Monday, December 28, 2009

Seekers And Finders

As Socrates said to Aristotle just before his Hemlock shake, The unexamined life is not worth living. Internal Revenue, I’m sure, would agree.

Most of us have been self-examining for decades; lifting rocks for small but tell-tale signs, seeking patterns, pondering the imponderable. We have paused more than once wondering what life is asking of us. Ever on the verge of a grand reply we are always met with yet another even grander question.

My step-son, Ron and his wife, Laura, have a ritual of inviting ten guests for New Year’s Eve dinner. A six-course banquet is served at the rate one course per hour during which time a question is thrown out to be chewed on until the next dish appears on the table.

I have no quarrel with questions. Some of my best sentences end with question marks. But let's hear it now for exclamation points! My wife takes it that one step further. Peggy is not only a seeker, she is a finder.

Finders are rare. They are the ones who make the most of what is right in front of them. They listen and hear music or overhear a voice in the next booth. They see and they notice a line of beauty in something discarded, the way a shadow is thrown against a wall

Peggy has antennae. She picks up sounds I hear as static. She stops the clock just as she has halted the calendar. Pushing 89 she is the youngest person I know,

While I’m busy weighing bloated abstractions she is down on her knees collecting fish-like leaves or an angular twig that will sculpt the space around a vase.

True, the journey itself is sufficient for most. Self-help books keep bookstores in business; readers seeking large truths waiting for the light bulb to shine. While seekers are riding the waves finders are dwelling in harbors.

Our forefathers aren’t called founding fathers for nothing. The enlightenment produced many great thinkers but it took Jefferson, Madison, Washington, Adams et al to actualize the vision.

Life gives us moments, the poet Eleanor Graham wrote, and for these moments we give our lives. Peggy lives her life in moments. Her poems are often found-poems plucked from the quotidian. And even more astonishing to me are the close relationships she has forged out of casual encounters.

Several of her doctors have a regard for her close to family. When a favorite checker in the market died she was the lone white person at her memorial service. She became the confidant and dear friend of a teller at the bank. In a hill town in France I dropped Peggy off at shop while I fetched the car. Ten minutes later I returned to find she and the shopkeeper had bonded like sisters..

Hers is a life self-realized. She looks In, she looks out; a discovery without end. This is not necessarily an endorsement of what already is but an engagement with life, various as it is. Beyond the final No there can be heard a Yes.

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