Last year at this time I wrote a post to my blog. But this was not just another post to pass time, fill empty space, or impress a soul; it was my attempt at a heart-felt tribute to a friend from my youth. Once posted, the reactions, comments, and emotional outpourings I received just blew me away. People reached me from various places, people I had never before met, and others I hadn’t seen or heard from in many years, and I was deeply and sincerely touched. I meant only to speak from my heart, share some truths, and humbly partake in the celebration of a friends curtailed life here on earth. Content, I wrote my piece and I let it be.
I am here again, a year later for three reasons. First, the post I wrote last January remains my most viewed, most read blog post on any day I have ever written since I started writing over the last year and a half. The most read post by a long shot. Second, I want to remember my friend. I want to remember his life here among us. I want to remember his battles, for he did so much better in his than most of us could ever do in ours. I want to remember his victories because in his heart of hearts he may have recalled them, but the person in front of him, or the one of us in present focus was far more important to him than any battle he won. I want to remember his smile because not everyone lets us peak directly at their heart. I want to remember his cause as there are many others before him, and many more since, who were stronger than I could ever be, for no other reason than they just had to be; and he was. I just want to remember Joe for being Joe. Third, I wanted to address something that’s been gnawing at my subconscious since last January, and just recently some unrelated comments brought me back to this line of thought.
Of all the wonderful folks who thanked me for what I had written regarding Joe, a few made mention of him getting better with age or things of that nature. Recent commentary comparing men of different eras, as well as mention of getting better with age, brought me to the keyboard again. Maybe I over think things some; okay I know I over think things at times, but my take on some otherwise innocent comments led to this.
It’s the middle of the night but here I sit and write not to single anyone out, nor to categorize anyone’s sentiment shared with me or others. When the dust settles from the day and the noise of now quells over the course of nightfall, my mind runs. So, I will try my very best to keep up and present my thoughts in a respectful, orderly manner. Please remember that some of these words I recall are just triggers that set my intellectual instincts in motion. There are two phrases or concise thoughts that have spurred this whole point, ‘better with age’ and ‘comparison of men from now and then’. Honestly, I have no idea how I am going to convey this properly, as if there is a proper way to compile my cyclone of thought. Here goes; I will start with getting better with age. I am going to relate my process here as I saw evidence through my friend Joe. Those of us, who knew Joe growing up, were familiar with him in his youth. While others continued to know him, live with and around him, and interact in his life. Then there are others who knew him later in life, as an adult, and maybe knew nothing of his youth. So perspectives vary at the very least.
Now my outlook; dare I respectfully say that Joe was no better a person later in life than he was at any other time in his life. Before you get all fired up, and I know this may be splitting atoms, but I ask this. Is a person any better for having better people around them, or for having a closer walk with God? Or is the person the same, having simply changed their environment and the treasures they seek? Even if I am completely wrong here, and I may be, Joe was a man who had different treasures set aside for himself later in life than he may have when he was younger. Actually, most of us do, or at least that’s what we would say. I would challenge that theory, and contend that many of us have simply redefined our treasures with a better grasp on adult articulation. Returning to the line of thought; even though Joe remained close with many friends throughout his life, he also added a support group of some like-minded, perhaps brainwashed (and whom among us doesn’t need a good washing of our brain at times) folks, who were chasing the positives in so many things we find mundane. I think of a picture, a digital photo, taken of someone or something that nearly everyone finds repulsive or offensive. Then I think of another picture, another digital photo, taken of the most glorious sunrise or sunset, or some other scene that nearly everyone finds beautiful, and most precious. Then I ask was the camera any better when snapping the second picture then it was for the first? Or, was it the environment and the focus, treasure if you will, that affected the audience and their perspective? I believe that a person in pursuit of the positive, the greater good, that which is right, especially in God’s eyes, is dynamic, and exudes a spirit that we all want to live for a moment with. That’s how I remember Joe.
Are you still with me? I hope so. Now for the other thought I wanted to expand on, ‘comparison of men from now and then’. I must also convey that I will write about men, great men, and so forth. Please know that in my reference to men going forward, I am referring to all mankind, men and women. I recently read an article about some of our fore fathers and men from that time frame versus men from now making decisions that these authors clearly didn’t agree with. Then I heard a discussion on almost the same matter among a group of people who were arguing this point or that, in favor of now, or then, but it all really was an indictment on the persons. Similar to my former point, I choose not to judge the individuals from this era or that, by way of their person, but more so by their actions, and to a greater depth, by their mindset, their focus, and their level of regard for all God’s children. Maybe I am short-sighted, or looking too hard for something that is far more apparent. But you would be hard pressed to convince me that the era from whence our founding fathers came from was a less respectful period of time than present day. Yes, leaders were in positions to make decisions affecting millions of lives, as they are now. True, not all decisions have been good ones, some have been downright evil, and there will always be imperfections. I break it down as such, certainly there have been men throughout history that have been defined forever as having been great; but why is this man or that man any greater than the next, or you, or me? Our nation’s Declaration of Independence notes that it requires no proof or explanation that all men are created equal. Again, it’s the focus; it’s the values that were held in the highest esteem by these men that sets them apart. There are examples of their mindset, bound within the beauty of the descriptive, some say flowery, writings from those times, and I believe those writings to be of better quality than most written word of today simply out of respect not only for the language, but for the subjects themselves and the countless mental images internally reviewed in order to pen words worthy of that subject’s respect. This isn’t about writing, but about the mindset, the value system, the big picture perspective of those folks from a time long ago. That author may not have been any greater a man than any of us, but his respect, his pursuit of right, and his love extended beyond himself, is worthy of emulating, if not a great example. If nothing else, he was an equal man, with his head in the right place. History will record that now, in our time, there too were great men. Some will say that these times are better than they’ve ever been in all of history, and that will also be the retort for generations to come I am sure. But, are times better now? Of that, I am not sure.
I might be considered ‘old school’ and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I would rather arrive slower to action, with acts that induces less consequence as a result of respect and careful thought than the promise of what is to come while disrupting many, and regarding few along the way. This is where I bring this loop back around to my friend Joe. In a life, I symbolize here as a microcosm of the comparison between then and now, I remember Joe as one who perused through the images of his adult life and shared out of respect for all, provoking only the calmest of response. Was he a great man compared to a misled youth? I say no to both. He was a good kid who became a man yet remained Joe, gaining esteem and rediscovered his center further from himself, translating his experience by making everyone around him feel better as he walked with God along life’s path.