My mother once told me that I was born at 7:00 in the morning. That fits. It is my time of day. So many mornings I have risen for workouts that started at 7:00 a.m, or earlier. It’s like being reborn every day.
If math serves, I’ve experienced 21,900 such mornings. And along the way, so many birthdays. Because every day is a birthday if you stop to think about it.
I had a coach once who believed strongly in celebrating your own birthday. “It’s MY day!” he’d chortle, shaking his fists next to his shoulders. He also loved the phrase WOW FUN WOW! It was applied to those moments in training and racing that were hard, yet challenging and fun.
So this morning I’m sitting out on the back patio of our house. The sun is showing through a row of cottonwood trees. It is 66 degrees outside. The height of summer.
I recall so well those birthdays when I was a child. My mother would bake a rich chocolate cake and give me the icing bowl to clean up with a spoon. There would be presents wrapped, things like airplane models or a new baseball.
During those summers in Pennsylvania when I was nine or ten years old, the world seemed at once far off and yet so close. Friends were a phone call away, yet you had to use the rotary dial with your fingertip, turning the numbers quick as you could, then wait for the friend to answer. All their numbers were memorized because there wasn’t that much to jam inside my brain at that age. Not in the summer, anyway.
I woke up to the sounds of The Beatles playing in our house for nearly ten years. A specific memory comes from a birthday morning in fact. I was assembling a P-36 or some other Army plane and trying not to get the glue all over the windshield. The song “Nowhere Man” came on. I sat there listening for a moment. John Lennon sang:
He’s a real nowhere man
Sitting in his nowhere land
Making all his nowhere plans for nobody
We’re all nominally aware as children that someday we’ll grow up to be adults. Perhaps we assume we’ll figure quite a few things out by then. But I was always a sensitive kid, prone to getting caught in deep thought, often at inappropriate moments. That was the product of what my brothers and I call “Creative ADD.” Our minds were always wandering in class, thinking about things much more fun and interesting than the topic at hand.
So I sat there thinking about Nowhere Man for a moment, and it dawned on me: “I’m always going to remember doing this.” I don’t know why that particular moment and song sunk in like that. But it still sticks out every time that song comes on. I should have perhaps listened even more closely, because the song was enormously prescient to the experiences I would have later in life. The native anxiety wired into my brain. The constant urge to be doing something, or concern that I was missing out. Then the pressures and obligations of life itself. The work. The money. Then the cancer, and the 15 years of caregiving and people dying, and all the while, birthdays passing away. One by one.
Nowhere man don’t worry
Take your time, don’t hurry
Leave it all till somebody else
Lends you a hand
Now I’m sixty years old. It was both hard and easy to get here. I’ve learned a few lessons along the way. And from the depth of my soul, I remain a devout liberal.
Devout: having or showing deep religious feeling or commitment, totally committed to a cause or belief.
The reason for this devotion to liberalism is twofold. Much stems from my long relationship with the true Christian faith, which is deeply liberal in nature by definition of character, conscience and organic foundations.
Yet I recall the day I led a memorial service for my mother after she died. We held it at the Unitarian Universalist Society. I heard through the grapevine that some people were concerned about coming to the service. Didn’t know what to expect at such a “liberal” institution. But after the service, a woman walked up to me with a look of surprise in her eyes, and said, “That was the most devout funeral service I have ever attended.”
It’s not about the rituals. It’s not about the confessionals, or the nature of scripture, or the promise of the hereafter. It is about the devout recognition of soul in all of us.
The other abiding belief in my life is in justice; social, cultural, environmental and political. I believe in fairness, and not taking undue advantage of others. Be not squanderous, nor wasteful, abusive or covetous. And have no fear in resisting those who do those things. That is righteousness.
I get that some people equate righteousness with paying less taxes, having the right to carry a gun or flying the Confederate flag. But those are material obsessions, all of them. And despite the seeming clarity of that Second Amendment language that selectively ignores the first part of the amendment (a well-regulated militia, being necessary for the security of a free state…) in favor of the more selfish aims of the second (the right to bear arms shall not be infringed…) the logic behind the conservative interpretation of that passage is seriously and fatally flawed. It’s as if we were to ignore the first part of John 3:16 that reads “16For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son…” in favor of emphasizing the selfish part in which we benefit: “that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
That’s how selfishness is manifested in this world. Ignore the responsibility and take the benefits.
Because it’s a plain fact that people die every day because the interpretation of the Second Amendment is , get this, far too liberal. Stop and think about that for a moment. Conservatives love liberalism when it allows them to have it their way. And fuck the rest of society. America is in a symptomatic phase of all that selfishness, writ large. It’s a disease, like alcoholism. An addiction like sex or chocolate or food. Some people can’t give it up and will fight to the death to protect their addiction to the notion that the right to kill other people in an instant is an American virtue.
I’m sixty years old, and I know better.
Being liberal does not mean that I do not believe in competition. That’s why I’m unafraid to state my views here, in my own blog, and live with the consequences of putting it out there.
That core belief in the value of competitive was only magnified through years of participation in athletics. I learned what it means to play fair, to compete your best, win or lose, and earn your victories. No cheating. No wouldcouldashoulda. Deal with it.
The pure sport of running was both a true and severe test of those principles. It is an enterprise in which you could pour all your soul, get honest returns, and for better or worse, accept the consequences. That is life. And part of the purpose for which I was born. To live it as fully as possible. That is all any of us have.
And at the age of sixty, having now added cycling and swimming the repertoire, I see no contradictions in these life experiences and core principles. Fair and open competition is good. Being a cheating, lying bastard who abuses others or manipulates them through righteous-sounding language that is false. Well, that’s bad.
I know I lose a few readers by touting my liberal beliefs. But I was born this way. I’ve lived this way. Stood up for other people when the standing up was right, and fought for honest actions and reactions even when it cost me personally.
I’m sixty years old. And I was born this way.