Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Memory Day

Yesterday was Memorial Day,  a day to honor and remember those no longer with us.  It might be soldiers, friends or family. Take a moment to be with the spirit of those sparks of life that have passed our way.  At some place in the future, we too, will be just a spark of memory for others.  I know we don't like to think about our transient nature.  Our ego does not like the thought of our erasure from the chalkboard of life, but we are just here for a minute or two...it seems.

When we look at our lives through this window, it is easier to see what might be important.  It probably isn't the big career leap, or new cars or property acquisition, but the sweet moments that our lives bump, crash or slip into the consciousness and time of others.  Times we touched, we shared, we held on to one another.  Seconds ticking along when we were graced to see the interior path of another human, the inner and outer struggles, and triumphs shared.

These people that have left us, are not remembered now by the photos they posted on Facebook, or tweets, texts or emails..........no we see them in real time with us... the particular look on their face when........X happened, the way the light caught the color of their hair, or scent that came off of the that tattered coat when we hugged them, something they said during the long hours we were together in a car driving to an event, or the tears on the phone on a lonely night.  Moments that we actually connected.  For this to happen one needs to commit time and space for it. Creating a place to be with people we care about so that these things can occur.

What follows is  a piece written by a 2012 graduate of Yale University, who died the day after this was written.   She writes well and shares similar ideas.

KEEGAN: The Opposite of Loneliness

Marina Keegan '12.
Marina Keegan '12. Photo by Facebook.
The piece below was written by Marina Keegan '12 for a special edition of the News distributed at the class of 2012's commencement exercises last week. Keegan died in a car accident on Saturday. She was 22.
We don’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I could say that’s what I want in life. What I’m grateful and thankful to have found at Yale, and what I’m scared of losing when we wake up tomorrow and leave this place.
It’s not quite love and it’s not quite community; it’s just this feeling that there are people, an abundance of people, who are in this together. Who are on your team. When the check is paid and you stay at the table. When it’s four a.m. and no one goes to bed. That night with the guitar. That night we can’t remember. That time we did, we went, we saw, we laughed, we felt. The hats.
Yale is full of tiny circles we pull around ourselves. A cappella groups, sports teams, houses, societies, clubs. These tiny groups that make us feel loved and safe and part of something even on our loneliest nights when we stumble home to our computers — partner-less, tired, awake. We won’t have those next year. We won’t live on the same block as all our friends. We won’t have a bunch of group-texts.
This scares me. More than finding the right job or city or spouse – I’m scared of losing this web we’re in. This elusive, indefinable, opposite of loneliness. This feeling I feel right now.
But let us get one thing straight: the best years of our lives are not behind us. They’re part of us and they are set for repetition as we grow up and move to New York and away from New York and wish we did or didn’t live in New York. I plan on having parties when I’m 30. I plan on having fun when I’m old. Any notion of THE BEST years comes from clich├ęd “should haves...” “if I’d...” “wish I’d...”
Of course, there are things we wished we did: our readings, that boy across the hall. We’re our own hardest critics and it’s easy to let ourselves down. Sleeping too late. Procrastinating. Cutting corners. More than once I’ve looked back on my High School self and thought: how did I do that? How did I work so hard? Our private insecurities follow us and will always follow us.
But the thing is, we’re all like that. Nobody wakes up when they want to. Nobody did all of their reading (except maybe the crazy people who win the prizes…) We have these impossibly high standards and we’ll probably never live up to our perfect fantasies of our future selves. But I feel like that’s okay.
We’re so young. We’re so young. We’re twenty-two years old. We have so much time. There’s this sentiment I sometimes sense, creeping in our collective conscious as we lay alone after a party, or pack up our books when we give in and go out – that it is somehow too late. That others are somehow ahead. More accomplished, more specialized. More on the path to somehow saving the world, somehow creating or inventing or improving. That it’s too late now to BEGIN a beginning and we must settle for continuance, for commencement.
When we came to Yale, there was this sense of possibility. This immense and indefinable potential energy – and it’s easy to feel like that’s slipped away. We never had to choose and suddenly we’ve had to. Some of us have focused ourselves. Some of us know exactly what we want and are on the path to get it; already going to med school, working at the perfect NGO, doing research. To you I say both congratulations and you suck.
For most of us, however, we’re somewhat lost in this sea of liberal arts. Not quite sure what road we’re on and whether we should have taken it. If only I had majored in biology…if only I’d gotten involved in journalism as a freshman…if only I’d thought to apply for this or for that…
What we have to remember is that we can still do anything. We can change our minds. We can start over. Get a post-bac or try writing for the first time. The notion that it’s too late to do anything is comical. It’s hilarious. We’re graduating college. We’re so young. We can’t, we MUST not lose this sense of possibility because in the end, it’s all we have.
In the heart of a winter Friday night my freshman year, I was dazed and confused when I got a call from my friends to meet them at EST EST EST. Dazedly and confusedly, I began trudging to SSS, probably the point on campus farthest away. Remarkably, it wasn’t until I arrived at the door that I questioned how and why exactly my friends were partying in Yale’s administrative building. Of course, they weren’t. But it was cold and my ID somehow worked so I went inside SSS to pull out my phone. It was quiet, the old wood creaking and the snow barely visible outside the stained glass. And I sat down. And I looked up. At this giant room I was in. At this place where thousands of people had sat before me. And alone, at night, in the middle of a New Haven storm, I felt so remarkably, unbelievably safe.
We don’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I’d say that’s how I feel at Yale. How I feel right now. Here. With all of you. In love, impressed, humbled, scared. And we don’t have to lose that.
We’re in this together, 2012. Let’s make something happen to this world.

So my question to you today, is what space have you given today to nurture those relationships that bring the sorts of memories that Marina Keegan speaks of in this piece?


Sunday, May 6, 2012


A few days ago I attended the blessing of the fleet at Morro Rock.  A remembrance of those who live and work on the water and those who have lost their lives at sea, and an invocation of safety for those traveling on water.  It was a multidenominational service with many people of the cloth speaking.  One minister talked about the Great Spirit flowing over the waters, surrounding the fishermen in storms.  I looked out to the water while he spoke and I saw a boat with a resonant name.

Another speaker talked about the first step to wisdom is reverence and awe.  I thought about looking up in a church to the high rafters, and domed ceilings, and the great Cathedral arches.  I remember being in Lincoln Cathedral in England, a church that John Ruskin said "was the most precious piece of architecture in the British Isles".  The rise of the Norman and Gothic arches draw us high.  High into our vision and perhaps into our higher consciousness, our better selves.

I felt the wind blow across the pier and felt the energy of those around me, and suddenly my eyes drifted high again, and I was reminded that we can rise from wherever we stand.


Off stage cues today:  LOOK UP!  BLESS YOU, BLESS ME, BLESS US ALL.

Building | Lincoln Cathedral