There’s a specific chill that I dig. It follows show’s high point. People start to leave. Couples take the coats from off the back of chairs. There’s a low, stated reminder to tip the barkeepers. The artists are still on stage—the set’s not done. And there isn’t some big encore planned—not like some special prize for those who stick it out. Things trail off, musically. Low notes lilt softer into the cooling air like the final sparks thrown from a smoldering fire.
It’s in the moment before the end that I think the real in people shows up. You know? The show is pretty much over. The energy has been spent. Fans have either been made or people have checked out. There’s nothing to be gained from a flashy finish. Things are wrapping up.
It’s a comfortable time.
I liken it to the ride back from a dinner out with someone. There’s not much to be said. And that’s okay. If someone sticks it out in the quiet, they’re there for sure. There’s a friend, I’d say—a partner. They’re not looking to be impressed. They’re not expecting to be entertained.
The comfortable lull’s arrival can’t be rushed. It’s really just a genuine moment that blossoms out of all the noise. And it’s a nice change, I think.
I was uploading some pictures of Iraq for some students in class. I started hashing through them all, putting captions up on some of them.
I stopped part way through, mostly because it was taking a damn long time, but also because I started remembering being there. Not that it was the typical nightmarish, post traumatic stress sort of thing, but I remembered walking down the paths between our buildings. I could see myself there.
I remember how the ground felt on certain nights…how the weather was on some missions.
Pretty freaky, actually. It’s weird how well we remember some things—even distant things, isn’t it?
I mean, I can look back at growing up and recall aspects of my time in Maryland with crystal clarity; but then go forward to my senior year of high school, in a new town, and only have fuzzy recollections.
Iraq for me was nearly two years ago, but I can bring it back to mind in a second. Shouldn’t I be moving past all that? Strange stuff.
The grit in between the sidewalk tiles. The alien smell of grass around the chapel (contrasting the typical chalky mud aroma of Iraq). The cables propping up the communication antenna. The shells of buildings. It’s all there, like it was a few weeks ago.
I’m with some of Roommate Adrian’s family up in Philly. We’re about to chow down and I thought I’d pipe in and give a wave to the blogosphere.
I went to a funeral this weekend.
A coworker’s wife passed died. She had been struggling with a kidney condition for years. I’d see this friend of mine go in and out of work when there’d be a spell of illness.
She passed a few days ago and the ceremony was this weekend. A few of us from work attended the service.
I just sat there.
In moments like that I really have no idea what to say. And I think that’s alright. Any of us are hardly expected to “fix” the grief with a cutesy saying or religious cliche.
I’m someone who enjoys laughter—who enjoys making people laugh. In situations with loss, I’m completely out of my element. I just stop. Time just stops. Everything stops. And there it is—a feeling of stillness, where all of life’s static slows and fades and what’s left is a genuine moment of vulnerability.
A man lost his wife. Children lost their mother.
Even in the receiving line afterwards, when I came face to face with this woman’s children, tears filling their eyes, I almost felt ashamed that I didn’t know more about her. I think I managed to choke out a well meant “God be with you,” but I still felt like I was intruding. It’s so strange how funerals seem to be less for the grieving family and more to help attendees feel better—like if I just put in my time at the service, say my phrase about God and his will, then I can go joke about something else in the parking lot.
Things like funerals hit me to the core. I know it’s unhealthy to dwell on someone’s pain. The world is full of it. There’d never be time for anything else. But at the same time, even with a friend and coworker, I wish I could have done more than just attend a service.
I’m still thinking about it. I’ll pray.
In day-to-day conversation, the topic of staying in or getting out of the military often comes up.
Usually, military guys chat about places they’ve been, experiences they’ve had, etc. The memories can be good or bad, which lets loose a venting of enthusiasm or criticism, depending on the person, and the culminating apologetic thrust, highlighting the reason why a person is staying or leaving the military.
For me? I’m out, 100 percent. Of the Army, at least. When this point is reached, it often draws raised eyebrows.
“Really? But you…” and then come the few usual responses. And I’m very thankful and appreciative of those who think I do a good job, that I’m a good soldier, whatever. I’d never think to poo-poo on someone’s compliment.
“Yeah, but it’s just not for me,” is usually how I wrap things up. I talk about how I’m a restless soul–how I need change in my life, and how it’s almost time to move past the military chapter of my life.
Truth is, the Army has leeched out every last whiff of enthusiasm from me, and has taken a good chunk of patriotism as well.
I don’t mean that in any bitter sense. And I don’t want to be someone who starts wailing on and on. But I’ve seen a lot of unfortunate circumstances. I see a lot more colors than red, white and blue now. I know people who could tell you some crazy stories about mismanagement, corruption, whatever. It all piles up in a heaping tower of crap that rains down on occasion and makes me cynically shrug my shoulders and say “Yeah…figures” whenever something crazy, disheartening or outright criminal makes the news in regard to national policy, military goings on, or theaters of operation.
The whole thing makes me shake my head and furrow my brow. And I’ve been doing that for so long that I add an eyes-roll in now and then, for emphasis.
So, when the time comes, when the Army finally lets me go (barring any additional stop-loss games), I’ll be looking for work.
One idea was to continue in the governmental vein with something like the State Department, working as a foreign service officer. Roommate Adrian got me turned on to that and it did seem neat. But the recent firestorm concerning U.S. diplomats who pitched a fit over the possibility of serving in Iraq makes me do the head shake/brow furrow thing again.
