Today a film crew is arriving here from LA for a 3-day visit. I have told them there is no story here to film, but they insist that there is, and are investing their own hard-earned money in the trip. So we’ll see.
One of the things I will find most interesting is whether they will relate to what I am trying to do here. I am 68 years old and concerned with things that are exigent to someone approaching the end of life. The film crew are in their early 20s and at the beginning of theirs. Will we connect? Will they appreciate the things which are important to me? Is this an opportunity for me to “pass on” something of salience to people of all ages, or just an opportunity for them to document an eccentric old man living out his final years on the desert?
This will be a test for both of us.
I have made a number of basic decisions which make so many things ancillary that would not otherwise show up on the radar.
The first is the decision that I will not live out my last years in debt. I don’t want or need the pressure. Estrella Vista, such as it is, is totally paid-for and will never be taken away from the kids for whom it’s intended. So is my truck. My only monthly bills are for phone, truck insurance, storage, and Netflix, and those are on autopay. In another week, my property tax bill will even be paid off. I have learned to live adequately on an income level just above the poverty line. Simple and dignified, but a level of personal security I have never experienced before.
The second is the decision to go “all-in” regarding my belief in reincarnation. The thing which most fascinates me is doing things in my final years which reinforce and affirm a potential continuity between lifetimes—past, present, and future. So I am engaged in collecting activities which seek to reactivate my “memories” of the past. I am laying a line of “bread crumbs” which will hopefully attract the attention of some future me to my present work so I can contribute to it. If these crumbs are only picked up on by total strangers, so be it. Most lives are random as much as we may wish to see a pattern to them.
The third is the decision to serve other people, and avoid the selfishness which seems to consume so many other people’s lives. A long time ago when I bought my first “hot” car, I determined that nice things can become a curse if they’re not shared with others. One of the first things I did was to turn the driver’s seat over to a friend who announced that the car seemed to “gobble up” the road ahead. A very apt description, and one which I would never know had I not shared. I also have a belief (detractors would say “childish,” “magical,” or “irrational”) that I will be able to accomplish more for others than I would for myself. Only time will tell, but I have learned patience.
A fourth is my decision to live alone in isolation from other people. When I was a young man, before I fell in love, I spent a lot of time at a Trappist monastery and was very impressed with the lifestyle. If that particular setting were not based on Christianity, I would likely have chosen it as my life’s ideal. Now that my wife is dead and my son is grown, there is nothing but convention preventing me from living a life of contemplation and solitude.
The fifth decision I will tell you about is my choice to “honor thy father and mother,” hence my concentration on Youth Justice issues. As I read the stories of young offenders—especially parricides—I was constantly saying things like, “My parents never did that to me,” or “If I had influenced those kids, I would have done it differently.” With my first efforts, I was also discovering that I was unaware of what “wouldn’t work,” and that a surprising range of things were possible that “more seasoned minds” would say not to even try.
If I were to have believed in conventional wisdom, we would never taken on the cause of Paul Henry Gingerich. We have seen the passage of “Paul’s Law” in Indiana and a successful sentence reduction from 40 years to time served in a juvenile facility (6 years), 90 days in an adult facility, 1 year’s transition under house arrest in his mother’s home, and 10 years’ probation.
Before I moved to West Texas, I devoted the previous 15 years of my life to the “impossible” creation of a park and trail near my home. Today thousands of people each day use Cedar Lake Park and Trail in Minneapolis, and many of them probably think it’s always been there. Well, it wasn’t. It’s a very big deal.
If I have a great hope for my Youth Justice work, it is that it will eventually outshine my work on the park and trail. Maybe people will think it is so significant, they’ll even take it for granted, too.
Groove of the Day
(This recording was supervised by Porgy and Bess’ composer George Gershwin, who stated that Tibbett was “the perfect Porgy,” despite the fact that he was white.)
77° and Clear
PS: A particularly wise meme that showed up on my Facebook timeline.
Ways to fail at everything in life:
Blame all your problems on others
Complain about everything
Don’t be grateful