What it means

I sat on her couch with my elderly mother and wished I could be who she needed.

She is sad; frightened. Alone. But also fierce; angry. Condescending. Untouchable. I think,  ‘I’ve watched her whole life.’ I flatter myself. Her experience blossomed before I was born. But I sit and I think, ‘this is what a life is.’

We know so much, today. We can watch pictures of our thoughts. We can mix powders in a jar, and create named emotions once believed to arrive in winds through the trees or a few breathless words from the dark-eyed girl sitting in her chair. My feelings are now discernible by scientific method; manageable through formulas recorded in books.

At an Ivy League dinner table a rich old white man leaned toward the boy with my name and asked, seriously, if I thought the ‘one-world government’ was inevitable. As a little child I looked for dinners in trash bins behind supermarkets, and he was asking me. When the Clintons became popular, I read they, and the super-connected surrounding them, attended hyper-luxurious getaway seminars to explore ‘what it means to be alive in the twenty-first century.’

It means, too often, we’re not up to the task. Our sequences and combinations are maladjusted. We mis-fire. When the struggle is too much, we seek the comfort of the recorded formulas. We consult those always ready to voice the comfortable imperative. So we have our president, a man simply squeezed too hard, or stretched too thin, holding up pictures of dying children and exhorting us – to kill children.

I sit with my mother. She is as she always was. Simply narrower. Less far ranging. Fewer moving parts. So here must I go, too. This is what a life is. I sit in my heap of broken promises and failed good intentions, and I struggle to remember the few good things I have done. This is who I am. I will shrink, too, and disappear.

I’ll mis-quote the Preacher: do what you enjoy while there’s daylight.

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