I'm a retiree in his seventies. That may not be significant to many, since there is a bunch of us Baby Boomers around. However, in the year 2,000, when I received a diagnosis of Multiple Myeloma, I expected to be dead in three to five years.
You can tell that spring has sprung in Arkansas when the White Dogwood trees have stepped onto the stage to show their beauty. I’ve always enjoyed these trees willingness to make the move early as soon as warm days begin their annual stroll around the clock.
The Dogwood’ s blossoms, though beautiful, they don’t linger exceptionally long. They display their glory quickly. If you wish to photograph them, don’t think about doing it, because you’re thinking may prevent you from capturing their beauty.
The ones on display here are located on the grounds of the Heritage Baptist Temple church, Little Rock, Arkansas, which is on the route I sometimes take going home. I’ve taken pictures of these trees, infrequently, during spring and fall. They continue to cause me to stop on my ride home.
This is what March 16, 2022, looks, feels and smell like from our back deck when spring is playfully poking its head around the corner. On this glorious day, I’m reminded of what the Psalmist said in Psalms 118:24, “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us be glad in it.”
It’s 3:00 in the afternoon. The temperature is seventy-three degrees (twenty-two Celsius for some of you), the wind is calm, and Ari and I soaking it all in.
We’ve all heard it before, and it makes sense. We can’t live in the past or the future. Life is given to us to live in the now. The now is where our heart is beating, our brain is functioning; where we are experiencing in real time all the universe has to offer.
At my age, no one must convince me that this minute is all I’m guaranteed. I know this on more than one level: intellectually, spiritually, and emotionally; however, that doesn’t prevent me from traveling back in time to enjoy all the good stuff that used to happen.
It’s funny how the mind plays tricks on us. For me, and the same may hold true for you also. This trickster does its best work during difficult times, or when it’s at maximum rest. It’s impossible for my mind to not draw comparisons. I find myself comparing tastes and smells of the food I’m eating now to this same type of food served up by my grandmother, may her soul rest in peace. I’m continually making comparisons to the music of old, the fashions of today with yesterday, as well as the overall condition of things in the world. And, as I do this, without failure, I add sprinkles of spice to my past experiences that weren’t there at the time.
Life was so much more simple back in the day. Simple doesn’t mean it was better, but somehow the simplicity of it translates into a more peaceful, more soothing, more pleasing visit in my mental time machine. The reality though is that if you’ve lived three score and eleven, you’ve been a witness to an abundance of the bad, the good and the ugly. There was lots of joy, lots of pain, lots of confusion and other life encounters that left scares which are still here today.
I can recall countless discussions I’ve had with my children about how they live their lives. It has taken me more than half a century to stop comparing their lives to mine, during my earlier years: how they make decisions, how they manage their finances, how they choose friends, and a host of other quality of life issues. (Well, in all honesty, I do this less now than I used to; however, I do want to stop.) Truth be known, it wasn’t any easier for me as it is for them. Dumb decisions, regretful mistakes, embarrassment galore were my lot just as it is for them. To give a truthful rendering of my past that provides life lessons, I must often ensure that all the salt is left in the mix.
I think when it’s all said and done, most of us can’t help but add ample amounts of spice to our yester years. It makes for better stories, and it’s a bitter pill, in some cases, that goes down a lot easier.
I sometimes joke about how getting old isn’t for sissies. I know that’s probably not a politically correct term to use. I guess I could say for the weak, but that wouldn’t have the same effect. Getting old is perceived as a burden by some, and a blessing by others. As you know, I choose the later characterization as my preferred way to look at this event.
When I was a much younger person, I didn’t understand older people saying that they wouldn’t live life again as their younger selves. As I looked at an older person back then declaring such a statement, while looking a bit frayed around the edges, I thought there was something wrong with them. They would also make comments like youth is wasted on the young; youth is something wonderful, it’s a shame that it’s wasted on children; and other light pejoratives. I would look at them with a little frustration and think you’re just jealous. I wouldn’t dare make a comment that might generate an argument. Back then, young folks didn’t argue with their elders. We had been trained to show respect even if old folks had no idea what they were talking about.
Now, I understand well what the old people used to say. As I look around to see the old people, I see myself and those of my generation. There is some discomfort that comes with growing old; however, who in their right mind would want to go through some the growing pains we experienced to reach my age of seventy-one? My experiences have taught me that Nirvana (never to be achieved in this life) is a fairy tale concept of existence. It also has taught me that much of the stuff I’ve gone through, I wouldn’t wish on anyone. I’m now at a point where wisdom is my gift, and I’m yet in possession of a good amount of mental and physical health to use as I navigate through my latter years.
