Essays on an ordinary life


I am writing this collection of essays, a partial memoir, without the expectation that many people will ever read it. In this way my recollection of events can largely go unchallenged and uncorrected, and my feelings about people that come out in these essays will for the most part be able to stand without much risk of injury or embarrassment to anyone if I am wrong, or my perspective is unfairly skewed.

Socrates taught, “Know thyself,” or in another translation, “Thine own self thou must know.” He never added, “and you must quickly tell everyone else what you’ve learned,” so to be clear, I am not writing to offer this for the approval of friends or family, or expecting as a result to see a new gleam of understanding light up in anyone’s eyes. Why disappoint us both? Perhaps readers will find something of interest in my stories.

My object is to page back through my memories, to expand them through the writing process with some focused recollection, and to record some of them here. I might discover a few things by looking at my life and the events that to me seem to have shaped my course over the years, and to consider some of the people who have shared my stage. Writing about myself seems an essentially egocentric thing to do and I am not completely comfortable with the idea of it, though. It becomes a more comfortable exercise if I keep it mostly to myself.

Egotism would be misplaced because I believe that when you consider everything, most all of us are ordinary people. We are all better or worse from one day to the next; we each have our own struggles and our own stories, our moments of brilliant insight and heroic triumph, and our times of failure, poor decisions or even cruelty. We can survive truly dreadful hardships and sorrows, and excruciating tedium, and, sometimes crumble before them. We might view or take part in wonderful events or horrible ones, and we might even do some extraordinary things at points in our lives, but in the main only the finer details of our lives are really very different.

We are born, most of us, into families, each of which is dysfunctional in its own way; we grow up and learn about the world, sometimes easily and sometimes with difficulty; we find a place in it to live our lives; we struggle to be happy; look for ways to be fulfilled and dream our dreams; love for better or to worse effect; cause problems and solve them; help others and sometimes in trying, accomplish the opposite for them. If we are lucky, at certain times along the way we can share moments of infinite joy with others; walk for years and many miles with a heart mate; join with others in cause after cause; slay the dragon. Most of us do most of these things, beginning at our own starting points, palace or hovel, to our own endings, wherever they are, whoever we’ve been or met.

Well, this is the light in which I see myself, an ordinary person with my own particular details, no better than most and hopefully not much worse, but a person who met and got to be around some wonderful, memorable people; a person who didn’t stay quietly at home, and as a result has been able to see and experience some extraordinary things.

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