In Brief—A recognition that friends reflect the values we hold dear.
The Train to New York—
A good friend who is an accomplished skier, golfer, tennis player, inventor, comedy writer, lecturer and, most importantly, deep thinker is a modern day Leonardo (da Vinci, not diCaprio). He’s as close to a modern polymath as I have ever known. He once related the analogy of a guy on a train headed east from Chicago to New York. The guy is walking west toward the back of the train while it is moving east toward New York. When asked where he is going, he replies, “To Chicago.”
I have stretched his analogy to a guy headed from the starting station (birth) to the end station (death). If the guy stops along the way to help his fellow passengers, great, they are all better off for his passing down the aisle, but if he is intent only on improving his portfolio in pork bellies, not great…and he is still bound for New York.
In considerably less than a thousand years—a mere blink in the age of the universe—we will all be forgotten notwithstanding a few like Hitler who will live on in ever-more-distorted memory. And if, as I believe, humankind becomes extinct, even the few remaining in the collective memory will cease to exist. The atoms of all will continue evolving with the universe. This is neither good nor bad, it simply is.
This reminds me of friendship. Our friends are our true riches. They teach us, they comfort us in our pain and make us laugh with pleasure, they enrich our lives. Acquaintances and lovers come and go, but friends make the trip to New York worth it.
Birds of a feather—
My mother used to quote the old idiom “Birds of a feather flock together” in support of her opposition to racial mixing. By contrast, I look at the idiom as meaning that those we have as our closest friends reflect the values we hold dear. My friends (which includes my wife) demonstrate, among other admirable characteristics, personal integrity, honesty, knowledge (either formal or acquired through experience), a focus on assisting others less fortunate than themselves and creativity. These are the birds I choose to flock with.
I have long had the philosophy, either by genetic inheritance or through environmental influence or both, that unless we all work with one another in the common interest we will eventually destroy all that civilization has built. Placing selfish interests first will result in the collapse of the whole structure. Somehow, that has escaped too many in society, and we are now seeing the results of such short-sightedness.
As I near the end station, the friends I value most are those who have spent or are spending their lives, energy, skills and creativity on leaving the world in better shape than when they arrived. Younger and older, male and female, all have in one way or another sought to better the lives of those who follow. Those are the ones I have chosen to travel with.
This leads me to reflect that my age and condition uses valuable but finite resources in keeping me alive while those resources can be more wisely spent on improving the conditions of younger members of society who have time left to contribute to the betterment of society. Some say that my age and experience warrant the expenditure of finite resources because I contribute my knowledge to others. The question remains: is the expenditure worth the benefit a few derive from it?
However, I digress. My quiet periods of reflection while I’m being fed through the tube allow me to ponder a variety of issues such as the ones raised today. Other pieces will lead to reflection on other matters that arise in my consciousness while I am still on my journey toward New York.