The finest qualities of our nature, like the bloom on fruits, can be preserved only by the most delicate handling. Yet we do not treat ourselves nor one another thus tenderly.
~ Henry David Thoreau
My remaining brother’s life ended yesterday. This makes three brothers who died before reaching their sixtieth year – one who predeceased our father and two who closed their eyes on this world after. What can be said about a family which loses its sons at life’s midpoint, when, crisis be damned, the fog begins to clear and one is able to chart one’s course with hands firmly on the wheel – having culled enough life experience to understand the nature of its ebb and flow? To look back and forward at the same time, extending a helping hand to those who follow in our wake? Instead of assessing accomplishments and resolving not to repeat one’s failures – does one simply relinquish faith and capitulate to self loathing? Thus far, this has been the case for all three sons. All three had lifelong struggles getting wedged in the crack between fundamentalist religion and substance abuse. All three were products of a murky past, as was their progenitor before them. Are we forever doomed to repeat the idiosyncrasies of those whose shoes we attempt to fill?
Perhaps it is birthing children that has saved my sisters and me. Somehow nurturing and giving rise to life, though exhausting to the body and the mind, possess enduring merit. There is a visceral memory of carrying another within the confines of our skeleton and skin – a responsibility to gather the fragile to the fold – that keeps us focused on the incredulous and fleeting nature of life, itself. It is facile to focus an unwavering eye on miracles when we have witnessed them spring from our own flesh. It somehow seems easier to rise above the pettiness of pride and egoism when confronted with the needs of our offspring.
I wonder at the bottomless void in these men. I contemplate a society which demands its sons man up in order to grow up. For where are the role models for sensitive souls born into male bodies – the poets and artists among us? That men reach adulthood with any sense of their spirits intact seems to me an overwhelming accomplishment. And though it is easier for love to engender love, kindness to beget kindness, it is possible for damage to strengthen into resolve; for what is broken to gather its pieces like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice’s brooms and strengthen in numbers, multiplying compassion and understanding until our world is healed and made whole, one sentient being at a time.
You may say I’m a dreamer – but I’m not the only one.
~ John Lennon