal and familial expectations. Even our friends and teachers are there to urge at us: Stay with us now!

Recognizing ourselves in life's perpetual curriculum, as adults, is not lightly seen. Our consciousness of the grades given to each other, if not to ourselves perpetuates the stress of comparisons, the business of checking out the Jones, and of attachment to values. Gods' grades may be suspect, but they can become stepping stones to more.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

E) Junior Gods

Intelligence is not predicated on knowledge; at least, not necessarily. Literacy is not a measure of insightfulness. Linguistic fluency is not a measure of mindfulness. Math is not a prerequisite for spirituality. (Many a potential English teacher did not become one for lack of qualifying Math grades.) Dictates can hobble. Autonomous Synthesis is not easily achieved. Even within the strands of any given curriculum, in any given grade, a natural separation ensues. Our timetables are the order and divisions of attention. We put on or doff off the required roles of science, biology, art, drama, English, French, Spanish, home economics or even Math students at other (older) Gods' demands. Fragmentation is endemic, even in the classroom. Recall grades being posted? Recall names for detention on the board? One teacher creatively called it, 'The Banner of Shame'; were the motives perhaps misunderstood? Junior High can have the dubious or salubrious effect of further dividing and stratifying ego-bound potential. Paradoxically, being 'bound' denotes plus or minus. A grade! Stasis, wont, or want of mobility is implicit or explicit; one is made aware that there is more, and the fear is that one may never be good enough, or arrogance becomes such that one intends to better everyone else, or the fun is that there are lots of friends to party and go places with. We herein are happy to drop some prepositions in relations. Decidedly. Others we adhere to with captive identity. In, or out? Recall the phrase, non-u? We may even adopt a political stance. Or?

Grade Seven through Nine captures children of uncertain maturation and segments them into streams and field-days and collusions and competition. At Elementary, sports day may be fun. At Junior High it may be much more serious. You represent the school.

"Why, why are we archaically still subjecting students to an age equals grade school orientation?" writes Angela. Indeed, depending on being identified, we are so defined.

Even as adults we may retain the habits of Junior High as invigorating or enervating as is our wont. Grades! Sophisticated judgement abounds. Cliques and badges and clubs and groups and causes and try-outs make or break us. We find succor in the eyes of others, or we may be crushed by a glance. And some of us, individual, undeveloped in caring, lead with our ego. Strength of energy and of being and of dominance is not the same as strength of character. We experiment with who we are; some adjust unwittingly to the expected. Or we entrench who we think we are; damn the consequences. The angry young man draws his own portrait. Penelope further develops her faithfulness. A star is born. The bully is 'always' a jerk. Change is like a congealing soup; we become more certain that we fit, or not, and we gravitate toward like-minded ingredients. Or not.

Indeed, we might inculcate ongoing judgements. Rather than be evaluative (a single pie  is unpalatable, not the entire cook) we are naturally bound to competition, grades, our chronology, and fairness. A moment in the past is more better than right Now; or if it's a good 'now' then an even better time is in the future. We find it most difficult to accept the given moment, completely. Always there is a was and a next. And that Penelope might be accelerated or should be ousted or even more decidedly, failed, is by comparisons.

Junior High searches for who we are. We vacillate mostly in being defined by others. Senior High establishes or confounds us. Intelligence is controlled by knowledge; or not.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

D) Elementary Gods

Wisdom conceived by Grade One is interesting. Wise old Solomon's division of the baby can intrigue even a five year old. Yet now we may see ourselves at the bottom of the rung with a long uncertain ladder to finish school, let alone the certainty of attending a universe(ity). Elementary school, with Gradations to Six, makes for the separation of wheat from the chaff (an ugly term) full of the push and shove of potentialities colliding and fickleness of friendships being retested as we yet may make our way groundless as weights on lilly pads of expectations. But some are butterflies already emerged from the pupae, flitting from flower to flower in the gardens of potentiality. We call such, even as adults, angels. For others enduring foci may emerge; decisions not to like marmite, broccoli, or Penelope. I hate her comes trippingly off the tongue. Pathological lying can find foundation here too; it is easier to avoid truth when truth gets one beaten. Fear or Favor (an oversimplified dichotomy) reacts more and more steadily within us. Fight or flight. Left or right choices dictate our suffering or enjoying the consequences. Or not.

