STAND BY ME
Op/Ed By J. Strauss
The passage. Life really is a passage, even though we live from a past, inside a current moment called the present without anything but a steady determination that there will be a future. And then the future is right there…only to reveal itself as the present over and over and over again.
The present isn’t a place we can live in simply because it passes too quickly. The future we are just getting to is hazy, at best, unless it’s something planned and lived toward up ahead. And those kinds of determined future events are uncertain, to say the least.
We live a good deal of our lives in fear of all three states, past, present and future. And we live alone among other people except in very rare circumstances. Bonding with other humans is much more difficult than bonding with animal friends around us, because of assumption. It is assumed the pet or pets love us.
It is not truly known. We are hampered by our limited ability to assume relationship values with respect to other humans because of intelligent, expressive and blatant communication we have with them. I think a friend Daniel, who just passed, loved me, but he was mad at me near the end of his life. I did not get invited to his recent wedding. He would not speak to me because I intimated over the phone that he could not move to Wisconsin, start a landscaping business and survive wearing a full beard and a Wild Bill Hickok costume in such a stilted conservative area.
Maybe I should have lied. I don’t know. I wish I had. I told this to another friend here so she reached down and gave me a small rubber duck to make me feel better. I have the duck, peaking out of my briefcase right now. I do feel better…
Memorial Day hit, as it almost always does for me, by surprise. Last year on this day I was still trying to recover from a local newspaper’s story about how my military record probably wasn’t real, among other salient facts about my life. I reacted by publishing my own newspaper clippings and official documents back from post Vietnam, after I got out of the Naval Hospital system. I didn’t’ like defending myself, but then that is a big part of post-traumatic stress most regular citizens don’t and can’t understand. Those of us who fought and fought to a bitter grim determined end that never ends, don’t want to fight anymore after that. “I will fight no more forever,” Chief Joseph said long ago. He spoke for all combat veterans, if choice had that much to do with it.
The question that loss, both through personally losing those close to us or loss of the same thing, as well as a few body parts and functions in combat, poses is simple. What are you going to do about it to accommodate the loss? How do you do that famous Marine Corps thing: adapt? Life changes all the time as we all enter these new present situations instantly and forever carved from the elusive but never achievable future. How do we use the losses of the past to shape these new presents and direct them toward influencing those futures?
Memorial Day is about remembering the past, we are told, but that really isn’t it for those among us who want to experience bliss. It is more about using an understanding of the past, and the losses suffered there, to value the present and smile into converting future events. Humans are tribal. Those of us without the ability to establish and maintain the relationships strong enough to be an accepted member of a tribe (be it family, social, military, or even motorcycle club) are doomed to one-day face a future that seems so untenable and awful that the Daniel Bish solution of leaving life becomes the only acceptable course of action.
Scott Louis, who owned and operated Louie’s Pizza at the intersection of Willow Road and South Lake Shore Drive, died last Friday. He had a heart attack. He didn’t ‘check out,’ and he didn’t confound all those who knew him with questions about why, or how could he, or any of that. But the loss still gapes in the past, influences the present times of those who knew and were affected by him and his place, and brings thoughts of the future uncomfortably to the surface.
Stand together. Look around. Call around. Go to the other “survivors” and band together more tightly. Societies and cultures of today, through electronics and other stuff, are driving people away from one another and away from one another leads to only one place. A place of eventual loneliness, boredom and ennui. That kind of dark future land sliding day after day into our present takes anyone to a state where ‘not worth living’ or ‘I don’t want to be here anymore’ can become a mantra. Pick up the phone; get in the car, on the train, in an airplane and re-unite. Don’t tell anyone about the rather dark underbody of what you are reading here.
Life is all about fighting for the light but first it requires that one possesses the receptors to recognize what the light is.
Light is warmth, if you can’t see it.
Light is in other people, if you will see or feel it.
Light is in you, as it is part of your very nature.
Light is in me.
Stand by me. I will stand by you.