Remembering

Everything changes and nothing remains still. You cannot step twice into the same stream.
— Heraclitus

LAST AUTUMN, my Amazing-Missus and I attended her high school class reunion. I wrote a bit about it.

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While at the reunion I was visiting with a lady who had been married to one of my schoolmates. As we visited I was struck with a spell of melancholy. For some reason I have no connections with anyone that I went to school with. It’s not that I didn’t have friends; maybe I’m just not a good cultivator, which is a little weird to me because a role I truly cherish is that of being a creative catalyst—one who brings creative people together in collaboration.

But then a pop on Facebook, the social media thing. Maybe you’ve heard of it, maybe you’ve been politically manipulated by it. A name I recognized was there on the FB, the name of a girl that I considered to be a friend in grade school, junior high and high school. Not a “girlfriend” though. Her sights were set much higher.

One thing lead to another and a few weeks ago, we met for lunch. Karla, Arlene and me. What a gift it was. She was able to tell me about many of our classmates. I felt reconnected somehow. And at the same time I realized that Heraclitus was right. You cannot step twice into the same stream. 

Karla told us there was a group of Trojan alum having a meet-up at the Methodist church if we wanted to stop by. So we did. We walked into the church and followed the signs to the Fellowship Hall. We could see through the open doors the group gathered. “This isn’t them”, I thought. “This is the church’s senior adult group.” And then it dawned on me. All these people other than me have aged, and come to find out, many are gone.

I dug out my old yearbook, from my junior year 1968, and scanned the pictures of my classmates, pausing on some to recall a memory or two. Some of these, I realized, I had sat in class with year after year and I knew very little about them. Missed opportunities no doubt.

The tradition back then, when the yearbooks were handed out at the end of the school year was to hand your book to others for them to sign. I read the entries in my book through a much older lens. For the most part, we didn’t look to far ahead: “Hope you have a great summer!” Some entries were nostalgic: “Well another year is behind us…” Some prophetic: “Stay just the way you are and you’ll go far,” words I’ve never seen on one of those motivational posters.

We didn’t know it at the time but things were simpler and yet they weren’t. 1968 is notorius for riots, protests, and culture quaking moments. But without the WWW, 24-hour news outlets, a strange innocence prevailed; or at least that’s the way I remember it.

On the 50th anniversary of my senior year, I wonder about the Senior Class of 2019. Are they having a good summer? Are they aware of the crap-storm in Washington D.C.? Do they care? Have the active-shooter drills at their school become as common place as the atomic bomb drills did for us? Is there a thread or two of innocence left? Is there someone writing words of encouragement on the flyleaf of their yearbook? 

If I could write a prelude of sorts in their yearbook, I might say something like this:

Make a new friend this year. Not one of those social media “friends”, but a real one, maybe one that is different from you: race-wise, sex-wise, faith-wise—you know, different. When you get together with your new friend, put away the phones and talk. Talk about the future, your fears, your faith.

Be creative. Make a contribution. Express gratitude. Do something that makes your palms sweaty. Pay attention—not just in class but to what is happening around you. Remember: “Everything changes and nothing remains still. You cannot step twice into the same stream.” — Heraclitus


Just a note: I attended school at Jenks Public Schools through my Junior year, but transferred and graduated from Will Rogers High School in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

P.S.: Thank you Karla Newman Taber for being a friend.

For Sunday, February 7, 2016

Psalm 127. A PILGRIM SONG OF SOLOMON

If GOD doesn’t build the house,
        the builders only build shacks.
    If GOD doesn’t guard the city,
        the night watchman might as well nap.
It’s useless to rise early and go to bed late,
        and work your worried fingers to the bone.
    Don’t you know he enjoys
        giving rest to those he loves?
 
Don’t you see that children are GOD’S best gift?
        the fruit of the womb his generous legacy?
Like a warrior’s fistful of arrows
        are the children of a vigorous youth.

Oh, how blessed are you parents,
        with your quivers full of children!


    Your enemies don’t stand a chance against you;
        you’ll sweep them right off your doorstep.
 

pops and his "arrows", celebrating our 2016 birthdays.

pops and his "arrows", celebrating our 2016 birthdays.