Consequentiality drives us. Even unto right now. In a Kohlberg stratification we can stay like babies, so unaffected by consequence as again to damage, steal and rape and lie and betray all over again once the jail of the crib, the leash, the lash, the imprisonment is removed. Self-centricity would equate this very first stage of undeveloped potentiality in adults with habitual models of mankind across the chalk boards of classrooms every where. Such a self-centric first stage is a very different behavior, Meme, or modality than the self-efficacy of civil disobedience. Plato would have it that many only see shadows for reality. Thoreau would rather that we sit face to face with authenticity. And awareness of our effect on others becomes our ego-centricity, that necessary trait in order for us to be commensurate, to commiserate, and to dance with society. But some of us (teachers like Kohlberg, Dabrowski, or Clare Graves will say) never may get past these layerings of the Elementary grades. We endemically predominantly practice left or right choices. Even our very morality is predicated on such. We do what we do because we believe in those who've taught us that this is the way to think, to do, to believe, to see, to feel, to marry, to judge, to condemn, to love, to listen, to entrench, to war. And we can hardly believe that Grade One through Six has so very many computations and permutations (a most academic sounding phrase to convince an apprehensive clarity).

"In Grade One we were arranged in rows, according to how 'bright' we were. There were the Turtles, the Sparrows, the Squirrels and the Bluebirds! Oh, to be a Bluebird, but I think I was a Squirrel. Only later did it dawn on me how sad it was for those poor kids in the Turtle row. There was no moving up for them. How long did that label stick to them?" writes Jessie.

Our very beings, predicated on the body-culture of our perceptions of ourselves as gleaned from the reactions we habituate ourselves toward in the perpetual classroom of life, can set us up into adulthood with a conceptual belief that who we are and what we acquire in Elementary school is sufficient for our needs. Who needs more? And thereby psychically, spiritually, and potentially, we no longer evolve much past the fundamental premises inculcated in us by the elementary lessons we perceive always to be around us. Who needs more? Being meta-cognitive requires too much comfort with perpetual uncertainty. And anyway, your thoughts are too dense! Can you not just say it simply?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

C) A Kindergarten of Gods

Conditioning is natural. Crows caw at instructing their young; leopards and lions and elephants and crocodiles have ways too. We see cuddly and cute and oh snap and petite all being raised to become in our image. And we get taken by surprise when the lion lays down with the lamb. Birds of a feather flock together. If a fish and a bird marry, where will they live? But let us not get ahead of ourselves. Teach your children well.

Naturally, we are societal, somewhat if not very much gregarious, and each and every one of us conditioned. Pavlovian, even before Kindergarten, neural pathways were established by which we are identifying ourselves. Even as babies we can be observed to display those archetypes of being sanguine, colic, phlegmatic, or just downright belligerent. Already, even before most of us begin talking we entrench our preference for psycho-geometric shapes of personality. Character is not yet defined; it being an accretion of the things we do. But personality comes very early on, and as a tool by which we engage our world we squarely face it, squiggle our way through it, embrace our circle, or poke and prod and prick in a triangularity of needing wants met. To be entirely indecisive is not natural to us. We innately exercise likes and dislikes, and our personality shapes our world for us. Kindergarten creates a social pathway. It is the first stage at which we are generally no longer under the protection of family and are lumped in with others more or less of our own chronology to find our own way.

But already some of us have been abused. Great fear and deep shame can scar the psyche. Others may know great love and deep attachment. Nice. In either instance being in Kindergarten among like-aged Gods is an experiment in homogeneity. Simple dichotomies confound; personal complexity is developing, let alone universality. But like a sixth grader in the Graves' Spiral Dynamics model (a later curriculum; I peeked!), we are expected to display an equality of ability, intelligence, and outlook. Yet already the differentiation is multilayered. I was never going to reveal what my crippled uncle did to me. Penelope was disbelieving that her wonderful parents could actually leave her at the school gate. Tony was already feeling displaced. Mike was already conscious of being impoverished. Justin was already conscious of being bored by simplistic expectations. Rob found it unfair that the others were already older than he. Simon....

