In the Apology, Socrates wrights that “the unexamined life is not worth living.” Presumptive arrogance aside, I’ve never claimed to be a Socrates, although I do subscribe to this particular philosophy. From time to time, I have always found it necessary to withdraw for short periods of reflection and introspection. Typically, these periods have led me to some deserted stretch of beach in late September or October. There is something about the chilled wind coming off a grey sea that aids the thought processes. More rarely, it has led me to the mountains. A small cabin in the dead of winter with a roaring fire and night closing in during the late afternoon does tend to give one more than ample time to think. Usually, I take a few changes of clothes and a larger bag of books, writing pads, and a computer for those moments when spell-check is important. More often than not, my thoughts have ended up on stacks of yellow legal pads. Im slowly moving those into electronic format, but do not intend to ever make them available for public consumption. Its simply easier to reference the electronic format than my own hand-written papers.
I haven’t been on one of these sojourns in a while now, and thought that some of you august readers may be interested in knowing what goes on in my head from time to time. I wouldn’t say that I exactly have been contemplating mortality. I have come to terms with that reasonably well and don’t spend much time pondering the hereafter. What comes, comes has always governed my thought process here. More recently, I have been contemplating the more mundane aspects of life.
For the better part of the last ten years I have watched friends and colleagues pair off, marry, have children, and start an “adult” life. Those things have never been an ambition of mine. When asked why, usually I dismiss it with an offhand comment about time or living more or less on the road. The reality is somewhat different, however. A more accurate response, I think, is that the care and maintenance of a relationship demands flexibility. It requires compromise and a willingness to substitute the needs and desires of others for your own. Somehow, I missed the part of class where they were teaching those things. I was recently accused of suffering from a case of arrested development, and I suppose that case can be made with some justification. One thing I want to make perfectly clear, however, is that while I may show some symptoms, I don’t suffer from it. I revel in it. I wear it like a winter coat and it keeps me warm, fat, and happy.
As a lover of movies, its not surprising that I find as much inspiration from them as I do from the above mentioned Socrates. Both have things to teach us if we are willing to learn. One of my favorite movie quotes captures the sprit of how I feel on most days:
“…greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind.”
Alone and lonely are not synonymous for me. Alone implies that there is time to think, to learn, to pursue things not yet achieved. Lonely implies a state of mind that one chooses to embrace. I’m not philosophically opposed to the idea of life-long relationships, to great loves, but I have always demanded the right to embrace them on my own terms. Some people look slightly askance when I say that my dearest friends are those I grew up with. These are the people who have seen my flaws up close and have forgiven me. I’m sure the phrase “well, that’s just Jeff” has passed in conversation on more than one occasion. Distance and time has not, will not, dim my respect, admiration, and yes, love, for these individuals.
We all have a star to follow and mine has led well and truly. It has provided opportunities I could have scarcely dreamt of growing up among the small coal towns of Western Maryland. It has led me to range across the continent and the oceans and it has always brought me home again. I make no claim to know the future, but where it leads I will follow and try to never be too surprised at where it takes me.