Old Diary

Accentuate the Positive

This morning I work out of a dream in which I was having a conversation with one of my personal heros.  It was a dream after all, and I have no illusions about it being a memory, but the dream did remind me how important it is to remember the positive experiences / people in one’s life.

I have always had more friends who were significantly older than myself, than those who were my own age or younger.  Maybe that’s what happens when you’re an only child?   I don’t know.  But I wasn’t particularly interested in most kids my own age — they weren’t serious enough.  Or maybe I was too serious for my age… Who knows.

The upshot of that is that for the first time in my life, these past 10 years have seen me trying to make a bunch of new friends because the old ones are long gone.  And when you spend your time as full-time RV’ers that means that a lot of people pass through your life but find now abiding resting place.  All of which is fine.  I am not unhappy about my life this is simply a recounting of details.

I’ve been really fortunate because I have had a lot of friends who stood for something.  They have been a very disparate group, rarely occupying the same space, certainly not the same institutions, and spread throughout the span of my life. I did not always share their views but they were strong enough men and women that I never doubted their character — we simply had disagreements about topics we cared deeply over. In their own way each of them taught me, or reinforced the lessons of others, that character matters and you have to take a stand.

As time will have it, older friends tend to disappear from one’s life before you get to the end of your own.  The result can feel rather like you’ve moved into a different country. Now, the people around us hold different ideas, ideals, hopes.  It really is like being a pilgrim and a stranger in a foreign land.

We have been watching a British TV series in which Alzheimers has featured as a story line in recent months.  And after this morning’s dream I’m particularly aware of how important it is for us humans to be able to recall the good parts of our life.  The positive influences, the inspiring people, the special moments.  A few years ago I would have said, “we all have them,” but I know that’s not true.    The refugee, the homeless, the schizophrenic; for some it’s not so easy to find any of those, nor to be able to recall them even if they were experienced.  Which make them all the more rare and precious for those who have.

The world is changing around us.  I trust that we too are changing in response to what is going on around us;  whether for better or worse has yet to be seen.  And considering the world we live in, I’m not sure how many people would even agree about what “better” might mean, or what “worse” might mean.  People in general have thrown away the concept of value as applied to ideas.  It almost seems as if the only things society regards as valuable are trinkets and baubles and money.  Sadly, society is wrong — fundamentally and totally wrong.  Family, friendship, and idealism are far more valuable to us as human beings than the meager substitutes a broken society holds out to nourish the heart and mind.

If you’ve had extraordinary people in your life, or if you’ve been part of a special movement that really accomplished something treasure those memories.  I have told this story before, but I think it’s really important.  A 40-something year old friend once told me that until a certain event in his life he never understood what faith us all about because he’d never seen anyone live by faith; they all just talked about it.  And that is a more powerful reality than any preacher or motivational speaker can ever convey. There are traits that we only believe are attainable after we have witnessed them in action.

There seems a great deal of disillusionment about love and marriage in our society.  You can’t really blame people for being disillusioned.  If over half the marriages end in divorce and if rape and spousal abuse is as common as it is the observer has got to have doubts about whether familiar happiness is attainable because a lot of folks never see it happening.  It’s important to remember the good things, to keep them in mind, because as we go through life’s up’s and down’s those positive reminders aren’t always easy to find, and our memories are faulty.  The positives can be the lifejacket that keeps us afloat in desperate times.

After a few decades of relative calm on the world scene there’s a lot of negative stuff going on around us.  It would be easy for folks to become disheartened and depressed.  It’s hard enough listening to stories about immigrants and refugees and the homeless and the neglected in society without actually being one of them.  For them it has to be infinitely harder.  And yet…

My family came to this country for identical reasons to those that bring hundreds and thousands to our borders every day.  My family, just like those seeking entry today, are here in part because of serial immigration:  one member came first who saved up enough money to send back home so that others could follow.  We were lucky because the cycles of life dictated that the U.S. needed immigrants then; we still do, regardless what a few rich people say.

In the midst of their immigration worries and the hard time that go right along with making a new life in a new country they had something crucial:  hope.  And hope was the product of accentuating the positive; of remembering the good things; of dogged determination to better themselves because they knew it could be done.

Hang on.  In spite of the insanity around you, hang on.