Moderation in all things, except music. Fill your days with it. Fill them to the brim. Fill them so they’re always overflowing.
NFL woes continue as the DEA has busted several teams for misusing prescription drugs, namely painkillers. This is hardly surprising. Football is a violent, painful sport. I remember guys “using” to play through the pain over 30 years ago, although it wasn’t endorsed by the school, not publicly anyway. This is one of the things I don’t like about professional sports, especially football. The pressure for teams to win comes before the safety and well-being of its players. The long term effects of body collisions, especially head injuries, are a sad and quiet legacy. I don’t watch football much anymore, but I still enjoy watching old films. I still have a nostalgic appreciation for the game and some fond memories of having played for many years. But there are unpleasant memories as well, like always being in pain and being exposed to certain attitudes in a culture I could have done without.
Last night I really wanted a good night sleep. I’m playing doubles this afternoon, and while it’s not a league match, it’s still a match all the same. For the first time in over two years, I’ll be playing with someone other than my hitting partner and the score will be kept. But instead of feeling rested, I woke up thinking about the presence of evil in our times.
It was only after Germany was defeated and Hitler had taken his life, when the death camps were discovered and the full extent of Nazi evil was made known to the world. The signs were always there: his fanatical ideas, extreme sense of nationalism and Aryan superiority, and hatred of the Jews. At best, he was considered a madman, but little more until it was too late. Was Hitler just mad or was it something more? (Is the Islamic State merely religious extremism, or is there more to it? When a mass shooting occurs in America, is it just a problem of mental illness?) Bad things don’t just happen in, but when the conditions are right, they escalate in a hurry. I grew up believing evil was just the absence of good, even though many Catholics believe in the presence of evil. Many well-respected scholars and philosophers came to similar conclusions after the World War II, citing Hitler as the reason.
I’ve often thought about how Hitler died, cowering in a bunker and by his own hand, not allowing international justice (Nuremburg) to decide his fate. Suicide is the coward’s way, according to popular belief, and a mortal sin, according to the church. But somehow it seems fitting that a world that allowed evil to happen, wasn’t allowed to kill it.
Her energy was low, it was obvious. I could see it in her body language; she was tired and just going through the motions. Some days are like that. There’s too much going on. It’s too hard to focus in the moment. I knew it was because her uncle had died, and she’d only found out a few hours earlier. “We don’t have to play,” I reminded her, but somehow suspected we did. Had this been a competitive match, I would have sensed her condition and destroyed her without mercy. But it wasn’t, this was different. This was just for fun, and this was my friend. Despite a valiant effort to get outside her head, she needed some help and I knew what I had to do. I awaited her next serve with a new sense of purpose.
She then hit a pansy, so lackluster; it practically travelled in slow motion. I teed off on it for an easy cross-court winner. The next serve was hardly better, but showed slightly more enthusiasm, producing a similar result: a blinding backhand winner down the line. She never saw it coming. From the corner of my eye, I could tell she was glaring like only an angry female tennis player could, and I pretended not to notice. I continued playing with mastery of focus and controlled power. It wasn’t meant to be threatening, only to serve notice: Get your head in the game. And somehow it worked. Slowly, she began running for the balls and hitting with greater authority. In just a few moments, she went from feeling depleted to being highly-focused, totally present in the moment, a moment that she needed. The last ten minutes was better than the entire night.
We walked back to the car, not feeling defeated, but victorious and somehow refreshed. Then, a little later, we talked about her uncle. It was a nice end to the evening and probably what was needed, maybe all along. After saying goodnight, she said “Thank you,” and as I walked away, I got the feeling that she meant it for more than any one reason.
There’s a fog outside the window. I’m not sure when it arrived, or how long it’s been there. I think, maybe always. I should probably introduce myself. I love staring out the window, because there’s always something different. That’s the whole problem with windows. That’s what always gets me in trouble. In school, they had to move me away from them. They said I was “easily distracted.” They called me a dreamer. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with dreaming, as long as you come back. But it would be easy not to, just to stay lost, to stay aimlessly drifting. It’s a very pleasant feeling, like a warm fog after a summer rain. Time stops when you’re looking outside a window, the same as when you’re dreaming, or lingering on a memory. They say to follow your dreams, but they don’t really mean it. This life isn’t always kind to people who dream. Sometimes, I think I’m either living a past incarnation, or God has made a terrible mistake. I live in a world of poets and philosophers, where every feeling resonates and each thought produces a thousand different more.
I wanted to write you a poem,
but I fumbled over the words.
I wanted to sing you a lullaby,
but I cannot hold a tune.
I wanted to take you to Paris,
but it was well beyond my means.
I wanted for you so many things,
but I am all I have.
I haven’t posted here in a while. Of all the places on social media, this is my favorite because it’s quiet here. It’s just me, writing. I guess I think that should mean something and not be mindless and silly, not that there’s anything wrong with that. Sometimes mindless and silly is good for the soul. Anyway, back to something a little more meaningful. I had a dream the other night while floating in and out of insomnia. I was swimming in the ocean with my son. It was somewhere warm and tropical, because the water was clear. We could see everything beneath us, vividly and totally clear. We were going somewhere, and swimming was the only to get where we were going. And as we were swimming, the fish were swimming in the opposite direction, all of them, swimming toward us and past us, up close and vivid. My son became frightened and stopped in the water. I wrapped my arm around his neck and hugged him against to my body. Then I continued on, swimming backwards with my son. At some point my son became my little brother, and I was holding him, although I was now, also, only a child. This has happened before, many times in fact. I have dreams where my children become someone else, someone I know, usually one of my siblings. I often wonder why this happens. Maybe the people in our lives are similar, or maybe the mind is trying to protect us in some way. I remember before my mother’s father died, my mother dreamt about my dad’s father dying. Dad told everyone about it. He thought it was very unusual, almost psychic, except that she got it wrong. I don’t think my mom got it wrong. I think the people in her dream changed in order to protect her.
I was reading an opinion piece in The Washington Post about the Islamic State being touted as “the new evil” and likened to Hitler, the epitome of evil. Is it healthy or wise to label ISIS in this way? Isn’t that giving it more power than warranted, and is there a danger in doing so? Many intellectuals have tried to analyze evil as it pertained to Hitler. All of them unsuccessful, calling it “beyond comprehension” and even concluding that in doing so would, perhaps, give it legitimacy. Yet, the name “Hitler” continues to be associated with evil, almost to the point of mythical status. The name evokes as much awe as fear, at least to nihilists and the kind of people who espouse evil. Sometimes labeling makes things bigger than life, and that’s the last thing we need. If you found yourself in the vicinity of a ferocious bear, would you deal with it or write an essay on ferocity? There is no why here, there just is.
How can the slightest of needles wreak so much havoc? The pain of it, slipping into your skin, is minimal, almost nothing most of the time. I suppose the key is not thinking. Whenever they draw blood at the lab, it’s not a problem. I simply look away. I’ve been doing that since I was small. It’s best to stick with what works. But injecting yourself is another story. Looking away is not an option. So I sit there, sometimes forever, holding the syringe in one hand and what pinch fat I can locate in the other. I sit there lifeless, like a statue. Like someone trying not to think.
My son walks the way I do. That’s what everyone used to say, although I never used to see it. But sometimes when I’m walking, I can actually feel it. First his face comes into view and sits behind my eyes. Then the memories fill me until I can’t tell us apart. And in that moment, I realize we’re not.