Wednesday, June 10, 2009

More Life

So, Witnessing--or Experiencing--is my reason for living. Wake up to find out that you are the eyes of the world. Not much of a reason, but mine own. Think of the things you've seen or heard. The things you've felt or smelled or tasted...

I've seen the Parthenon, sitting atop a monolithic stage overlooking ancient Athens. I've seen Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on the bank of the Seine. My son calls the Parthenon the greatest example of monumentality, but Notre Dame was my first truly architectural life-changing experience. I sat in the courtyard for 3 days in 1974 before I could actually go into the cathedral. But I've seen other things too. I witnessed the birth of my daughter and my son. Talk about blow-away experiences. There is truly THE BEFORE and THE AFTER. Nothing is the same after witnessing the birth of your child. Nothing.
I believe that the more you see, do, feel, taste, smell the fuller your journey will be. I believe it is our responsibility to live a full life--to learn as much as possible, to see as much as possible. There is no reason to stay inside your village walls. Yes, there are dragons and other dangers out there, but the real danger is fear and ignorance. And there's enough fear and ignorance for several worlds.

I remember shaking hands with William Calley in 1971 in Columbus, Georgia. I was about to graduate from Infantry OCS at Ft Benning and Calley was under house-arrest, awaiting court-martial for a little operation known as the My Lai Massacre. Bill Calley was a year or 2 older than we were, an inch or 2 shorter, and a lifetime away from our experience. We shook his hand because we knew he was taking the fall for our national guilt in general and for the superior officers' guilt in ordering him to 'kill everything that moves' in My Lai. Billy obliged. He rounded up the babies, the mothers, the old women and men and murdered 218 of them with automatic weapons. I shook his hand and looked into the eyes of Evil. Surprisingly banal. A jewelry store clerk with gallons of blood on his hands. Some on mine now, too.

I've read a lot of the world's greatest literature. There's real pleasure. To settle into a comfy chair, or ,in my case, bed, and begin reading a masterpiece that connects to some universal well-spring in your soul. One day I was riding the NYC subway to Wall Street--the World Trade Center complex--to make a life-or-death sales pitch for our little financial planning firm. I was alert and aware of the importance of my journey. I looked up and noticed one of the subway ads. This one was "Poetry in Motion", a verse from some poem provided by The Arts Council. This particular ad I was reading was Dante--the first verse from The Inferno: "Midway on our life's journey/I awoke in a dark wood/ To find myself lost." It was as if a cathedral bell had been struck. I was transfixed. I knew at a profound level that I was lost, doing something I was not meant to do. I completed the journey, made the sales pitch successfully, returned home and asked my wife to get me that new translation of Dante's Inferno. A year or so later my financial planning firm hit an iceberg and sank. I became a teacher and gradually stumbled out of the bushes and found the path I'd been seeking for over 20 years. True dat.


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  2. For the first two thirds of my life, whenever I heard the song "Like a Rolling Stone", I heard my father singing. One day I sang it in front of a band for an audience at a bar and I lost the sound of my father's voice. I was profoundly sad about that for a long time.

    Now I realize that he's too honest to be Bob. Too reflective. Maybe I see him more in Breakfast of Champions. I like that. The song remains a firm fixture in my life's soundtrack. I wonder if the book will make it to the archives too