There’s a Biblical verse from Ecclesiastes 1:9. “What has been will be again, and what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” Now, that I’ve reached my age, I’ve witnessed several repeat occurrences in life. Their flavor, smell, and sound, indeed their essence remains constant. Maybe the title of this piece isn’t accurate, bit it’s pretty darn close. (I could swear I’ve seen what’s going on in Ukraine before, and maybe more than once.)
As with you, I’ve been watching the events taking place in Ukraine. I’ve dubbed this the World’s War. Contrary to World War I and II, when much of the globe had participants involved (officially) in the conflict, this relative disruption in world peace doesn’t rise to that occasion. It does, however, have impact of worldwide proportions, thus it’s the World’s War. (It’s a hairline fracture of a difference, but a difference anyway.) After only ten days, this perfect example of man’s inhumanity to other humans is affecting people around the world. Here I sit in Little Rock, Arkansas, United states of America, where some would have difficulty locating on a map, already observing the cost of many things beginning to rise. Inflation had already started to take its toll on living, now the wanton act of a deranged, paranoid leader, thousands of miles away from my front yard is affecting my family and me. Of course, my paying more for gas to fuel my car, food to fill my stomach and other staples of daily living, in no way rise to the level of experiences the Ukrainian fathers, mothers, brothers, sister and others are suffering.
One of the things, I often think of as good is the ability of the media to bring the world, the good, the bad and the ugly into my living room. I sit in the comfort of my home, and I get a reasonable facsimile of the images, in the streets, on the ground being created in Ukraine. I recall this ability played a key role in turning the tide of public opinion in the 1960s, when images of Black young people being abused by police with dogs and water hoses, while publicly protesting for their rights, as American citizens were broadcasted for the world to see.
Crazed leaders aren’t as rare as we might think. I can think of a number who’ve graced the headlines during my lifetime: Idi Amin, Hafez al-Assad, Osama bin-Laden, Al Muammar Gadhafi, just to name a few. Please don’t read anything into the fact that I only listed some from Africa and the Middle East. Let’s not forget Hitler and Stalin. Paranoia, thirst for power, or some other warped motivation leads folks like this to actions that are downright criminal, depleting the planet of innocent lives as cavalierly as dropping a hat.
Everything I’ve talked about to this point is certainly negative and it’s hard to put a positive spin on any of it. However, I want to draw your attention to a few things that are just as negative. The reports coming out of Ukraine about African students being turned away from trains and other means of transport, as they make attempts to escape the advances of the Russian military is shameful, to say the least. There were quotes in my newspaper this morning attributed to some Ukrainians that indicated comments are being made about why Black folks are being allowed exodus. There are, similar reactions from Ukrainians about Indian expats, too. Shouldn’t there be an open and equal opportunity for all who are stuck in this God-forsaken predicament to escape without regard to color or ethnicity?
I have earnestly prayed for the Ukrainian people. Aren’t wars started by government leaders, not our neighbors down the street or around the corner? However, those neighbors and friend are left with no choice but to sacrifice their comfort, and even their lives to protect life, limb, and country. This is the case in all conflicts of this sort. I may be way off target here; however, I don’t think I am when I say that the press can’t but show its bias. We’ve been bombarded with images of Ukrainians carrying their gathered goods, families with children sleeping in abandoned subway tunnels, and other heart wrenching images of people transitioning into refugee status. All our hearts are pricked at such sights. I ask that we all think on this for a minute: estimates (according to the UN Refugee Agency) for 2021 were eighty-four million refugees worldwide; there is civil war taking place in the Northern Tigray region of Ethiopia, which has thrown over two million people into refugee status; West Africa has seen several attempts at coups in recent months. We have seen reports of these tragedies, but have the reports been as in-your-face as what we have seen and continue to see from Ukraine? All human suffering is tragic and it all warrants reporting to the world. We all should be either made conscience of what’s occurring everywhere or be left to as ignorant as possible without regards to the sufferers longitudinal/latitudinal location.
World peace is something I would love to see before my exit from this life. No matter my comparative evaluation, I continue to send up prayers for all in God’s creation, who are suffering by the hands of the darkest on individuals.