We are stardust.
We are golden.
And we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden. — Joni Mitchell
My college class recently had a reunion. One of those milestone reunions, ending with a zero, as in 100th. I didn’t attend, but regardless, the organizers wanted to hear from everyone about their lives.
For months I stared at a form asking me to produce a few lines about what I remembered of undergraduate days, my work, politics, love and family life, philosophy, or whatever else I thought would interest my classmates. The results were gathered into a small volume which arrived in the mail yesterday.
My old roommate, a man whom I had gone to school with since first grade, went to the reunion. A dear friend, he’d badgered me mercilessly to produce something.
“There’s still time,” he kept saying.
I struggled with what was, for me, a prodigious case of writer’s block. I recalled that once, during a lecture I had attended, a professor paused, regarded the class, and tossed out this aside: “You go through here affecting cynicism and nonchalance, and after you leave spend the rest of your lives wallowing in sentimentality about it.”
That didn’t help.
The book is organized by topics. There are a few hundred entries. I didn’t write about anything they suggested, so I was curious where they would put what I gave them.
I’m the epilogue.
Or rather I’m the beginning of the epilogue, as a few others apparently shared my difficulty. Above the paragraph I produced, the editor put, in boldface italic, a solitary word. This is what I wrote:
I wasn’t going to send anything, but then I realized my son might find this collection someday, and wish that I were in it. So Nick (just now eight), this is to you.
There is a reckoning in life, not having to do with money, but with time. What did you do with your time? The Buddha said it this way: How well did you love? How fully did you live? How deeply did you learn to let go?
This means that your real wealth is in what you can appreciate.
Some appreciations are God-given, others learned.
Do you speak another language? Do you still speak to trees?
Do you listen to music, play an instrument, still work with wood? Do you love forests, the night sky, the sea? Do you know baseball, San Francisco?
Above all, do you people your life with those you love?
I love these things: Shakespeare, taking a nap, the deep blue mystery of sky. Riding a bike, eating a peach, crafting a sentence. My men’s group. Your mother. You.
I hope I have taught you to love.
. . .
YOU MIGHT ALSO ENJOY:
This song, two or three hundred years old, always sung by student choirs. The lyric begins, Let us rejoice while we are young. The graphic below is the kind of translation I used to produce in Latin class. There are many filmed versions on the web of young people singing this, but I find the invisible voices haunting. Click the sound button under the graphic to hear the one-minute recording:
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