Friday, April 5, 2019

Things Not To Do

     I suppose learning really does continue lifelong. These past sixty-seven years I’ve learned a few useful tidbits, of which the most useful have generally been the “things not to do.”

     There are many things one should not do. There are a fair number of things one must not do. I have a list, and I add to it when the occasion presents itself. And you, Gentle Reader, being a patron of Liberty’s Torch, would probably agree with me on the great majority of them.

     There’s a new entry on the Must Not Do list. It arrived there just a little while ago. It’s simply stated but terrible of effect:

The old know things that the young must not be allowed to hear.

     I should have known before this. I should have…

     About twenty-five years ago, the C.S.O. and I had another family, the Hudsons, come to dinner at the Fortress: husband, wife, and two teenaged children. It was a pleasant evening, and dinner, cooking being the C.S.O.’s forte, was enjoyed by all. We were past the entrĂ©e and enjoying dessert when one of the teens, a charming young lady whose name was Kristin, asked a question of me that, as the saying goes, “brought down the house:”

     “Fran, what would you say is the biggest difference between teens and adults?”

     Kristin’s parents were immediately alert. Mind you, I wasn’t known in their household as some fount of eternal wisdom. Hell, I’m not known that way in my own household. But as you may have noticed, I do have opinions, and I tend to dispense them freely. Moreover, the way Kristin asked the question suggested 1) that she seriously wanted to know my opinion, and 2) that her parents had not provided an answer she found satisfactory. So I took the question seriously, and I decided to answer it seriously:

     “Well, Kristin, I’d say it’s what they’re most concerned about. Teenagers tend to be most concerned about sex. But as you get older, you tend to be less concerned about sex and more concerned about money.”

     You could have heard a pin drop. Kristin’s face lit as if I’d provided the Great Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything. On the other hand, I think her parents would have looked less shocked if I’d hopped onto the table and dropped my pants. Plainly, by their lights this was something Kristin should not have heard from a respected elder. And yet it was my honest opinion. I believed it then and I believe it today.

     The get-together ended a few uncomfortable minutes later.

     I participate in a few of the newer social-media sites., mostly as a way of promoting Liberty’s Torch. However, if you’ve looked into those sites you’d find a phenomenon that evokes a certain wry amusement from most older men: younger women fishing for various things from us – usually money -- using direct messages and sexy come-ons. A few such women have approached me, even though it says in my profile that I’m a married Catholic born in 1952. It puzzles me, but there it is.

     As I’m alone most of the time, the chance to chat with someone is a refreshing break from whatever I’ve been doing (usually reading or writing). Young, old, male, female doesn’t matter. Until you reveal yourself as a grifter, I’ll talk to you about whatever you’d like.

     These past two days one such young woman, whom I’ll call Mary, kept up a stream of chatter that was diverting (though only intermittently grammatical), and seemed light and innocent enough, except for her less-than-subtle suggestions that we should meet and have what our British cousins would call “a bit of fun.” But about an hour ago that changed:

Mary: Are there any things that you just can't live with or live without?
FWP: Well, I'd hate to lose my eyesight. I enjoy a lot of music, and I'd hate to lose that. But you know, we all lose EVERYTHING sooner or later.
Mary: What are your goals and dreams for the future?
FWP: Write a few more books. That's about all.

     Not exactly shocking from an old retiree who writes novels, eh? But things took an unfortunate turn from there:

Mary: Good will you write about us??
FWP: What would I write about us? That I was chatting with this young woman hundreds of miles away who wanted to know if I’ve ever cheated on my wife? Not much of a story there.
Mary: Haha, you're very funny.

     That’s when I did a Big Bad Thing:

FWP: Do you know what's not funny at all, Mary? Being old. Facing the end of life. Realizing that you'll die soon...and that no one will miss you. Knowing, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that nothing you've done has made a significant difference to anyone. That's the Big Not-Funny.

     I know that “you could have heard a pin drop” image doesn’t translate to conversations conducted in text sent over the Web, but it’s the best I can do.

