Apr 12

Thoughts on the Train to New York

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.


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  1. Don, my friend, I deeply appreciate being on the train with you. You make the train brighter, more thoughtful, sometimes more frightening. Yes, we are getting closer to the station, but going, not getting there is the point, and the journey continues to be exciting and rewarding. Sometimes, in my blackest moods, I imagine being on the train alone, with all the passengers I love not there anymore, and the train is black and dismal beyond conception. But my fellow passengers are still there, and for that I am deeply grateful. Thanks for your thoughts.

      • Don Bay on April 12, 2014 at 16:39

      To lighten those black moods, we can always savor the memories of dear friends with whom we were fortunate enough to share a few years in this vale of tears and pleasures. Many thanks for your kind words. I am extremely pleased with your accomplishments and that you are part of the flock I am traveling with.

    • Gunnel Mattsson on April 12, 2014 at 12:44

    I´m quite sure your journey is positive for all your fellow-passengers. Love your thoughts!

      • Don Bay on April 12, 2014 at 16:45

      I genuinely appreciate your taking the time from your busy life to read my words. The trip with you and Bo has been a genuine pleasure for me, and I hope it will continue for years to come.

    • Kitty Courcier on April 13, 2014 at 18:15

    Many years and track lay between us. You were a great influence in my life and still are. Thank you for you wisdom and experiences. Love ya Don…… kitty

      • Don Bay on April 13, 2014 at 22:08

      The thanks goes to you for giving your patients the gift of your nursing skills and your caring. I have benefitted from your love and caring more than you will ever know, so the thanks go to you.

  2. The resources that you may be consuming are justified in so many ways. You needn’t worry that they are wasted or would be better utilized by those up and coming. I believe that we each earn what we consume by our level of contribution to the positive life force of the planet. And you, more than most, have earned the right to exist as long as you have the will do so, without out fear that you may be wasting a damn thing.

      • Don Bay on April 14, 2014 at 17:32

      It’s a cost/benefit thing. I appreciate your feeling that my minuscule contribution warrants the expenditure of so much of the state’s finite resources, but so it is in Sweden. So I will keep cranking out my opinions as long as I can and as long as you and others are willing to read my thoughts. I recognize that some of what I write may be opposed by my readers, but they are always free to let me know their views. However, just for the record, what I write will always be what I honestly believe; I will not be steered by what seems to be the right thing to say. In any case, thanks for your kind words.

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