I think that I've reached an age, just shy of my 49th birthday, when many too many of the funerals I attend are for my friends. When you're young, if you're lucky, most of the funerals you go to are for elderly relatives, or at least people who are a lot older than you. A grandparent, a great-aunt, your parents' friends, and that gives you one viewpoint on death.
This year I lost two good friends to rare oddball diseases. First, my friend Sharon to pulmonary hypertension, and now, last week, another friend, Jeanie, to aplastic anemia. It's one thing to sit at a funeral with your relatives and people you don't know well. It's quite another to sit, as I did today, in a church with your friends, your peers, the people who revolve around your life every week, and shed tears of mourning for one of your own.
Jeanie was one of those bright lights in this life, that when it winks out, the world is noticeably darker. Always a smile, a giggle, an infectious laugh, a kind word for all. She was the eternal volunteer: Girl Scouts, band, sports, myriad of her kids' activities. Jeanie was always there to help, to lead. She was there with the pixie smile working her butt off.
I don't make friends easily. Many of my friends are first my wife's friends. But I'm proud to say Jeanie was my friend. She's not with us now in the way she's been before, but she lives on in all the hearts she's touched in her life, mine included.
Monday, September 17, 2007
To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition;
To know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson
I have bad news for you. Barring some very significant medical breakthrough in the next hundred years or so, someday you will cease to breathe. Your heart will stop beating. Your brain will cease to be electrically active. You will die. You may take heart however from the fact that, like the proverbial pebble in the pond, the ripples of your life may continue virtually forever. You may gain some degree of immortality.
There are, of course, relatively easy ways to be remembered forever. Do something infamous. Adolph Hitler and Osama Bin Laden are not likely to ever be forgotten by history. You can be exceptionally good at what you do. Babe Ruth and Thomas Edison will not be forgotten. You can even gain immortality by being majorly incompetent. George W. Bush comes to mind. And of course, folks who have left behind major works of literature, audio, or video recordings live on in a way. I have a friend who, among other recordings, played on the seminal recording of a Christmas song you hear annually. I've discussed with him what it must be like to have that semi-anonymous immortality.
But what of the rest of us, those of us who will never achieve fame, can we live on long after our mortal bodies have rotted away. Well, depending upon your own religious persuasion you may say, "Of course," and argue that we'll live on in heaven or maybe come back to earth as a cow, but that's not the kind of immortality I'm talking about. I'm talking about the immortality that comes from being remembered, and from having the actions of your life ripple on throughout history. The good news is that this type of immortality is within all of our grasps. Here then are a few short steps to becoming immortal.
- Love someone.
Find your soulmate. Love another human being with all of your heart and soul. Commit to them and entwine your life with theirs in such a way that after you are gone others will look upon the two of you as the prototype of the perfect relationship. An unfortunate side effect of this is that when you die you will leave this person utterly heartbroken. This is unavoidable.
- Be a true friend to as many people as possible.
My Dad used to say he had many acquaintances, but only a very few friends, and I'll have to say I'm probably the same way, but if you truly want to be immortal be a friend to many, and I mean a true friend. Be there. Really listen. Give of yourself. Be the kind of friend you'd like to have.
Care about others. Care about the environment. Care about animals. Be the most caring person many people know. Be a grown up flower child. Work for peace, and justice, and care about leaving the world better than you found it.
"Teach your children well," the song says, but it's bigger than that. Pass on what you know to a child, whether it be your own offspring, your niece or nephew, or the child of a friend. Know that when you are just living your life, little children are watching you, and adjusting their world view accordingly. Professional teachers have the biggest opportunity. A third grade teacher may directly influence a thousand children during her career. Those kids will go on to affect others, who will affect others, ad infinitum. Volunteer to help kids. Promote education. You'll be achieving easy immortality.
The gray clouds parted briefly, as if to give her a better view of the solemn gathering. We stood on the bridge, the midday tide change behind us, watching the ashes drift swiftly to sea, pursued by a wake of flowers. Salt water flowed unbidden, caught on my lip and was gone. Must have been the wind. Goodbye Sharon. You are with us always, immortal.
Posted by Travis Stark at 7:51 AM
Thursday, September 6, 2007
The first link added to our list to the right is the website of John H. Farr. Why? Because John is an artist, a crafter of words, a painter of pictures, and I only recently rediscovered how I love reading his stuff, not to mention viewing his beautiful photographs. He's also only semi-sane, and I really like that in a human being.
Posted by Travis Stark at 9:05 AM
This blog is about thought. It's about cogitation. It's about being able to write on any topic I choose. It's about politics, religion, society, technology, philosophy, and it's about none of those things as well. You are welcome to join in and make this more of a discussion than a soliloquy, but I'll probably climb up on my soapbox whether any one's listening or not.
Posted by Travis Stark at 8:54 AM