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The I’m-Too-Young-To-Die-alogues: The Conclusion

December 7, 2010

Last week I started reporting on the ongoing conversation between my inner-19 year old, and me now — my 61 year old. This week, they conclude, but not before getting an unexpected visitor…

19: C’mon man! You don’t have much time. In a few years, you won’t be able to do the things I still want to do!

61: Like…?

19: Like going to a water park…in the Bahamas! Or in Rio! Like let’s play all night in the city! Drink one too many! Have an adventure! Boogie!!

61: I’m getting tired just listening to you.

19: Listening to you I feel disappointed I ever got to be so old! I mean, without sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll and revolution, what’s there worth living for?

61: New things. If I lived like you now, I’d be doing things that are young…but old to me. I want to do new things.

19: Like what?

61: Reading a good novel. Writing. Taking my time…yeah: taking my time! Slowing my mind down every now and then so I can fully arrive in the moment and fully feel whatever it is I feel.

19: And that’s called growing up, huh?

61: It feels more like growing down. Not looking outward and upward all the time, but downward and inward. It’s not easy to quiet down, especially these days. But when I do it, it’s always rewarding.

19: Plus you got your kids, right?

61: No kids, Charley.

19: (In shock) No kids?!

61: I know. I’m…

19: How could you do this to me?! I always wanted children like mom and dad did. (Starts to cry). I always wanted to eventually move to the country and raise kids with someone.

61: Sorry. I’m disappointed too.

19: Disappointed? I’m pissed! So are you all alone? What gives?!

61: Charley, I’m on my second marriage. In the first one we tried – we had five miscarriages, and finally decided to adopt instead.

19: Oh…?

61: …And split up right before the baby arrived.

19: Sheesh! And the second marriage…?

61: She has two grown kids of her own, and long ago had her tubes tied.

19: People have tubes now?

61: Don’t worry about it.

19: (sits; crestfallen) No kids…

61: To be honest, it just hasn’t been that kind of trip for me this time around. What I really needed was to find myself. The path I finally chose, it’s different. I guess I stayed off the beaten track, like dad and…like you.

Death (sneaking up behind 61): BOO!

61: (jumps, freaked) AHHG!!!

Death (a/k/a Mr. D) (laughing): Gotcha again!

61: Don’t do that to me! You always do that!

Mr. D: I love how it freaks you out!

19: (laughs)

61 (to 19): It’s easy for you to laugh! He can’t touch you!

19: Hey – he used to scare me too!

Mr. D: I’m just trying to teach you a lesson and you never want to learn it.

61: I’m trying to forget it!

Mr. D: Trying to forget about me is like drinking more at the bar to try to forget about the tab you’re running up. It only makes things worse.

61: I just wish you’d leave me alone!

Mr. D: You ignore me at your own peril. I keep scaring you until you get used to me hanging out. Because I’m always there, right behind you. You’re listening to your 19 year old there, but you should be listening to me.

19: Why? I’m his best friend!

Mr. D: But I’m his best advisor. And you know what? Your conversation is bullshit!

61: Really? 19 here is trying to get me to remember him and rejuvenate my life with his shenanigans, before you snuck up on me to try to scare me to death!

Mr. D: I should scare you to life, but not as a 19 year old.

61: You got a better idea? I should act 61 which is closer to you?

Mr. D: You should act like I can come at any time.

19: I did!

61: Yeah, and he didn’t come! And so I didn’t plan for my life like I shoulda!

Mr. D: That’s cause you let me scare you…scare you into living like there’s no tomorrow.

19 and 61: But there may not be!

Mr. D: It seems to me that so far you’ve had quite a few. What if I don’t come until you’re 90? What kind of life will you have then if you haven’t planned? You live in fear and repulsion of me instead of simply respecting me.

61: But I hate you!

Mr. D: Then you’re an idiot, and it’s why you keep refusing to look at me, talk to me, or even acknowledge my existence…except that you’re always imagining me lurching like I’m ready to pounce on you from behind at any minute.

61: You are!

Mr. D: I’m not. I’m just waiting for your time. Listen – 19 is telling you to get high and get laid; to play and dance and use your body while you still can. I’m telling you to get still, so you can be here while you’re still here. You’re living desperately, fleeing in futile fear from me. You call that living? I call it running; running and skating across the surface of the deep lake of your life.

19: (To 61) I still say remember me because I can liberate you from all your ruts!

Mr. D: I say face me. And tremble if you must, but keep facing me, and you’ll wake the fuck up!

