One intriguing aspect of my life is that even now, at the ripe and reasoned age of fifty-six, I don’t know if I’ve made a single major decision — that is, the kind of decision we generally associate with a change in direction, the advent of deeper understanding, or memorable accomplishment. I don’t say that decisions weren’t made. I simply can’t say with any certainty that I’m the one who made them; for I think it’s every bit as possible, if not likely, that the important decisions in my life were made by life, and that I am here expressly to abide by them and do its will.
Now, a peculiar part of all this is that I still feel responsible for the outcome. And yet I’m here by a force beyond my control, imprinted with characteristics I had no say in acquiring. Only in growing up, only in being taught that some characteristics are useful and good and that others are best subdued, was I able to find a place first in my family, and then in the world around me. In other words, I was taught honesty and survival.
It’s a hard thing, survival. One reason it’s hard is that honesty is lacking in so many. And remember, honesty isn’t really honesty if it has limits, and is reduced to a matter of expediency.
Are human beings capable of complete honesty? If our religions, philosophies, and political systems are any indication, it would appear that we have our serious doubts, or, at the extreme, are willing to believe we aren’t — a big difference; the difference. But it must also be remembered that vast numbers of us, in our deadly grace and poetic ignorance, sincerely mean well. So maybe we do believe, but are afraid of the consequences.
It’s quite possible that you are in control of your life; whether you are or not isn’t for me to say. I only know that I’m not in control of mine. I’m proud of some of the things I’ve done, and embarrassed by others. I’ve written poems and books, but I hope my best is yet to come. If any or all of this has come about through decisions I’ve consciously or unconsciously made, I own up to them. If they’re the result of decisions made for me, then I hope to better understand that process.
I don’t believe what countless others are willing and content to believe. I don’t believe what they are afraid not to believe. I don’t believe in me. I just act accordingly. The hand I hold out, the blood within that gives it warmth, the image of this aging mind and body reflected by the mirror, the memories I recall, the timeless sense of flight I feel, are as so many leaves in the wind. Of this, I’m glad. I don’t know how not to be. Should this deem me laughable to some, I join in your laughter. For it is just such a tragedy that I love.