TRUE STORY: We wrestled on and over the bed then fell hot, sweaty and grunting upon the floor. I got the worst of it since I was outweighed by at least 60 pounds. Larry, a muscular, sometime jock and I were in a cheap motel drinking and partying. It was the fall of 1961, White Plains, New York. My mother had signed papers allowing me, a 17 year old, to enter the U.S. Air Force. Larry, my best friend, had picked me up in his customized, candy apple green ’58 Chevy convertible, a ‘boss pick-up wagon’. We were having a going-away party and would spend the evening consuming copious amounts of vodka and orange juice … ‘til I fell into oblivion. For days I had tried to persuade Larry to enlist. No dice despite his mother’s almost hysterical pleading for him to join. Little did I know at the time that this was a fateful juncture in our lives.
I would do well in the Service attending The College of William and Mary nights. Subsequently I would ‘get a degree’, work for IBM and eventually start my own business. Larry, poor guy, was headed for a life of drugs and debauchery. We had lost touch by 1965 and I was shocked to learn from my girlfriend and future wife that she, a nurse, had tended a mental patient who knew me well. When I visited Larry he hardly recognized me. He died three years later. I still carry memories of the great times we spent together: jumping out of his car when we arrived at the Asbury Park beach, charging into the wintry ocean clothed in jeans and sweaters, skipping school and wildly honking and waving at a throng of supporters for presidential hopeful Richard Nixon who had touched down at this little airport north of White Plains. Accompanying him was Dwight D. Eisenhower, one of my heroes. Of course there were many forays into the ‘City’, New York that is, where we were welcomed by the ‘beat’ crowds of Greenwich Village and Harlem … so many exciting places, so many ‘in the bowels of the city’ experiences. Did they open my eyes!! The music, dance, food and laughter … powerful inducements for egalitarian behavior.
Oh the times: So self-propelling, so liberating. It was a world in transition from the peaceful, stable 1950’s to the tumultuous ‘60’s. Race riots, the Vietnam War, protestations, Women’s Rights, Gay Rights, drugs, family and religious upheavals, so many ‘traditions’ being questioned. So many avenues to choose from. What to do? Where to do it? Perhaps you would agree that no time in history, especially in this country, have there been such drastic assaults on institutions, on the way you view your world.
Your world … two worlds actually: The one ‘outside’ forever presenting itself to you. A reality that you must accommodate and adjust to. Never a moment goes by that you are not interacting with this world in some manner. Whether it’s swatting a fly or saying no to a sales pitch, you are always enmeshed in what assaults your senses. You are constantly reacting, deciding what to do in a never-ending stream of unique situations. And though you are part of an ever-challenging, ever-changing empirical world, a YOU inside resides, a world onto itself. You are YOU at all times, a personality, distinct, a constant. All your thoughts and feelings, your reflections and ponderings, these make up your inner world, your reality.
You do evolve and mature with your choices and many experiences. You become more aware of your strengths and weaknesses. You know yourself better and better. You gradually learn to discern what is vital, what is important and what may be detrimental to YOU. You become more discerning, more adept at dealing effectively with the inevitable challenges. And though you can ‘re-order’ and control some of the ‘real’ world, you soon come to realize that ultimately the only power you have is deciding how to react to it. This is very important for you to understand. Every situation in your life presents choices. You can be run down by an automobile and hospitalized. You then must choose between a positive approach to your rehabilitation or a pessimistic, self-pitying one. You decide. You can view the world as a wondrous place for discovery and growth. Or you can perceive it as nasty and violent, an awesome reality that will eventually overwhelm you. Needless to say your particular view will determine whether you go through life relatively peaceful and happy or miserable.
And if your life becomes obsessed with just the physical, with acquisitions, pleasures and even accomplishments, your inner world will become dependent on the transient. You eventually will become forlorn. For the YOU inside is so much more than the physical. And it takes much more than the physical to complete you. Love alone should tell you that.
One of the great truths you must realize: YOU MAKE YOU. YOU confront the world outside you daily. You decide how to deal with it. You can pollute your body and mind with all manner of stimulants. You can become dependent on a vast array of ways to escape from a discomforting world.
My friend Larry became an addict and tragically ignored his potential. He succumbed to his giant, self-serving ego. He never appreciated the beauty and love all around him. You in your silent inner world can conscientiously decide what is best for you both physically and spiritually. It is up to you. It is your world.