19: Ok, enough!

Mr. D: You know what your problem is? You want light without shadow; up without down; good without bad. You want the impossible. It’s the bad that makes the good look good, and the down that makes up feel good. Don’t you get it – nothing can make you feel alive like me!

19: (To 61) Look bro, this is all just too morbid for me! You want to rub your face in this ghoul’s blather all day? He’s talking about living? Let’s live! When he comes, he comes! (Turns to face Mr. D) I was scared of you, cause you took my mom from me when I was just waking up – so fuck you! (Spits on Mr. D, and turns back to face 61). Look – we’ve made it to 61! We might make it to 100 for all we know! Maybe living in fear or “respect” of him, and dealing with his ugly ass all day is what he calls living. I call it dying prematurely. Living in dread is a dreadful way to live. Now let’s get the hell out of here! (They turn and walk away. Mr. D remains at 61’s back).

**************************

So Mr. D didn’t get his chance to deliver his advice (at least not yet). But he was kind enough to write it all out for the rest of us, and I was somehow able to procure a copy, so here it is…

Mr. D’s Advice to The Living:

· Shout loud enough so that it will still echo after you’re silent.

· Let come and let go.

· Ask yourself daily: If I died today, what would die with me and remain unsaid? Who do I love who would never know it? What have I got that would never be given? What part of me would not be all used up?

· Yes is the answer.

· Play with shifting your identity from body and personality to the rest of you. Learn what that is.

· Live each day as if it were your first.

· There’s nothing to be afraid of.

· Glimpsing what’s eternal (and therefore indestructible) in you will reduce your fear of me.

· Facing ones fear is always empowering. Facing ones fear of death could be ones greatest source of strength.

· When you get used to, and expect loss, you win.

· Dying is the last growing pain.

· Don’t postpone joy. Or love.

· TIME IS HONEY.

· Do whatever the fuck you want.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. December 7, 2010 7:53 pm

    You know I can relate to this one, Charley!

  2. Hobbes permalink
    December 8, 2010 6:45 am

    I like. It’s weird. After my mother died when I was younger, I started meditating on my own death, and have come to the conclusion to do most of the things that you advised. Thanks, I appreciate your humor and candidness.

  3. Dave Abramowitz permalink
    December 9, 2010 11:49 am

    It strikes me that your invocation to your readers not to postpone joy or love, and not to be afraid of intimacy or extending the boundaries is both a call to courage and is wisely compelling. Your “dialogue of the ages’ and your dual or duel dialogue with Doctor Death are also brilliant literary devices and very interesting, revealing, and effective.

    It strikes me that people flee from God as if God was the voice of Death or their personal doom. They’d rather kill God by ignoring His existence or by hiding behind worshiping Him.

    In addition, self-restraint and surrender to one’s sense of duty, regardless the sacrifice, though it might not always feel like what we want or is easiest, can, in the end, and, in sum, prove more finally rewarding and provide more growth than this idea, if not qualified, that we should all just “do whatever the fuck we want.”
    Brother Dave

    • December 10, 2010 5:37 am

      Thank you, brother Dave. I’ve found that a life of sacrifice is a recipe for burnout. When I do more of what I really want to do, I have more to give others. For me, balance is the answer.

  4. Dave Abramowitz permalink
    December 12, 2010 4:01 pm

    Your answer, so succinct, is startling and greatly revealing and gives great pause for reflection, but it”s also what it doesn’t include that can be equally revealing and more revealing. Yes, it’s true that when we dare follow what makes us truly happy, that happiness increases and we have more to give and share with others. A life of self-denial and repression in the name of spirituality, in the end, neither serves God or ourselves, but that’s not what I’m referring to when I speak of the need to sometimes have to make hard choices that are often not very easy because it’s when we don’t take the easy way out that we truly challenge ourselves and discover we have more to give and are capable of more than we ever thought possible. Our generation, the generation that discovered itself and came into its own in the ’60s and ’70s, the so-called “me generation” was too facile and thought we should just do whatever turned us on, figuratively and literally, and we’d make a revolution. On the positive side, we helped each other break through and pushed the boundaries of freedom and celebrated our music and sexuality and what came to delight, individually and collectively, in what freedom can mean. On the negative side, we got largely lost in behavior that was sometimes dangerously irresponsible and largely self-indulgent and sometimes also immature and selfish, and we lost many of our bravest, as a consequence. But we remained idealistic and that saved many of us, and we eventually we saw a celebrated a truth that could be more than but merely subjective and that was inherently meaningful, and, because it was meaningful, was also beautiful and life-changingly true, Many of us found ourselves following different models. Some imagined themselves as spiritual warriors following a Don Juan shamanistic model. I think that model can resemble more a caravanserai of drunkards congratulating themselves rather than the the both easier and harder path of clarity, which is just trusting in the good and beautiful eyes that God has given to see rightly and see God-in-life rightly. Very few could remain objective while being engulfed and submerged and too often found themselves drowning in physiologically induced, unbalancing “altered states.”

