Friday, May 06, 2011

Letter To An Old Friend

Today, I was on an online chat site, ranting about politics, with an old friend from high school. The argument got a bit heated. My friend sent me a message, saying that he sometimes wondered, if it was a good thing, that we had reconnected, after so many years. He said, he felt like it we had changed too much and that maybe we never really were close friends and that he felt like our old dreams of peace and love from the '70's were lies. I apologized. He apologized. The exchange left me unsettled: I was struck by how easy it is to hurt others via little black dots on a screen. I wrote one last time...

I did not find any of your comments offensive - they may have raised my blood pressure a notch or two - but that simply because you could not see the wondrous light of my wisdom and wit. But I will remove them since you asked.

I fully understand your feelings about the lack of love and understanding today. I have times when I feel as if there simply is no kindness left in anyone, that I truly live in a "dog eat dog" world. Those are dark times for me.

Then, I see someone do an act of kindness, sometimes a very small one. Like my friend who sings even though he has cerebral palsy. That is enough for me to try to act with a bit of kindness of my own. Enough to stop "eating dog", at least for a little while. LOL

I have been near death several times; drugs, alcohol, cancer and mental illness have given me an "interesting", if not always merry, ride through life. I have seen your site, and it's clear you like the west and have found yourself there. I like the name you gave your gun, "The Thumper". You are quite the poet. You look like you stepped out of the old west in a lot of your photos. I am happy to see you enjoying your life.

I am growing my hair long again, just because I can, and because I like seeing people's reactions. I an fascinated by how a few inches of hair can make people think you have changed into something different. Sometimes people point and laugh at the “old long hair”. Sometimes they curse under their breath as they walk by. Tomorrow, I may shave it all off for the same reason - just to see the shock on people's faces, to hear them mutter "damn skinhead" when they walk by. I like having the confidence to try out new things today, without fear, just for the heck of it.

I don't know what I would do if things "went south". I don't know if I would end up as a prisoner, or dead. I hope I don't have to find out any time soon. Until then, I will do what I can, to spread a bit of that peace and love, we used to hope for, all those years ago. I have found many others eager to share my hope. Some days, we have a veritable peace and love fest, back here in good old, Iowa City.

This may sound terribly naive. Perhaps it is, but, like you, I feel stronger than I ever have. I feel strong enough today, that I will gladly die rather than return to a diet of dog. I chose not to live in that world, when I chose to continue living. I will not return.

I work very hard to have kindness be my goal each morning. Today, at least some of the time, I have enough strength to avoid picking up other people's hatred. I am seldom successful at sustaining my quest, for more than a few hours at a time - as you can easily tell from my cantankerousness on FB. However, I do make time to listen to a friend's troubles, give someone a ride, buy someone a cup of coffee, or something like that - at least once every (well, almost every) day. It is enough. My tiny acts are my personal evidence that love and kindness have not "perished from the earth."

Gaggggggg! What a load of Hallmark BS! LOL

Yet, strange as it sounds, focusing on kindness is the only way I survive each day. I tried living a life based on fear and judgment, (the dog eat dog world) rather than love and kindness - it nearly killed me. I may someday die because of my "naivete" , who can say? People have tricked me, stolen from me, lied to me, injured me, blah de blah de blah, blah, blah. I guess that is what people do sometimes, but not all the time.

I will stand in front of any bullet aimed at my grandchildren, I know that much; but I don't know if I could take another life, and live with that. I have a lot of friends who were in Vietnam, none of them can get the faces of those they killed out of their minds. They sleep with them every night. I do not know how they do that.

I may have fewer days if I try to live with a goal of love and kindness, but I am pretty sure that I would have even fewer days, if I lived in the dark world of fear and judgment.

I am not a saint, far from it. Who wants to be a f&*king saint anyway? Still, I know which direction I need to point my life, if I am to have any hope of happiness. Kindness is my north pole. Not the magical kindness I read about in fairy tales, not the type that I once idealized as an amateur philosopher, but the gritty "in your face" kindness that is rooted in the DNA of me, that lets me know I can have the strength to try and be kind even in the worst of times.

You know by now, that I am not religious, that I do not believe in supernatural beings or powers, but sometimes I wonder if the human who wrote the lines "love your enemies" and "judge not, lest ye be judged" was simply describing a natural law, not admonishing people to be good in order to get into “heaven”. If, I meet hatred with hatred, do I not “die” inside? If, I judge others, do I not take my “judging skills” home with me? Do I not use those skills in the dark and end up judging myself? When I live a life of hatred and judgment am I even truly alive? I dunno. To me, it seems such laws are a part of my DNA, not something I do to be a "good person" but something I must do if I want to “feel alive” (e.g., feel the sun, smell a flower, give and get a hug, etc.) and have any pleasure in life.

I too, have grown cynical, as I have aged, but the smiles of my loved ones, the laughter of my children and grand children, the hugs of my friends: all of these things, remind me that love exists, just as strongly, and probably more deeply, than ever, in these trying times.

When I see you, with your family and friends, you still seem like the man I knew so long ago. The smile is still there, the deep compassion in your eyes is still there. Know that I am smiling back, when I look at those pictures. At least one person, still sees the love within you.

Love life, and live it large...

(Remember, if you're vertical, and taking nourishment, you're okay.)


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