You Thinking What I'm Thinking?

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Location: Vancouver, WA, United States

There are some things going on in this world that bother me ... that offend me ... that don't make sense, and never will. I dedicate this site to those who seek truth even where it is difficult to find, and who are willing to agree and disagree in principle, while steadfastly refusing to let irrelevant detail overshadow core truth.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

When Our Trails Cross

"No need for anymore words. The sun is warm on his back. He could fall asleep here, maybe he will, waiting for what ever comes next." Conrad’s final thought closes Judith Guest’s extraordinary novel about Ordinary People. It is a poignant story of a family left behind when one of its own tragically makes his transition into the hereafter.

In 1980, the film based on that book won the Oscar as the best picture of the year. To many, it was dull. The characters were…well, ordinary. One had to invest exceptional mental energy and empathy to capture any meaning in this film. I found it difficult to relate to those people even though I have lived their experience.

There are no “ordinary people.” Each is fascinating in his/her own way. We all hide our secrets; reveal ourselves through intricately designed behavior; screw up; goof off; hoard our privacy; laugh at the strangest of things. We worry [a waste of time and emotional equity in my opinion]; wonder; question. We are what we are. “I am, I said. To no one there. And I am lost, but I can’t even say why,” a refrain from the Niel Diamond song of the ‘60’s. Fascinating.

Unless one is a recluse, we meet new people every day. Each is as complex as we are; often more by our own admission. We reach out and shake hands and with that, many of us make the unspoken pact with our self: “I’m not going to reveal one thing about myself unless this yahoo gives up something of himself first.” Now, where did we learn that? We’re passing up on one of the greatest opportunities of the day! These are enriching moments, yet we squander them! What are we thinking?

Recently I reconnected with a long lost relative with whom I hadn’t “related” in nearly twenty years. We used to do the normal family things, holidays, occasional weekends and such. There was always a more meaningful connection with two of my eleven cousins than the rest, and Pam was one of them. I didn’t know it then, but I think she stood out because she had conviction at a very young age that seemed to transcend the collective family mindset. We agreed on many things, differed on many more; but I remember that we used to talk about them…argue about them…to the exclusion of all around us, whenever we were together.

Time has a way of robbing us of details. It is at times like these that we realize that we never lost all those wonderful moments, but rather had compacted them into a tiny corner of our mind, dormant for twenty years, patiently waiting for us to pull the imaginary rip cord that they may unfurl to snap us out of the freefall of unconsciousness.

We didn’t have long to reconnect, a moment really, but it was a classic. At such times, each mind immediately manifests three part agenda: what each of us remembers from the time when we used to know one-another, what each of us has been doing during the ensuing years, and what each of us holds as our personal truth in the present moment. Questions fog the mind, answers in themselves incomplete but in the mind of the other, part of the hastily rewoven fabric of our individual and common lives.

And the moment ends for us with a heartfelt promise to stay in touch, to not lose nor bury that which we have rediscovered in each other, in the intersection of our lives, and in ourselves. Each of us returns to our self with a mind rich with new data, new perspective and new reality that weaves into the fabric of who we are. Some, we will act upon immediately, some will be carefully folded and put away, seemingly lost until at some future moment they will come flooding back. [I’ll bet there are hundreds of people in this world who spend their whole lives trying to understand this one phenomenon, the human facility for memory.]

I’ve been reluctant to stash these new thoughts away, greedily holding on to them. New thoughts, if we let them, have a way of removing us from the predictability of our daily existence. This experience is, in fact, the catalyst that led me to starting this chronicle.

For example, one of the discovery questions that I asked Pam was, “What do you like to read?” Her answer, “Non-fiction,” was one of those implied multiple-choice answers that often follow such questions. Her justification, however, was stimulating: “I find reality so much more interesting than the imagination.” My immediate visceral response was a flood of unanswered questions to myself and I’ll close today by noting them.

  • How much of reality as we know it began as someone else’s vision? The Wright Brothers and their flying machine; Leonardo’s helicopter. What reality granted them license to conjur such things?
  • It would be an interesting study to go back and review all of present day reality that was once depicted in the writings of science fiction. Remember Dick Tracy’s wrist telephone, or Hal from 2001, a Space Odyssey?
  • Read the bios of famous people. Dreamers, explorers, visionaries…each in his/her own way seemingly a soothsayer of the miracles that have become part of our daily existence.
  • The Bible, fact or fiction? Interpretation: do we interpret anything based solely on reality? [Pam has, in fact written a book, I believe it is on the realistic interpretation of The Bible. She’s promised to let me read it, published or not, and I hereby make a note to be sure that she does.]
  • Is my reality different from yours? If so, what is the difference? Interpretation? Imagination?
  • Where does reality end and the imagination begin?

One day I’ll have a go at some answers. I guess that’s what this thing called living is all about.