    I know you, Charley Wininger. You’re one of the most giving people I’ve ever been blessed to know in my life. You naturally care about people and like people, too, so when you talk about “balancing,” I know it comes out of a deep involvement and commitment to others, too.

    In that context, let us reflect on our fathers’ and mothers’ generation, that World War Two, coming of age, generation, so remarkable and memorable. So much of the best they gave and they knew, and they were capable of that because they had a real sense of service and Honor. They knew what was most important in life. They were beautiful and worthy of all our love and a greater love, too, because they did not do what they did out of just a Judeo-Christian compulsion to help others, but because they knew they had to get involved because it was the primary, if not the only, honorable thing to do, and because they had character that was built of a whole lifetime of caring, and because it just came naturally. Because of them westrove to make a difference and become so much better, too. I’m reminded of George Bailey, the character James Stewart plays in “It’s A Wonderful Life.” All his life he felt conflicted because he had great aspirations for a life of freedom, his own education and his own career, He wanted to be an architect, travel the world, and “lasso the moon.” Instead, he finds himself needing to sacrifice all that for his brother and in service of others. Mr Potter tries tg buy him off by offering to hire him at a salary tenfold what he was making, tempting him and telling him, in effect, he’s wasting away and can realize all his dreams, and could, thus, do whatever it is he most wants to do in life. Similarly, it is said Lucifer tempted and corrupted the angels under the banner of freedom or realizing one”s free will.

    We live in a country that is both remarkably self, but, also, remarkably still generous. We also live in a world where Lucifer-like characters like the Indian guru so greatly appeal, saying things like Ayn Rand said, too, that complete selfishness is, in the end, really unselfish. No! I said NO! We each have to choose, and the choice can come in six hundred and one ways. A parent who works two jobs to care of a family is choosing an honorable path. A single mom or any parent who finds the patience over fifteen or twenty years to be there for a child or children is choosing life, is choosing love, and knows an inner freedom precisely because it is he or she knows sometimes there is no choice. A person who takes care of an elderly person and sometimes may even keep them away from or take them out of a depressing nursing home, where so many die so fast or too long of benign neglect, is making a choice. A parent or a friend who takes care of someone with a long-term illness or disability knows the deeper peace of what true surrender can mean. A person who sticks it out and stands behind another in a relationship or a marriage when the other may be going through a hard time often is not taking the easier but the necessary path. Frankly, so many spend their lives running, in the name of forever working on themselves. We are living in times when it is not fashionable, and is even thought foolish to ask what is God’s will? How can I best serve God? What would God have me do? It’s not a heavy question, for, in our hearts, most of the time we already know the answer. We’re living in times when man and woman have largely factored God out of the equation, and too many know no shame before God. A wholehearted YES to that question does not lead to burnout. When I taught in crazy middle schools and high schools, for years, I did burn out, only BECAUSE I was thinking like George Bailey was, before he realized he, and not Potter, was the richest man in town. Now that I”m teaching largely high school dropouts and often ex-cons trying to make it by taking remedial classes in a two year vocational college, I’m amazed, at m y age, I do not burn out. Rather, because I now ask God to give me the energy and teach wholeheartedly, without resenting the time constraints, doing a satisfactory job requires, I find I have more than enough energy. In fact, my students now give me more energy, more joy and positivity than I can ever give them!

    In our reaction to the guilt trip that often tried to pass itself off as a religion we felt compelled to follow – or else – many reacted and opted, instead, to “do their own thing.” I’m here to spread the good news that there are ways of higher integration that neither call for either-or solutions, but do revolve around putting God first in our lives. Then, everything, one may become amazed to find, is both clearer and easier than we ever imagined it could be. Then, like our parents, we can easily do whatever is most relevant and necessary and avoid the often real negative consequences of doing whatever the fuck we just want to do. Thank you for being a worthy adversary for who I can have the pleasure of playing my ideas off on, Ha-ha-ha. Brother David

    Let me propose another model you know

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