The differentiation is inescapable. And the layering upon layering has begun. Nowadays we are racially and culturally more mixed than our histories. Thanks to 'before-school' kids being bombarded with imagery in T.V. raised countries, we no longer need stare at strangers. Racial, or handicapped. That segment of our integration has begun. But we have the universal hyperbole of a kazillion prepositions yet to interlace; our relationship to and with and in and of and above and under and near and far is on its way. Ontology recapitulates phylogeny. Education is dependent on culture, conditioning, circumstance, innate interest, and the authority of the system. We are vulnerable, like comprachicos, to the makings of man; long before the fountainhead. Our unique authenticity is a plasticity to be moulded by the conditioning of that which our parents modeled, our immediate familial society reflected, and is about to become graduated by degrees within the first congregated classroom of conceptions inculcated in us by Kindergarten.

Would then that its teachers be the wisest of beings!

Romanes' 1892 copy of Ernst Haeckel's allegedly fraudulent embryo drawings. Romanes version is often attributed incorrectly to Haeckel.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

B) Baby Gods!

Prior to school has essential merit. Essential. Yet we may dismiss those who appear to stay in it predominantly. "I don't suffer fools" is the phrase. You moron. Retard. Ignoramus.

First lessons are crucial. In most models of mankind they appear as the survival level, equating historically with man at his most primitive, most likely to be mostly self-serving, entirely dependent on getting his immediate needs met. At any age we may observe in ourselves such continuity. I would needs disturb a whole Opera audience were there a sudden alarm in my bowels. But sophistication has me thinking ahead about how long the flight from Denver to Vancouver will take; how long the lecture; how long the drive; how long the opera. And my developed inhibitors will help me when my utter selfishness desires the biggest slice of the cheesecake. The sheer randomness of life provides test upon test for the mastery of pre-school. Beyond potty training there is the awareness of others to take into account. And consideration of others, ideally, is the lesson we may learn that stops us from fiddling with ourselves in public, not shame. Inhibitors are not necessarily about shame; they become variously exercised implicitly or explicitly in consciousness or consideration of our effect. But while we are in the initial stages of life we by birthright are naturally uninhibited, unashamed, unaware that we make demands on others or are primarily dependent on our survival needs. We just want what we want.

Before school provides the foundation of attachment. We learn what we like, whom we feel good about, to whom we are primarily affiliated, and we learn the essential concept of ourselves as a recognizable name. My label is Richard, son, kid, or worse, Back-Seat-Brat. The one I might perceive as delivered with love, the others with shame. And were I now still mostly to remain in those moments of utter selfishness as to NEED my food at a certain temperature, my voice heard, my contentions un-argued, or my garbage-bin foraging, my stealing from another with no real consideration as to how it may affect others, I'd be given some grade for my pre-schooling by the Gods. Week one; month two; adaptation three; almost ready for Kindergarten; ahead of his time! And so we see our comparisons to others. We begin to take ownership in becoming ourselves. We may feel a sense of inadequacy that dearest Penelope always appears better, or take on a sense of pride that we are faster, stronger, brighter, louder. Or worse, if we alone are to survive amongst the thousands of tests ahead of us, we might just decide not to give a damn. Does it matter if I leave my family, betray my loved ones, don't bother with my education, don't try for financial independence (let alone a contribution to society), don't care about my addiction, don't think of my effect upon others, poo in my pants? In those first stages of preschool my ego is not yet developed to handle the sophistication of the consequences of being in Kindergarten. And that's why, generally, I must wait until I am four or five years old, chronologically speaking, before I may be given 'accountable' grades by a teacher, who will (until I one day am truly able to comprehend where she too may be coming from) affect my sense of me for the rest of my life. "He is not as clever as he thinks he is," she actually wrote. In Kindergarten we receive our stars by comparisons, or not. We find that we're favored, or over-looked, or even not liked. We get more often to think about the consequences of our actions. Easier to stay in preschool?

