Archive for the Random Essays Category

Credo

| December 9th, 2016

A good friend of mine got married recently. His best man, probably one of my best friends as well, had to give a speech, of course. I offered to help him with it, and he politely declined. He gave one of the most heartfelt, and best speeches that I’ve ever heard; I was touched and proud.

However, being the neurotic mess that I am, I thought about what speech I would give it I was asked. I have one for my brother, and it was alright, if I say so myself, but something sparked my imagination. The humble subject of the meaning of life.

When I was probably thirteen or fourteen, I asked my father, probably sarcastically, what the meaning of life was. He thought for a few moments, sat me down in an almost comically fatherly way, and said:

“Contentment,”

He went on to explain that he didn’t mean you had to be satisfied, or settle. But you have to be able to step back and reconcile your life as it is. You can’t give in to feelings of bitterness, or resentment. You have to take stock, and accept what you have before you can move forward.

Some years later, at my high school graduation party, a family friend came up to me and asked if I knew the meaning of life. Guided by eighteen years of wisdom, I told him to follow your dreams, and try to make sure that they outlive you. He patted me on the head; something only I would allow an old family friend to do and said:

“Not quite,”

He went on to explain that the meaning of life was something that had been written 222 years ago. “The pursuit of happiness?” I hazarded to guess. He nodded and went on to explain that he knew rich men who were miserable, who had it all, but they lost that drive. That the “Pursuit of Happiness,” is a guiding philosophy. That when you have to make a decision or find yourself in a bad situation, you have to do that which you think will make you happy. Sometimes you have to make hard choices, but you always had to keep happiness as your goal, your lighthouse in the storm.

Maybe a year or two after that, I wondered what my mother would define the meaning of life. So I asked her. She just smiled, shook her head, looked deeply into my eyes, and lightly touched my cheek.

Some years later, my father had died, and my mother was facing her second battle with cancer; breast cancer. Now, I’m the baby if the family, and we didn’t always have the hard conversations. But I happened to be only on there before her surgery.

I asked her that, should something happen, what would she want? She told me that if she were alive, but unconscious, with no chance to return, that she wouldn’t want to live; we shouldn’t keep her in life support. Then she did something odd…

She shook her head, looked deeply into my eyes, and lightly touched my cheek.

Then they wheeled her into the OR.

It was then that I knew, for her, the meaning of life was to have people who love you, whom you love in return, and with whom you can, with just a look and a simple gesture, say everything you need to say about that love.

So I say, this Thanksgiving, appreciate what you have; find some contentment.

Think about where you are going; pursue happiness.

Dear Son,

| July 14th, 2013

I write this, on this night of July 13th, 2013. A night in which we see that a killer of a young black man walks free. Now, I will not speculate on that final question; what circumstances lead immediately to when that man fire that shot. Unfortunately, that is the fulcrum of this case. I will state that this is a case where a young, black man, was walking home alone, and was stalked by a man who thought that he did not belong. Something happened, and that young man died.

Now, as I stated before, this is 2013, and I don’t know what is more shameful: The fact that I believe that your light skin will spare you much what I am about write, or the fact that I feel some relief in that. I’m reminded of those old 7th ward ladies sitting in their kitchens or on their porches, examining every newborn creole like some venerable Spartans. “This one can pass,” or “That one is too dark!” checking behind the ears for color. I feel that, tonight, I am no better than them.

I can tell you of my experiences. Now, aside from my skin color, a pleasant caramel so I’m told, or my size, no one would mistake me for being dangerous or dis-earnest. Still, I have been stopped more than once by police for the color of my skin. Each time, I place my wallet on my seat, I place my hands on the wheel. “Yes officer, I was driving too fast.” or “No officer, I don’t know why you stopped me.” Calm, never angry. “Yes officer, I will step out of the vehicle.” or “No officer, you may not search my vehicle without a warrant.” My brother, your uncle, always told my wise words for dealing with the police: “You have rights, they have guns.”

I don’t know if Treyvon Martin was doomed that night once George Zimmerman made his choice to follow him, or if his anger sealed his fate. Always remember that people will fear you for the color of you skin. That fear makes your anger powerful. Unfortunately, that power more dangerous to you than to anyone else. Don’t be angry.

Three words that are the most shameful to write: Don’t be angry. You have the right to be angry. You should be angry. The world is unfair, and cruel; and by virtue of what, seven alleles, so much of your fate is written on your skin.

Don’t be angry. At least, not physically, not reactively. Be patient, be effective. Live well. Channel whatever dark intent in your life into making this world a better place.

My son, I hope that the world is a better place as you grow into it. My fear is that it won’t be.

Perhaps you will be spared the humiliation, and trepidation, and seething hatred of this superficial society that we find ourselves. Perhaps you’ll never have to worry about sharing the fate of a boy killed ten days before you were born.

Or perhaps you’ll have to face a world darker than the color of your skin.

Just know that I love you, and I know what you’re going through, and that it’s not ok, but it is what it is.

Your father,

A Box

| February 8th, 2013

I feel, sometimes, that being religious is like claiming to live in a box so vast, you cannot know the sides, yet insisting the box is blue. And becoming enraged at, and fearful of, those who claim that the box is red. There are words on the side of the box, perfect words someone once read. Laws, and the names of all things within it. Someone once read the words, and told someone else, and he or she told others; on and on, I suppose some words being forgotten, some being mangled, some twisted. But, it’s by these imperfect words we must live. It is with these words that we must shield ourselves against the words of others. One day you’ll see the edge, or perhaps beyond it. But not today.

I don’t claim to be a philosopher or a poet. I am not one of faith or spirituality. However, I know that the religious impulse is a question we all must answer for ourselves. Some answer it with the god of their fathers. Some with the god of their love. Some seek comfort in one of the myriad and ancient forms of cosmic justice. Some in beliefs as fresh as the autumnal harvest. Some believe in nothing beyond the physical. Some believe in the mystery of not knowing. Some believe what their TVs or radios or computers shout at them each day. Some believe in many of these things, conflict as they may. Some believe in none of them.

All of us live together, not within some infinite box, but in a finite world, in a finite time. Here, now, together. All of us strive for greater truths, greater knowledge. All of us seek something beyond. That persuit is what is humanity.

And despite where we look for these answers. We must occasionally look to each other. We must understand, at least, that we are a few decisions and circumstances away from being another.

We have little time, and little sway on this world. We all come to it, and leave it. We all spend too much time working, or playing, or helping, or warring, or loving, or hating, or thinking, or dreaming. We all worry about that which we adore, and fear that which we do not know. We are human, flawed, cruel, exceptional, amazed.

I may not know you, but I know what you are. I know where you are. I know how you came to be, and that you will, one day, draw one last breath. That is the power of our shared humanity. That is the common understanding on which we can relate. Let’s not forget this gift, not ever.

And perhaps, together, we can be beyond a box.