For those not following…diplomats are needed in Iraq. Normally, the State Department asks for volunteers, offering generous incentives for those willing to go. However, no one is volunteering, so the State Department is looking at ordering some to go.
Naturally, the diplomats went snake sh*t and many applauded concerns raised by Jack Croddy, a senior foreign service officer, that sending the diplomats was a “potential death sentence.” They griped that many of them had children, and that it was beyond the pale for a country to ask men and women to serve in areas where they might have to sacrifice time away from family.
“It’s one thing if someone believes in what’s going on over there and volunteers, but it’s another thing to send someone over there on a forced assignment,” Croddy said. “I’m sorry, but basically that’s a potential death sentence and you know it. Who will raise our children if we are dead or seriously wounded?”
Indeed, Mr. Croddy.
I don’t even want to get in to a response, there are plenty of others doing that.
What this gentleman did point out to me, was that I was naive and stupid to think much of the corruption, selfishness, mediocraty and blind ambition that soured my enthusiasm for military service would never also be present in other aspects of government.
And, please, give me credit. It wasn’t just Mr. Croddy that drove me to such extremes. I’ve heard a great deal of stories from a great deal of people in and out of government all throughout my life, with candid conversations about ridiculous situations.
Maybe civil service is not for me at all. I strongly wish to serve–I’m fourth generation enlisted for God’s sake; but, more and more, I’m not so sure about sticking around.
“Good riddance,” some will say when I leave, I’m sure. And that’s fine. I pray for them the best.
Running with a huff huff huff. Pat pat pat as my feet touch the path I have in the evenings.
As my routine persists, the seasons change. Now there’s scarcely sun in my time about.
There’s a field I pass, usually alight with sun and breeze, yet is a tad more somber lately.
The evening has come to the woods in my time, running. The sun withdraws as I make my rounds.
I’ve noticed the night is a tide that seems to seep from the earth. Daylight dims, leaving naught but the darkness to rule over the forest. The shadow starts at the base of the trees and spreads. Evening is like a vertical tide that slides up the lines of the wood’s edge, slowly saturating the entire forest in shadow. So too does the evening leech out from the forrest’s interior. It grows while the sun hangs low and joins the slow march of night as time tarries.
There’s a largely serious timbre to the woods in autumn twilight. There are no cheerful birdsongs. No buzzing of insects, even. It is as if the whole of the woods holds its breath for the return of the sun–the last measure of comfort in the colder atmosphere.
And yet, as winter approaches, the sun continues to spend less time in the path of the woods.
It’s too bad, but the forest knows the cycle–winter has come this way before. So I don’t make any apologies for the season. I’ll continue to watch the evening’s approach during my runs.
It happened as it did. We all acted as we were to have. Now we wait until tomorrow to begin again.
There’s a terrible finality to reality, isn’t there? As moments approach and are upon us, there is just one chance to act—whether nobly or ignobly, and mold the shape of the day.
As acts and events transpire, they are forever.
Once the day is over, that’s it. No amount of wishing can change it. No amount of praying can alter how every one of us reacted through the day.
Though we do wonder if things could have been different, don’t we? I’m not just speaking of woolgathering, but of a careful, contemplative examination of “ifs” that we might have visited. Through which would have emerged a grander reality, we surmise—a “better” day. Although we might not take on this review of history until long years hence, the idea is there—that one day, we might look back at this very moment and wish we had been doing something different.
The “what if” game gets tiresome, however. Today was. It was willed. It transpired. It is finished.
Michelangelo gave an interesting quote toward the whole notion of something that just “was.” The pope was visiting him as he sculpted his famous statue, “David.” The pope asked, “How do you know which bits to chip away?” Michelangelo replied, “I just take away the parts that don’t look like David.”
You see? He looked at a slab of marble and already saw David in there. He, in essence, was freeing the sculpture of David from the prison of the remaining stone. That slab of marble was destined to become David, through a willed and deliberate act of chiseling.
There’s a strange phenomenon in quantum physics called quantum decoherence. The idea goes, in so much as a non-scientist can put it, that certain particles won’t decide how to behave unless there is a conscious observer present. Without the observer watching, the particles don’t have a purpose. When the observer enters the system, the particles make up their minds as to how to act.
So, in other words, if a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, there is no tree and there is no forest.
When people enter into the day—today, and even tomorrow if we’re lucky, the world comes into focus. People live out their lives and give purpose to creation. All of the randomness of “could haves” and “might bes” decohere into reality as each of us steps into the next second and notices the arrangement of matter and energy around us. We then make conscious action, willful manipulation of that matter and energy, to live and interact with the other eternal souls around us.
Haven’t you thought it strange that life is this constant flux? There is no static state. It is like a rushing river.
God, the first and ultimate observer, looked at what would become the universe. He, through conscious action, willed the order of things, taking the chaos and decohering it into its structure.
We act in similar ways on much smaller scales, but the finality of our actions are potent, nonetheless. Some things can’t be unseen. Some things can’t be unheard. There is a terrible power in the act of living, giving an ultimate end to every finite moment. The fact that we can spread love or hate is further witness to our inherited condition.
The Scriptures say to let every minute be a living sacrifice to God—that every moment has in it the potential for a finality involving goodness and grace; be it through small acts or large. Heaven is brought to earth in love and compassion. Contrariwise, Hell is ushered in through selfishness and hate.
Some Rabbis said that God’s name, YHWH, is the sound of breathing—inhaling and exhaling…and that in our very breath, we’re whispering the name of God as a reminder to our purpose.
Tomorrow’s almost here.