Abandon Text!

W. H. Auden once said: "Poems are not finished; they are abandoned." I have been abandoning writing projects for many years, since only the pressure of deadline and high expectations ever got me to finish, or even start, anything of merit. This blog is an attempt to create a more consistent, self-directed writing habit. Hopefully a direction and voice will emerge.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Six Degrees

I had a couple “it’s a small world” incidents happen recently:

  1. I had an arborist come out to cut down some trees and prune branches in our back yard. After I had shown him around the yard and we went over the work he was to do, he said, “You didn’t happen to live in Brevard at one time, did you?” Yes, I did. “Do you, by chance, have a brother named Erich?” It turned out that he had gone to high school with us, in fact was even on the same wrestling team. He remembered me and all my brothers . . . after more than twenty years.

  2. I was walking through a warehouse with one of my newer customers, and said casually, “I heard someone mention that Eurodrive is one of your customers. My father is a manager in Eurodrive’s plant in South Carolina.” My customer stopped dead in his tracks. “What was your name again? Hans is your daddy?” It turned out that he knew my father well, in fact had sold products to him for the last fifteen years, for more than one company.

After the “wow!” had set in on both these events, I started to look at my own reactions. In both cases these little coincidents made me extremely happy, almost giddy, and I couldn’t really figure out why. In both cases they are chance events that will probably have no lasting impact on either of us. And yet it seemed like such a special occasion. In the second case I actually shook the man’s hand again, like we were meeting for the first time, the both of us grinning ear to ear. What in the world makes this kind of thing so special?

Part of it, I suppose, was a little surge of family pride… which is a slightly altered state of consciousness for me, since I think of my family of origin very little, if at all. The arborist said, “Yeah, Erich was a great guy, a really good man.” And my customer could not begin to describe how much he admired my father: “He’s really precise, very methodical, but always just so nice to deal with.” Yeah . . . those are my people. Somehow, feeling pride in your family feels cleaner than taking pride in your own accomplishments, since you are mostly just delighting in someone else’s virtue.

But I think the most significant thing was the fact that these incidents reaffirmed my past. The past is, after all, gone; so few people know our past, or need to know it, that sometimes it feels like a dream, insubstantial, far away. And then something happens that makes you think, weirdly: “O my gosh, it really did happen. I really did exist.” Deeper even than the need to feel special, is the need to feel like you even existed at all.



Blogger Bill S. said...

Funny, I think the thrill I get in similar situations has to do with feeling "connected" with people. Of course, at some level I believe we're ALL connected... but in those moments there's a jolt of, "A-ha! PROOF!" I suppose those reactions are insights into our core belifs, values, fears...

3:39 PM  

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