divendres, de gener 14, 2005

The Little I Know (English / French)

Tomorrow at this time, I will be in the Big Easy, half a continent away from home and from whatever minor annoyances haunt the edges of my life. It's good not to have anything of scale to run away from, but it's still nice to run away for a while.

Tonight Leslie, Pam and I went out to celebrate Pam's 43rd birthday. She chose to go to Ferrari's over in the Mont Pleasant section of the city, an area still predominately Italian, and a place with a great neighborhood feel in those sections which have changed little. Ferrari's is a great place. The food is quite good, very hearty southern Italian food, all essentially made on the premises, especially their pasta; one of my weaknesses is for tortellini alfredo, and they have an excellent alfredo sauce. I also really like the way the staff treats the guests; many, if not all of them, are related to the owners. They take a great deal of care in how they customers enjoy their meals, and often the owners will make a point of personally coming to the table, or greeting you upong entering. Sometimes the owner and several of the waitstaff with welcome you or wish you well upon leaving; it's an extremely friendly place to go, and their hospitality only adds to the meal.

After dinner, we came back to my house and chatted for a couple hours; the topic of conversation was quite deep, but it was one of those conversations after which I remain uncertain whether or not the three of grew closer, or perhaps futher apart. More specifically, I feel as though a wedge of some kind may have been driven between the two of them together and me.

As I get older, I realize I know less and less about the world; the realization is humbling, but in a totally pleasant way of being humbled. There are a few things I'm relatively sure about tho, and our protracted conversation tonight made me think about them:

1) We are only here for a finite amount of time - as far as we know with any degree of certainty, this is the only life we have; afterward all that remains is a question mark. When I look at a corpse in a coffin, I always say to myself, "Now he knows." I truly and deeply hope that there is something after physical death, and I suspect that it is likely. I just don't know for sure, and I won't, prayfully, for many years to come.

2) When we have our health and enough to eat and a warm, dry place to call home, we are exceedingly fortunate. All other problems pale in comparison. Having come from quite a poor background, like all picaros, I know what it means to be without. People who come from privileged backgrounds seem to fill the void left by real, life-threatening problems, with self created problems which, quixotically, seem much more difficult to overcome, even when the stimulus for them has evaporated with time.

3) The nature of life is one of dismal iniquities. Given that, we have to accept what we cannot change and flow with it, react not necessarily against it, but in tandem with it, making the best of bad situations. Adelaide Nauman, an old lady who used to work with me at the Historical Association back in Monroe County, PA, used to say, "It could be worse, and it probably will be, so you may as well enjoy today." That thought is not depressing in my opinion, but liberating. We must enjoy the moment since it's all we really have.

4) Life is meant to find joy and be content, at least a good life is. Given that our deaths are likely to be painful, if not long and painful, in the meantime, we have to live for the good times, the things that make is happy. If we find something that makes us happy in a positive and life affirming way, then we should do it as often as possible. I remember very clearly Jean and Marcelle Eber-Munch whose acquaintance I made in Lamballe, Brittany. Both in their 80's and having been together for decades, they knew very well that their time together, and on this earth was limited. In one long conversation about life and experiences, Marcelle said very simply in her Alsatian accent, "Dans la vie, il y a des moments noirs et des moments roses; il faut vivre pour les moments roses. Dans la vie, nous, on a eu de la chance: on a eu plus de moments roses." - In life, there are black moments and rose moments; one has to live for the rose moments. In our lives, we have been lucky: we have had more rose moments. No matter what, we have to life for the rose moments, and create them whenever possible.

5) Worry is essentially pointless. In the end we die. All that we worried about dies with us. It is better to let go of most troubling thoughts and behaviors, except for maybe correctly placed guilt.

6) We are responsible more or less for our own fates, at least inasmuch as we can choose who we react to situations before us. In the end, if we end up in a good port or bad one comes down to decisions we have made, with rare exception.

7) To strike balance, we should live like we're going to die tomorrow, but plan like we'll live forever.

Other than that, I don't knwo bupkis. I doubt I will ever understand why some people choose to be miserable and complain about their lots in life while doing nothing to effect change. If I'm very lucky, I may have another 50 or 60 years on this mortal coil, and I want each of them to be as good as they can be, as full of joy as they can be. Life is worth celebrating; it's rich and vibrant and most wonderful in the most unexpected ways. What saddens me is that so many people are unable to see that.

Part of my difficulty in understanding so many people's point of view as it differs from mine on the above points I think is because, expressly, I come from the poor classes. It seems to me that many more privileged people believe there is some profound mystery, a hidden key to happiness. They seek outside themselves for a key that has always been within them.

If God exists at all, then It exists as we exist. It is us, and we are It, and all things are It too; that seems pretty obvious. God may well be the key, the center of joy, but then all we have to do to find it is stop looking outside in the wide world, and simpling start being, really being in the world. Each simple act of life is then an exhaltation of joy an expression of good and an affirmation of life's worth.

2 comentaris:

philip fuentes ha dit...


Tree ha dit...

Mon cher ami,

Your summary on what you know about life and how to live a good one is well-put. The truly wise don't call themselves wise, but are humbled just as you feel humbled.

I struggle to live by these same tenets. My pesky mood disorder at times thwarts me, but I am able to now disassociate from my occasional disordered moods that seem to occur most often in January and February. I am able to find the still center within more often than not and ride the moods out, keeping in mind my good fortune, my relative health, my friendships and positive family relations, and my abundance of talents.

I heard someone on television say something that reminds me of what your friend Adelaide had said. She said that life is full of terrible things, so while they're not happening, you should enjoy yourself.

Enjoy your adventure in New Orleans. Hwyl fawr.