If only one did not have to read so much! To work so hard. To be tested. To care. Can't we just stop the lessons already? Huh?

Monday, July 23, 2012

WTF Warning! Pornography Ad Infinitum! (Graphic Image!)

Found this image on Facebook today, published as humor by a former student of mine. For what it is worth, here is my response: 

While deeply symbolic and creative, this graphic image gives yield to the definition of pornography.
If we keep silent for fear of being censors we allow the innocent, the easily affected, the ignorant, the easily led, the easily influenced to become copy cats. 
The horrid Batman movie theater tragedy this last Friday midnight provides example. 
Yet Dark Humor has its place, especially to a paying public. 
But might not those of us who can spread such imagery to any free public-forum consider the influence we may have on the evolution of mankind toward higher ideals, rather than feeding its atavistic impulses?
Let's indeed have a heart!

Herein too, as posted on Facebook, lies perception: 

This young lady evokes a sense of immediate appreciation for the vitality of a healthy looking body. The children too appear just to be having fun.

But the 98+ people's commentary ranges from the lewd, crude, obvious, and downright dirty to some saying we should just lighten up! Is the image perhaps deliberate or perhaps accidental provocativeness? It certainly inspires the chatter, the matter, the prattle over perceptions!

Then again, in terms of lightening up, here's something that elicits a real chuckle, ha!:  

 W.T.F. indeed, Ha!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

A) Gods' Grades

God does not give out grades. We give those to ourselves. As Gods we quantify and classify and establish hierarchies and laud, applaud, judge and condemn. One might get past the flatland sense of an evidently unfair equality and integrate everything into an existential soup of different tastes and different ingredients, allowing room and roam within some conceived whole of the universe, but, like it or not, we have rank and order, phylum and data. And we love to wrangle over who belongs where.

In any given model of the stratification of mankind I search for one integral concept, that is that 'a person is everything'. However apportioned. At issue is the predominate degree to which a given habituation is practiced, subconsciously, consciously, unconsciously, or intentionally. Habit defines us. We are culturally, linguistically, nationally, and habitually driven. It's our set. And we generally contest within it. We can intend to and then acquire a new habit; repetition makes it not new. Good or bad. And depending on what an observer states, or perhaps from what we feel, some behavior of ours is labelled on a continuum of labels. Thing is, to say I'm a cook can mean a whole lot of different things to very many people; or is that 'kook'? Levels of attainment imbue our lives. The gradations are defined by others, mostly, and very much so by ourselves.

So I advance The Theory of Gods Grades. No need for an apostrophe. We all are One.

Like grade school to graduate school, we appear apportioned into classes in the curriculum of life. Both a natural order as well as a man-made order predicates as much. We are startled by anomalies. The prodigy. The crazed. The outlier. Generally we are most comfortable within the class of our peers, our colleagues, our friends, our culture, our beliefs, our field of knowledge. Esemplasticity is not a natural proclivity. So we prefer to keep things, usually, simple. And though recognizing ourselves as being contained within a grade level, as in, "I'm in Grade Six; next lifetime I shall be in Grade Seven!" it is rather limiting of us to judge anyone, let alone ourselves by so simple a categorization. Some of my understanding is decidedly still in grade six, and even some more remains at pre-school level, yet other understandings are at a post graduate level. Like you, I am everything. My life's curriculum is as individualized and as differentiated by the comprehensions and lessons and passage of my lifetime, as is yours, and though I certainly can say I passed standard one, or even grade two, I for sure can tell you that I did not do so with 100%. Ever watched 'Who is smarter than a fifth grader?'

