Monday, September 17, 2007

32; summer of 69

"Oh when I look back now/ That summer seemed to last forever/ And if I had the choice/ Ya - I'd always wanna be there/ Those were the best days of my life."

Yes, it was the Summer of '69. Idyllic times, to be sure. Judy Garland had just died, 74 U.S. soldiers too, in a boating accident, the Stonewall riots, the Manson murders, all topped off with border fights between Russia and China. Yes, those must've been the best days of anyone's life.
Oh, there were good things that summer as well, of course. The first troops were brought out of 'Nam, and the Apollo 11 moon landing, as well as Woodstock. I'm sure that's what Bryan Adams remembers when he thinks back to being a teenager that summer. Selective memory: Useful for high school.

I dearly hope high school was not the best days of my life. I figure I have roughly 55 more years on this planet, I don't want them spent reminiscing about awkward moments with girls, acne, hazing, and bad grades. Even the good parts: student council, dorm head, the good grades, the friendships that have lasted, I still don't want those to be my life's peak. A high school teacher of mine wished that those are the worst days of our lives, so that our lives get better with each passing year. Who doesn't want that?

Or as Springsteen laments:
"Yeah, just sitting back trying to recapture/ A little of the glory of, well time slips away/ And leaves you with nothing mister but/ Boring stories of glory days."

Of course, and take this on the authority of a rumor whose source is uncertain and forgotten, there is a Chinese curse that declares, 'May you live in interesting times'. Perhaps wishing for our lives to get all the more interesting as we go on is not advisable after all. Then again perhaps I'm only displaying my psychology of equating 'better' with 'interesting'. Can our lives progress and continue to be increasingly 'better' if they are no longer 'interesting' lives? Should we be envious of those who have lived of their glory days? Their personal high school summers of '69?
I know when mine would be: Spring of 2002. So far those days may have been a peak. Maybe I should just be glad of the memories? And yet. Yet it somehow seems defeatist. More than that, I feel like I'm cheating my future self. It's not fair to the 55 years of Ross down the road that they have only consolation in the fact they once lead a good life and had good times so many years ago.

But therein lies the conceit. There might not be a grizzled, addled 75-year old Ross. Ross might end tomorrow, all needed for that experiment is one frail mortal Ross and one 18-wheeler. Combine. There's an outcome that doesn't need scientific method to prove itself to us, yet somehow cruelly the world likes to provide it.

Kierkegaard cautioned against, or at least made aware the difficulty this places us in. He gives the following example: A man is walking down the street in Copenhagen and runs into a friend he's not seen in some time. The two meet each other pleasantly as dear old friends and the he is invited to dinner next Thursday, at nine. Our man promises, swears, that he will be there. Upon departing one another's company our man is struck on the head by a falling roof tile and lies dead.

Acerbically Kierkegaard asks us should the man who promised to attend the dinner instead said "I shall be there, you can count on me, unless, of course, I get struck on the head by a falling roof tile?"

We cannot take into account the vast danger our world presents us. How could action be possible? How could one leave one's house? Or stay in it? We cannot choose to live our lives with our mortality staring us down, or every roof tile will be a harbinger of doom, every car on the road a death trap. They could potentially be so. I do not dare deny that a roof tile, car, or other human being may not in fact be the source of your or my demise. To pretend that no such threat existed could be called foolhardy. Yet as typing, or reading, there are more nuclear weapons on the face of the earth that could annihilate the human species than we dare think about.

That's what Bryan Adams meant. Those days were great days. They were also horrible days. For some the Spring of '02 may conjure up the worst memories and tragedy; for me there is joy. What allowed that joy to flourish was the knowledge of my life fully understood, and I have endeavored dearly not to lose it. Of course we can die at any moment, to say so is, I apologize, a waste of words. It's taking advantage of that knowledge and seeing the opportunities arise from it. The opportunities to live each day as better than the last is surely enough to dispel the fear or consequences of the end of our lives, however they may come, don't we hope our last moments to be ones contentment? Isn't there a wish to die in glory and and the height of life? Some people say they don't want to grow old, for they fear that their lives will rot as an apple too long on the tree.

I may only hope that their days get better with each passing year to dissuade them of their notions, and curse them that they may live in interesting times.

No comments: