© podoboq / CC BY 2.0
Days like today remind me. Over the last few years, in which it often seemed as if each day was darker than the last, I’ve often lost sight of myself, struggled to remember certain things that I used to know beyond doubt. What do I like? What is my native habitat? What is inside my soul?
Today the summer heat was interrupted by dark clouds, wind, heavy rain. The trees in the back yard are lush, green. Water is everywhere. There is a quiet roar in the air, and the scent of rain and pavement. I watched my children perform at their martial arts school with discipline, exceeding themselves and finding moments of pure intention and action. I come home to a dark house in the dim light of a rainy summer afternoon, and in front of me sits the keyboard and the books.
This is who I am. This is me. Rain, wind, green, fertility, discipline, performance, understatement, overfocus, literacy, productivity.
We couldn’t make our marriage work because my wife is my opposite in every way. I tried for a very long time to change, to moderate, to be different. But I am what I am. On afternoons like this, I can now again feel pure, inspired, whole.
It is good to be alive. It is good to stand, buffeted and drenched, in wind and rain. It is good to sit and exist with words. It is good not to care about money. It is good not to care about the rest of the world.
I am reminded of the phrase from Northern Exposure. “Have you ever had a pure moment?” one character asked another.
That is what life is for me. A constellation of pure moments that valorize being. It is not about people. It is not about goals. It is about purity. The rest is noise.
— § —
Here is what is missing from the world in one word: Respect.
People these days are presumptuous. The culture of the individual and of individual achievement leads to this. People think that their initiative leads to learning and success and value. It doesn’t. Discipline and respect lead to these things.
It should be noted that respect is not a matter of conviviality, as some people now seem to imagine. It’s a matter of deference, even when those to be respected are not present. It is, quite literally, a matter of “knowing one’s place,” or, in other words, humility and the concession of the superiority of others in certain affairs and circumstances.
The world has gone off the rails because respect has gone off the rails.