Over coffee this morning, alone at the dining room table, I sat inert staring out the picture windows onto a cheerless grey scene. A thin ribbon of white sugar rimmed the Ocean. I had languished in bed until after ten o’clock. My slumber was so complete that it required a moment to recover my wits. I have lately been released of an adhesive anxiety. As a result, I willingly lapse into complacent dormancy at the least opportunity. Whatever the mainspring of this soothing restfulness it is an uncommon state, mildly liberating. I cannot imagine what, in particular, may have changed. Perhaps it is an imperceptible adjustment to my hardened thoughts, dissolving or eroding with time. Which is not to say I am suddenly emancipated. It is an act of self-preservation, submitting to one’s platitudes, but a manumission nonetheless.
When I am not in a frenzy about my personal relationships with others, I ponder what I can do to acquit myself generally. I refuse to opt for a vicarious and uninventive alternative. This is a meditation I am committed to do unaided, employing a vehicle of my own making. My experience is the only unique expression I have. Given my age, it is unimaginable that I should wait any longer for it to ferment. The time has come to pour forth. A chronicle of my thoughts is all I have to render.
Paradoxically the platform for my idiosyncratic declaration is a coalition of those personal relationships and my experience of them which so entangles me. The treasury of insight is not as seen solely through my eyes but filtered through the behaviour of others. It is practically axiomatic that in order to describe one’s view of the world one must describe the world one views. There is no point imposing one’s private order upon the scene. It is guaranteed that the synthesis of the components will be shaped by those with whom one has corresponded. The question is, whom have I met and what have I learned from them? As altruistic as the posture may plumb, it is nonetheless selfish and unavoidably so. Yet it is the closest I come to an amalgam of instruction and bias.
It is undeniable that the number of people who have had a remarkable influence upon me is limited. I exclude from that conglomerate popular figures who, although they may have had an effect upon me, have not been personal relations. Their reverberations are informative but not likely to have insinuated my being. Likewise, I further refine the scope by eliminating people for whom I have worked or with whom I have pursued common objectives, usually a narrow commercial focus. My limited interest in this instance is those who have touched me in an intimate way and who as a result have unwittingly modified my perception.
At the outset I must be clear that those who have infected my thoughts have not necessarily or always done so by virtue of their superiority or worthiness. In fact, sometimes the opposite is true. What matters is that I derive from the colour and buoyancy of their personality the stimulus for either savouring life or for understanding it. In either case I speak of these people with esteem and sometimes awe. Talent – like money – is not something people mention if they have it. Often I am astonished at the strength of these people in the face of personal adversity, which is not to say they don’t as regularly betray their despondency but that they persist in spite of it.
If I were to summarize the qualities of those whom I have admired those hallmarks would include pride, mental acuity, often beauty (both classic and artistic), wit, sentimentality, a strong urge for friendship, loyalty and appreciation. And, as a dear friend of mine once observed, they would have their good faults too! I have always considered failings as approaching the bawdy and robust side of humanity. It is as well a stock ingredient of any friendship that there must be a willingness (or at least a resignation) to forgive. I know of no intimate relationship which hasn’t occasionally run upon unsteady ground. It is assured that conflict is inevitable. The good ones ride the wave. In the end it is the sometimes indecorous wisdom of these relations which provides their texture.
But more important is that private relationships afford the fodder and nutrients for discovery and improvement. It shouldn’t take long to recognize that what one sees in others, one sees in oneself. This confrontation can naturally be both fortifying and disappointing. It is imperative however to acknowledge that any similarity of motive is not only irrelevant but most likely mistaken. The recognition of the quirks of others isn’t only a reminder of our own, that’s all it is. Any alleged uniformity of motive is haphazard notwithstanding the topical indicia. No two people are the same. It is just too implausible to presume that what has taken each of us years to cultivate over a vastly different landscape is anywhere near the same as what others have done. At best we can extract from the scrutiny support for our own intuition, an observation at the root of the adage, “I am a part of all that I have met“.
There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail:
There gloom the dark, broad seas. My mariners,
Souls that have toil’d, and wrought, and thought with me—
That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
Free hearts, free foreheads—you and I are old;
Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;
Death closes all: but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.
Lord Alfred Tennyson, Ulysses