No body of knowledge will of itself give qualification to be acclaimed into a given grade; character may. No personality will of itself give acclamation to a given grade; character may. And even then no one person is so complete in character and personality as not to ever feel angry, hurt, mis-aligned. If personality be described as psycho-geometric (that is as a square, circle, triangle, squiggly line, rectangle or even a trapezoid) then one's character is hereby defined as that which we do. Personality is the manner by which we do things; character is the means. And if we generally bring our sparkling personality to a given party and persuade others to vote for a certain character we but perform the marriage ceremony of that which imbues us all; we hardly can separate yin and yang, male and female, positive and negative, enlightenment and obscurity, though we try. Some of us even refuse to accept shades of grey! But we do, evidently, dish out grades!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Deliberate Deaths

"If a tree falls in the forest", the question goes. And the ego stance of it makes me blink. As if the existence of sound, the existence of a forest at all, is predicated on my witnessing it. Very small children are like that. They lose sense of object existence once the thing is hidden behind the back, and they flick the eyes toward some other distraction. Not seen; does not exist. How very many things there are that we too give no life in our overlooking them? Like hearing about the death of a someone we do not know. Sad we say, but personally we are at large unaffected. It is when we are involved, when we have to dodge the falling tree or be hurt by the loss of a loved one that we are startled into a disintegration of comfort, of complacency, of our quite steadily lived lives.

That I should be in Denver, at the Double-Tree Hotel on Curtis Street, on this same dark night as the massacre of innocent people at the Batman premiere is purely coincidental. The unexpected event has no relationship to me, personally. In fact the awful event took place ten miles from the hotel. And it was only this early morning, when a Facebook post from my friend in Australia commented about it, that I realized that in the night, tossing and turning as I was, that so many trees in the forest of humanity near me had so brutally, callously, unfairly, premeditatedly, yet so randomly been cut down. And because we were not there to hear the thuds, did the event not occur? Are we not to be affected? I do not know any of the victims. Does that lessen grief, shock, involvement?

"Weep not for whom the bells tolls," the poet wrote. "It tolls for thee." Some would have it that the very flap of a butterfly's wings affects the universe. Good or bad, it makes for an interpretative process, defines one's fundamental outlook on life. Existentialists will say it is what it is, that butterfly clap. No relationship to me. Some will imagine it as loudly as the big sound of thunder offsetting a thousand and one reactions. Yet since such a flip-flap is beyond our control, why bother with it all? What matter if we kill a few score of the creatures on the windscreens and car-grills of our hurtling at life? What matter if we harvest trees and animals of all sorts, and carrots and peas too? Where ends the slippery slope of our caring too much lest we tread on an ant? Or kill a person? 

Ray Bradbury has it, in his short story called 'The Sound of Thunder', that were but a single butterfly more to have been killed at the time of the dinosaurs our entire present would be different. Different! Depending on one's stance, that of course might mean better, not worse. But there is something in the deliberate intention to kill for the self-gratification of one's ego that sticks in the craw. As adults we teach children to trap the feared bee or the spider in the house in a glass, then to slide the paper carefully under the lip, and to go set the thing free. But we are not so kind to flies, and especially not to mosquitoes. And we watch war. And we continue to cage-fight. And we perpetuate aggression and self-aggrandizement. And we do not hear the shrieks of the fallen beyond our immediate ken. At least, some of us do not. Narcissism is about referencing in terms of the self. The paradox is, a real referencing of everything in terms of the self would be to understand that being one's very best might be directed toward serving the whole. And that when a tree falls, it serves us all, heard or not, whether serving as nature evolves, or whether just as we intend. It's up to us.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Simon (with thanks to Tuesdays with Morrie)

"So, what's new with you?"

"Well, my funeral was last week."

"Last week? But you're still..."

"Alive? Yes. But Simon Brink is not. He died. Today. Five in the morning. And at his funeral there will be all sorts of people saying all sorts of nice things about him, but he won't be there to hear to it."

"But that's how funerals are. No one expects to be at... Well, to hear their own funeral."

"Well, that's not for me. If people are going to say nice things about me I want to hear it. So I choose a date, I made a few phone calls, and I had a living funeral. You want to try it. All sorts of people saying all sorts of nice things about you, and you get to hear it. Now wouldn't that be nice?"

