Sunday, May 24, 2009

Grasping at Life

Is there any such thing as objective beauty? I think not. I look at a face and see what others cannot see, or they see, what I miss entirely. No one taught me what attracts me; no one can teach me what I already know. My best sunset is not necessarily one that you might like.

Once, in the last year of his life, I was taking my father to his early morning dialysis treatment, while the sun was just rising over the mouth of Back River, reflecting many beautiful shades of orange and pink across a mackerel sky. He saw me looking at the clouds and he said: "Some people would think that is beautiful."

"Yes," I said, in complete agreement.

"But it's nothin' but a bunch of goddamn colors to me," he said angrily.

It shot through me, as I realized that he had completely lost all appreciation of life since my mom had died, and his failing health left him wishing for an end. He died later that year in a merciful, morphine-laced sleep at Franklin Square Hospital.

My dad was never very big on talking about beauty, just as his dad (who had fled Russia and the communists) never spoke much about appreciating life. So I can't really say what he felt about a lot of things, or the depth of his feelings. But speaking for myself, I know I am still alive when I look at something so beautiful that it makes me go all hollow inside. When I feel a hunger to have and to know and to be in the moment, and to feel the same savage instincts of my youth.

There is much beauty in this world, and much to be grateful for. And there is a lot to be said for not having all that you want, and to still be grasping at life with both hands. Not having what you want, and still having goals, and still having passion and being willing to fight, is all about life and living.

Put me in a box when I lose that, because that's when I'll be ready to join my ancestors.

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