Thursday, May 02, 2013

Sixty-five and Counting


On April 27th I had my sixty-fifth birthday. Seems like I should say something meaningful because logic says I should have accumulated some knowledge, if not wisdom, after all that experience. Hmmmm. Ok.
 
My life has spanned a fascinating slice of time. I was born just a few years after the first detonation of a nuclear weapon and a bit more than a year before the USSR detonated First Lightning, their first-ever nuclear device. I was in school when radical fundamentalist Christians shoehorned “God” into the Pledge of Allegiance and onto our money. I was raised in New Orleans to be a 19th-century gentleman. I had music lessons and dance lessons. I trained with a French fencing master. Yes, fencing. (I told you, nineteenth-century style.) Went through the Catholic grammar school system then tested for and earned a place in the prestigious Jesuit prep school, the College of the Immaculate Conception, aka Jesuit High. Attended college on a National Merit scholarship. (You know that meme that goes around about the Harvard entrance exam from 18nn, when they ask how you would do on it? That's the test I was educated to take. I told you - raised to be a nineteenth-century gentleman - that's not hyperbole.) Participated in a variety of sports, like any good, red-blooded Southern boy, but spent the most time as a gymnast. Blah, blah, blah.

Meanwhile, out in the real world, Jim Crow was in full force under the aegis of government and culture but being challenged from the top (Brown v. Board of Education, 1954) and from the bottom (Rosa Parks et alii). Life in the South was getting complicated for a naive young fellow who was being groomed to be an Elite White Man. Unfortunately for the established power structure, this particular young fellow had been raised by thoughtful parents who truly believed in the core tenets of their religion and society: Love your neighbor as yourself. All men are created equal. I decided I disagreed with the concept of becoming an Elite White Man. Similarly, I decided that I was no longer convinced that an invisible supernatural entity in the sky was really there, watching sparrows fall and interfering with my day-to-day life. Thus began my journey toward being an individual, wading against the tide of society and culture.
That period in my life was more than a half century ago. In the decades since then, sometimes that tide has flooded strongly and the wading was difficult. Sometimes the tide was ebbing swiftly and the wading was easy. But it was, and still is, always an effort to make your own way against the tide. And sometimes I have lots of energy and am strongly motivated to wade. Other times, I am enervated and even facing an ebbing tide is (almost) too much burden to bear.

We do what we can. That’s all anybody can do.
What have I distilled from 65 years of life and more than half a century of wading against the tide? Ya do what you can and, in the end, only kindness matters.

Yes, I linked to, and like, a Jewel song. Surprised? Is it surprising that I can still surprise you?  (Just ignore that “god” stuff. Or not. Your choice.)
Well, good!

My hands are small. Yeah, I know. I’m a little guy. Been a little guy my whole life. So what? Maybe mine can’t do as much as yours can. Maybe they can do more than yours can. Doesn’t matter. Mine can do what they can do, what I choose to do with them, and yours can do what you choose to do with them. Like the knight says in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, “Choose wisely.”
And remember - We’re all ok; and in the end, only kindness matters.