"Yes. But it's kinda embarrassing to tell people how you feel about em while they're... "

"Still alive? You know, that's what we did for Simon, a friend and I. We went to Australia; we visited with him. We told him we loved him. We swapped stories. It was great! It was sad. It was good. We had ourselves some tea and cake with him. And we said our goodbyes. Simon. We said our goodbye."

"Yes, but you knew he was going to die. That's why you went. What about the rest of us? We don't know how long we've got so we, well, we feel no need to tell others about how we feel about them."

"That's my point. If you wait until the final moment before you tell someone something nice about themselves, well, you better have great timing!"

"And we seldom do."

"We seldom do. So if you're hearing this now, and you are Simon's most loving younger brother, Anthony, or his beloved wife, Pauline, or his friend Aisha, or his friends you also know, like Justin and Mike and Rob, or some other dearest friend of all, then it is very necessary to tell you how much I love you, how much I care, how much I feel connected despite the distance and the years and the lack of communication. That's what to say to family, friends, loved ones. Because if I don't, we better have great timing."

"Simon said what he wanted to say? Simon had peace?"

"Simon was a man who saw great grace at the end of his days. He came to terms with his lot, and he gave great love. It was a sad but beautiful ending. His brother wrote: 'the extraordinary, beautiful Simon Brink, died peacefully away'. What a lovely phrase. What a powerful testament to the life of a man: extraordinary; beautiful. What more to say?"

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Good Grief

Difficult to let someone die. As if there is anything that can be done about the realistic inevitability of it in the first place. Difficult to let go. Difficult to know the end of the show is upon us. Difficult to say goodbye. Grief does not wrap me as much as it leaks from me, in bits and pieces of hurt that invades my everyday moments. I am one moment in happiness and then some door inside me opens and I realize the sadness behind my smile, the sadness within my being. What is now is because of what is not. And though what is now has its own goodness of place and time and purpose and intention, it does not completely allow me not to feel the indelible sadness of missing you.

So much death. Simon still waits his turn. Just a month ago, and a few days, he bid his final goodbye. Australia and Canada are more than continents apart, they are compass points that stretch two friends away from each other as far as the globe will allow. Yet unlike John Donne's poem about the same image, in which the metaphysical conceit of love grows higher and closer as the compass points approach each other, what is there now that shall bring such an one as Simon, Tony, or my dearest friend, Nancy, Mike, Rob, and their families closer to me? They are the fixed points as ever further I course away in this journey of days and months that shall inevitably turn into years. And of the very many names I could add to this roster, where shall I end? Throughout one's life there is a loving but a having to let go.

Grief is good. It lets me know that I love. Were I to be calloused sufficiently to have no feelings then I might not extend love in the first place. But the caution is that grief not be construed as too painful not to love again. Many a teenager makes that mistake. I know I still feel that way about my Dalmatian. His life was so wound up in mine, and his dying was so eventful to me that I cannot bring myself to have another dog. The sad story has all those teenage implications of a Romeo and Juliet, dying for the sake of love, sure that there be no other to fill the ache of being bereft. Such a monogamy makes of man a martyr to love; having once loved that deeply there is none other to whom one can give oneself so completely. Yet friendship does not have it so. At least, not in my experience. An ongoing number of friends have received my love, and though a multitude of deaths, both real as well as figurative have attended the passage of people passing through my life, not one of them have so hurt as to have me withholding from feeling and giving love in friendship yet again. Friendship does not betray. Friendship is not jealous. We are no longer teenagers with a best friend who will not allow the phone calls or the letters or the swapping of time and story with another. And when time and circumstance takes away such a friend from us, we grieve, we keep in touch, but we also make new friends.

Yet some grief in me grows greater as I see my twilight advancing, albeit from a very distant horizon. It is the grief of regret for the time I took immaturely, selfishly, carelessly, even heedlessly away from those I have loved. Forgiveness of the self allows for the same toward others. Compassion is the understanding that we do what we do out of our inability actually to have done otherwise. And grief, such as it is, is the awareness that we have loved. It is a good thing, this grief. It is like medicine that hurts to make whole.