Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Years, Friends, and Other Stuff

Tonight I'm sleeping in a strange bed. I've got to go to a sleep center and spend the night, all wired up to a bunch of monitors. It's to see if I've got sleep apnea. I'm pretty sure I do, since I've been diagnosed with it before. I'll let you know. This is the kind of stuff you must put up with when you're falling apart. I'm not really, but sometimes it seems like it. That's not really true either. For a person who will be 66 years old on the morrow, I'm in great health, thanks be to God. I know people much younger than I who have awful ailments; I know people much younger than I who aren't younger anymore. They're dead.

One of the features of life as you begin the autumn years is the increasing frequency with which friends die or get seriously ill. It's always painful to experience. Next to family, friends are the greatest blessing I think we can have. Who else besides family and friends know you . . . and still love you? There's a human vulnerability in friendship that gets to the core of us. It's about love. I frankly think there is more to love in people than to despise. When people are despicable, when they inflict great pain and suffering on their fellow human beings--almost the definition of "despicable" . . . well, as hateful as that is, I consider it much more a betrayal of our true nature as human beings than a reflection of our true selves. Granted, some people disguise their true nature under layers of meanness, selfishness, and bile . . . but which of us has not been guilty of that? And considering the infinite number of factors and circumstances that bring us to the exact moment of now . . . well, who is ready to pronounce judgment on that person's experience? Who is ready to say what that same combination of infinity would have made of you? Verily, I do believe this, but damn, is it hard to put this into practice in your life. It's practically impossible to get beyond the meanness, selfishness, and bile most of the time.

I could have never, I don't think, come to these kinds of conclusions without the benefits of having experienced a good deal of life. The years are kind in that, if you pay attention, they can actually teach you something about what life might signify and all your fellow creatures who are living with you. Sometimes, too, life provides coping, survival tools to allow one to live at total peace within one's self. Once you get there, you're where you can actually forego judging other people. Alas, you might have have to live 200 years to get to that place. I'm sure that's about how long it would take me.
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