     Philip K. Dick once wrote that for any living person, there is a string of words that will heal him of his wounds and a string of words that will kill him. Perhaps he had this sort of disclosure in mind. For there are things the old know that only the old should know. Knowledge that can ruin the life of a younger person. Knowledge that will drain him of all hope and joy. Knowledge that will forever after color everyone and everything he sees, no matter where or when:

     Whenever you feel, as you always do, that everything is going wrong and you’re about to be annihilated, turn to your death and ask if that is so. Your death will tell you that you’re wrong; that nothing really matters outside its touch. Your death will tell you, “I haven’t touched you yet.” – don Juan Matus, by way of Carlos Castaneda

     We must not tell them.


Jess said...

Your post brought many thoughts. Most all were about how it's so easy to destroy youth and exuberance with a few words.

I think you're right. Some things must not be told to the young. Their naivety is what gives them purpose.


A few years ago I had the realization that in all likelihood I am closer to the ending of my life than the beginning. It's sobering. And yes, younger people shouldn't have to be burdened by such things. It breaks my heart to hear of a young person with cancer, or some other likely-fatal ailment, having to contemplate death at too tender an age.

I was never the most frivolous person even in my youth, but still... between being a parent with smallish children for whom I need to be a good example, and understanding that my health and physical status - albeit needing to lose about 30 pounds - are pretty good but slowly going down, there is incentive to "fly right" so to speak.

I pray morning and night. I am learning Hebrew not just for my sake but for my kids' sake as well. We've recently been to Israel and are going again this year, and while it's more tourism than spiritual (especially for them) it's important. I've bought a set of tefillin and pray with them though not every day as I should - but it's leagues more than even a few years ago. And as my wife goes through the conversion process I hope to piggyback and learn more as well.

Faith in Him is something that sustains. If you'll indulge me I'll quote from one of my Red Pill Journey essays about an experience that made me feel His presence in a way that remains to this moment:

For various reasons, notable among them that I snore louder than a jet engine on afterburner, I was attempting to fall asleep in the recliner downstairs. It was Shabbat evening; one of the candles, which the kids helped me light, was still burning and the light was straight in front of me. Being dog-tired I was sorely tempted to break the prohibition against blowing it out. In that moment of temptation it was like G-d's small, still voice spoke to me: "Those candles are the light of tradition, handed down from generation to generation for over three thousand years. They are a reminder of Judaism's deep past, and by teaching your children they become the hope of the future, forming a chain through the ages and binding you and your children to Me."

I relaxed, understanding what those candles really meant and why they are lit and never blown out, and the candle then winked out just seconds after that realization. It was as though G-d Himself then said to me "Now that you understand how the lights of Shabbat connect you to Me and your whole people through past, present, and future, you can go to sleep." It was a profound moment and I felt His presence in a way that I had not before… and the sensation of that presence has never left me since.


G-d bless, Francis and everyone. TGIF.

Tracy Coyle said...

I'm just a tad younger than you but the most important thing I wanted my 24 yr old daughter to learn/understand has been: "Live well, die happy. None of us get's out of here alive."

Millions have lived before me, billions will live after me. I am no better or worse than 99.99999% of them and certainly no more or less important. I am happy to have had this existence and I plan on 76 more years to continue to live well.

I guess that give me more time to gain wisdom...

MMinWA said...

I'm settled with the fact knowing when I head off to the next plane, with my only child recently passed and everyone in my family dead but my creepy REgressive sister, my funeral, such as it will be, is gonna be very sparsely attended. I imagine even the few people I consider old friends will not do much more wish me Godspeed as I'm swallowed by in the wake of time's wash. That's OK, I've had a great ride-in the words of the now immortal Augustus McCrae, "It's been quite a party." I've enjoyed the hell outta living.

However I take solace knowing that I'm leaving about 20,000 plus leaded glass panels that I've created. And among them there are about a very special 100+ or so that are all timers, one even made the cover of a national magazine. And they will be kept & treasured.

All of them are signed and I know that in the future people will look at that and wonder WhoTF I was.

So there's that.