Testing 1, 2, 3.

I'M NOT AN ELECTRICIAN OR AN ENGINEER. Luckily, you don’t have to show some kind of license or certificate when you go to Home Depot® to buy a pair of wire strippers or vice grips, because like most guys, I don’t let knowledge, or the lack of it, get in the way of taking things apart and trying to put them together again.

As a kid, I remember the intrigue of attaching wires together to see what would happen. One such memory is burned into my cerebral circuitry. It was probably second grade and time for the school science fair. My parents were very busy. They were bakers at the time, making pies for the early morning deliveries. I took it upon myself to create a blue-ribbon science fair entry.

We definitely could have hung out together.

We definitely could have hung out together.

I found an extension cord, cut off the feminine end, stripped the wires back and taped them to the legs of a little metal folding chair. I strapped my little brother in and was just about to plug in my certain-to-be-award-winning entry, when my mom noticed, screamed, and the rest is a blur. Despite other, later experiments on my brother, he’s still here today.

One of my favorite and successful, projects started with finding an old record player in a pile of junk someone had dumped onto the Arkansas riverbed near our house. Its tubes were missing, but I used the turntable parts, wired around the internal amp to another working amp and voila!

So, four paragraphs in now, let me say, this is a post about connections. I had an english teacher once who critized my writing because, “it takes you too long to get to the point.” Well, I have a blog now, so… there.

For several posts now, I’ve been talking about having a "knot"—a group of people to hang out with, talk with; connect with. I realize my metaphor is a bit flawed now, in an age where everything is becoming more wireless. But I really like the picture of relationships being like wired together. Even the picture that sometimes wires fray and sparks fly.

Tonight I’m meeting with a little knot of people I treasure. We meet almost every Friday night. They are the first two people I’m interviewing as a part of the series I promised in my last blog post. I’m hoping to wrap up the interview tonight so I can write about it over the weekend.

Until then, may your connections be strong and your tubes burn brightly.

Finding the Knot

So...

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Bert and Ernie
The Lone Ranger and Tonto
The Team
The Tribe

To review: a couple of posts back, in a little essay titled, Keeping Company I mentioned a group called The Inklings. It's the kind of group that C.S. Lewis described as "a little knot of friends who turn their backs to the World."

As I said, I would like to have a group like that—a Knot, if you will. To explore the idea further, I started with identifying "six" people I would like to invite to a dinner. These people wouldn't actually be in the Knot, but in going through the process of who to invite, maybe, I thought, I can discover something about myself and the kind of people I could potentially be in a group with.

If you take a look at my "six": David Letterman, Flannery O'Connor, Paul McCartney & John Lennon, Tina Fey & Amy Poehler, Yo Yo Ma, and Atticus Finch, some elements are evident: humor, music, creativity, gregariousness, a strong B.S. filter, and a certain, healthy irreverence.

Maybe it's a guy thing. I don't know for sure, I've never been a girl. But it seems like guys like to be a part of the something. Maslow called it "Belonging" needs. Back when I was a kid, guys had clubs and lodges they could join. I'm not sure what all went on, because by the time I was old enough to join in and find out, Gloria Steinem had burned her bra and all males were chauvinistic pigs. Now don't get me wrong. I'm happy for women, and probably would have said something like, “You go girl!” had I ever met Ms. Steinem; but I will admit, I would have liked to go to one of those lodges where guys wore funny-looking hats and had a secret handshake, and maybe smoked a cigar and acted like big shots and maybe had a bowling team.

Now, men seem to be relegated to impromptu little gatherings at places like McDonald’s or The IHOP where they can drink cheap coffee, and complain about the dang democrats. That's not the kind of Knot I'm looking to be a part of. I'm not even sure I would want to go bowling with those guys.

The fact is, the Knot is already forming in my mind. (Wow, out of context that sounds ugly and ominous.) What I mean is, I already know some of these people and we're actually loosely knotted now. They may not look at it that way, but I do. 

So here's my plan: over the next few months, I'm going to interview these people, these potential Members of the Knot, and introduce them here at About Pops (if they'll let me that is). So stay tuned.